Customers are happier when brands know what they want and tailor their service accordingly. It’s easier than you might think to make that happen in your IVR.

It’s a cold, wet evening in February. You’re on your way to your friend’s birthday drinks when you realize you’ve left her gift at home.

Luckily, that nice store that sells the jewelry she likes is still open - for another five minutes. You dash in, sodden from the rain, and dither in front of a display, trying to decide which necklace she might like best.

A salesperson approaches you. “I can tell you’re in a hurry,” she says. “Are you choosing a last-minute gift?”

You confess that you are. The salesperson asks you a couple of questions about your friend’s personal style, and together you decide on just the right thing. “I’ll gift wrap it for you,” says the salesperson, “and put it in a bag so it doesn’t get wet. Have a nice night!”

You waltz off feeling good about yourself, the helpful salesperson who came to your aid, the store she works in, and your friend’s imminent celebrations.

Understanding the customer’s context makes a huge difference

What made this customer service experience such a good one? Apart from the salesperson’s friendly demeanor, it’s the way she immediately clocks her customer’s context.

If a customer comes into a jewelry shop on a cold, rainy night, but isn’t sure what they want, it’s a safe bet they’re buying something for someone else. And if they dart in five minutes before the shop closes, it’s a safe bet they’re in a rush and the gift is a last-minute one. The salesperson uses visual clues to deduce the customer’s situation, and tailors her whole approach to that particular context.

Most IVRs are not great at inferring context - and that makes callers mad

Now, contrast this pleasing last-minute purchase with your typical experience of a company’s IVR. You call the number, desperately hoping for help with something you urgently want to do - like get your lousy TV reception fixed because the new season of Game of Thrones is about to start, or find out why those new jeans you wanted to wear this weekend haven’t arrived.

But instead of being helpful, the IVR makes you sit through reams of standard, robotic messages that are completely irrelevant to your situation. By the time you’ve listened to the whole menu twice and not heard an option that matches what you want, you’re ready to hurl your phone through the window. You hate this brand and its appalling insensitivity towards its customers. You’re going to post a massive tirade about it on Facebook and cancel your account.

How to use “small data” to deduce customer context

You might think: “Well, the salesperson had an unfair advantage. She could see the customer was in a hurry and could make some inferences about why. An IVR can’t do any of that”.

But actually, not only can IVR do that, it’s also a lot easier than you might think. In fact, using “small data” cues to understand the caller’s context and deliver a personalized experience is one of seven IVR quick fixes we outline in our ebook: 7 Quick, Low-Cost Ways to Take Your IVR from Good to Great.

Here’s an excerpt:

Fix #6: Use ‘Small Data’ to Drive Some Simple Personalization

 

What problem does it fix?

Nothing makes callers more frustrated than having to sit through IVR menu options and prompts that are completely irrelevant to them. Irrelevant options make callers feel unappreciated and unimportant, and that the brand has no interest in what they want or need.

By contrast, if the IVR can anticipate what each caller wants, and provide personalized options to help them achieve it quickly, the caller gets the sense that the brand is making an effort to meet their needs and treat them as an individual. Our experience shows that their willingness to engage with the IVR increases accordingly.

The upside for contact center managers is that personalized IVR options mean calls are resolved more quickly, often first time, and often via self-service within the IVR – all of which reflects positively in key performance metrics.

 

What does it entail?

IVR personalization doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive project – even small personalizations can make a big difference. The aim of this exercise is to identify two or three criteria that will help the IVR application to narrow down the caller’s reason for calling, and play them relevant menu options based on that analysis.

In practice, this means understanding the main reasons people call, then correlating each caller’s number with information in the CRM or other system to see if it suggests a reason for the call. For example, a flag indicating a customer is in debt, or that they have an order due for delivery, or they are in an area affected by an outage, can be a clue as to why they are calling.

The next step in this exercise is to design, develop, deploy and test a variant of the IVR that is specifically designed to help callers in this situation.

 

Case study: Retail Pharmacy

This exercise has a big impact on call resolution rates and customer satisfaction. When we implemented some simple personalization for a major retail pharmacy chain, the number of callers engaging with self-service increased by a factor of three. It also reduced average call durations by 15 seconds, reduced same-day callback rates by 12.5%, and achieved customer satisfaction ratings of 4.5/5.

Get the complete guide to fixing your IVR, guerrilla-style

There are plenty of ways to tune up the customer experience of your IVR without having to invest in a major upgrade or new platform. For more “guerrilla fixes” like this one, get the full guide: 7 Quick, Low-Cost Ways to Take Your IVR from Good to Great.


Topics: IVR Design