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Is IVR’s role about to change dramatically for the better?

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For companies that can think creatively, IVR has an exciting new role to play in the omni-channel experience. Exclusive video interview with Forrester’s Art Schoeller.

When it comes to the future of customer service, Art Schoeller knows more than most.

As VP and principal analyst at Forrester, his job is to help enterprises make the right decisions when planning, building and running unified communications and contact center workloads.

So who better to talk about the emerging world of omni-channel service, and IVR’s role within it?

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of conducting a wide-ranging interview with Art, covering everything from the best metrics for measuring IVR effectiveness, to how to ensure the customer’s omni-channel experience is genuinely seamless. Watch it here.

IVR still has a key role to play, but what should it be?

One of the most interesting things to come out of that interview was Art’s intriguing vision of a new role for IVR in the omni-channel mix. Most companies, he says, are missing a trick here. They’re splashing big cash on digital channels – web, mobile apps, etc., while basically leaving the IVR to rot.

But Forrester’s research shows that the phone is still the second most-used channel for customers to get help. Even though the website is now the first port of call, 73% of customers will still pick up the phone if they can’t find what they need. So investing in the IVR experience makes sense.

But here’s the clever bit: rather than trying to force customers to stay in the IVR to get their query resolved (a common strategy), instead have the IVR play an orchestration role across channels.

That means spending less time creating confusing menus that cover every possible eventuality, and more time understanding which channels work best for customers, and having the IVR orchestrate interactions in those channels.

“The role of IVR is changing somewhat. In the past, people were trying to put every element of self-service into the IVR. Now, people are recognising that you don’t need to do everything in there.” – Art Schoeller, VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester

IVR as the orchestrator of cross-channel interactions

The examples Art provides include making smarter use of outbound IVR – not just to leave voice messages, but also to send text messages. We know from our own experience at VoxGen that sending an automated SMS confirmation, initiated from the IVR, can dramatically reduce the volume of repeat calls.

It’s easy to embed a short URL in a text message, too – directing callers to a relevant web page where they can get more information about their query.

In our interview, Art imagines that in an ideal world, a customer receiving a text message from the IVR with a relevant web link can then visit the link to find relevant information, and escalate effortlessly to web chat if they still can’t find exactly what they need.

It’s an efficient alternative to trying to navigate around in a traditional IVR – and much more aligned with the way people move effortlessly between different communications channels today.

“There’s no question that IVR has an opportunity to have a place at the table in terms of improving the overall customer experience.” – Art Schoeller, VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester

And while there’s a long way to go before omni-channel becomes anything like the kind of joined-up experience it’s meant to be, Art says lots of companies are starting to think creatively about how IVR can become the platform that orchestrates interactions across the channels that customers prefer to use. And in doing so, play a key role in improving the overall customer experience.