Interestingly, companies pay a lot of “lip service” to the customer experience, then create intricate IVR Trees that create frustration and sometimes even anger. Customers often refer to it as “IVR Hell” as they Touch 1 for this, then 2 for that. Many times, these rat mazes don’t even provide an opt-out to an operator. Not my idea of a great customer experience.
So, how do we improve this? There are several things that can and should be done. For example:
- First, make an “honest” evaluation of what can be automated and … what can’t;
- Keep the phone trees as simple as possible by eliminating unnecessary steps;
- Always provide a “touch zero” option to get to a live person;
- Understand that not all people hate IVRs, but ALL do hate complicated ones.
IVRs can provide a level of efficiency that many companies need just to survive, but all too often it’s just a way of cutting cost at the expense of their customer’s experience. For companies that think this way, there probably isn’t much that can be said to change their minds. Even these “less enlightened” organizations should, at the very least, follow the strategies of simplification and opt-out.
Now for the Big Idea … why even have an IVR?
For any company that truly believes in the customer experience, the answer is simple; have actual people answer the phone. Lest the reader think there is any genius at play here, 50 years ago my mother was an Operator for Southern New England Telephone, so her job was Live IVR. But, can there still be some efficiency in this solution?
Of course! Certainly having live people answering the calls and re-directing the customers is not a cheap alternative. Neither does it need to be overly expensive. The best way to control the cost is to use an offshore location, the Philippines for example. Labor rates in that country are half of those in the US, the people have an excellent work ethic, many speak very good English and quality customer service is their core competency. No wonder it is the most sought after call center location in the world.
Another efficiency gain can come from having well-trained people directing the calls to the right place the first time. With complicated IVRs, this isn’t always the case and adds further to the frustration factor. In addition to comprehensive training, a good knowledge base system to assist the “Operators” is essential to a successful implementation of this strategy.