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What does your IVR say about your attitude to customers?

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Ryanair was once famous for appalling customer service, but when its business began to suffer, it was time for a turnaround. Is your IVR in the same situation?

Ryanair boss Mike O’Leary was once renowned for his cavalier attitude to customer service.

I always found his comment: “Short of committing murder, negative publicity sells more seats than positive publicity” to be an interesting challenge to conventional wisdom in Customer Experience circles. But my all-time favourite has to be: “You’re not getting a refund, so f**k off”.

The thing is, the company was doing remarkably well at the time, so it was difficult to argue with him.

But when the flagship carriers started to compete at Ryanair’s budget end of the market, things didn’t look so good. In November 2013, Ryanair issued their second profit warning in two months and their share price hit rock bottom.

This was the beginning of a remarkable transformation, depicted in the graphic below.



Source: Market Data Source: Market Data


Source: Market Data


Improved customer experience leads to stellar results

Two months later, Kenny Jacobs joined as Ryanair’s first Chief Customer Officer. And just two months after that, Mike O’Leary launched their Customer Service improvement programme “Always Getting Better”.

Four months later, Ryanair raised its profits forecast. In January 2015, just a year after recruiting their first Chief Customer Officer, the company announced big gains in their Q3 results. Customer numbers were up 14%, and revenue up an impressive 17%.

Mike O’Leary has finally woken up and smelled the CX coffee. In the Q3 financial report he said:

“These strong results confirm that our “Always Getting Better” customer programme and our expanded business schedules, coupled with our substantial fare and cost advantage over competitor airlines, is drawing millions of new customers to Ryanair”.


The implications for IVR

So what’s this got to do with IVR (in case you didn’t know, that’s the annoying automated phone system that you have stopping customers from speaking to your agents)?

Well, since IVR was recently voted the world’s most hated technology invention[1], it’s arguably on a par with the ‘old’ Ryanair. And if yours is as bad as most IVRs, you’ve got a problem.

The IVR is often ignored because it’s out of sight and out of mind, but since the majority of calls to your business go through it, it’s the starting point of a huge percentage of your customer experiences. When did you last listen to yours? Do you know what impression it’s giving your customers?

Directly measuring the ROI of customer experience improvement is no simple task. But as Ryanair has shown, there are major financial gains to be made – even for companies infamous for their lack of customer care.

It’s a subject we’re really interested in, and one we’ve explored in extreme detail. You can read our thoughts on Watermark Consulting’s broad study of customer experience leaders and laggards in the S&P 500 index here.


Time for a new approach to IVR

Nine out of ten IVRs we look at are an embarrassment to the brand. So unless you’re in the top 10%, yours is almost certainly losing you business and costing you money.

Modern approaches to IVR design start and end with the needs of the customer – incorporating new approaches to development that don’t rely on the clunky drag-and-drop ‘design suites’ of old. But just because these approaches are sophisticated and modern, it doesn’t mean they cost the earth.

Today, there’s really no excuse for having a bad IVR. If yours is reminiscent of old-school Ryanair, it’s time to talk to us. Unless of course you’re brave enough to keep telling your customers to f**k off.