Whether you have an existing IVR or are embarking on adding it to your contact center platform, committing to start an IVR project is a big (and sometimes expensive) step. You’ll want to get it right, so here we outline a few things to consider before starting.
Finding Your IVR Voice
An IVR is an entry point into your organization. as such, it represents your brand and image. The system needs to interact with your customer just like a customer service representative or branch representative might. For example, if you’re a bank and I was to walk into a branch, would I be greeted with “Good morning, Sir” or “Hey Chris, great to see you again”? The same language should be used on your IVR. Work with your marketing teams to review their language in snail mail materials, website, email and other communication methods.
Bottom Line: Being consistent with how you interact and engage with your customers across channels/medium reinforces your brand.
Know Your Audience Before Embarking On Your IVR Project
Once you know your voice, now think about your customer and their voice. If you are a retail outlet, you probably know quite well who your customer base is. But within that base, do you know who would call into your IVR? For example, generally speaking, millennials would probably prefer to interact with a chatbot on your website, Facebook, or Twitter channels rather than calling into your IVR. If your customer base is an older demographic, then they would prefer to use the phone. However, some older people are less likely to accept a Natural Language IVR and would prefer a more guided experience instead. This is where they have specific words they can use to get to where they want or can fall back on good old fashioned touch-tones or DTMF.
Once your IVR is in place, keep learning about your audience. Use the data that the IVR is gathering to personalize the interaction. For example, if you know that a caller would prefer to speak Spanish, you can opt to have the IVR answer them in Spanish right away the next time they call. If you know your customer is hard of hearing, increase the volume. If your customer is older, consider slowing the prompts down – we will cover this personalization in more detail in another article.
Bottom Line: It’s important to know who from your customer base is calling and then start to personalize those interactions to improve customer satisfaction and retention.
Is it you or is it me?
One oft-repeated mistake within IVR development is to build the IVR menu levels and depth to match the construct of your organization and not the need of your customer. Whilst it’s great for you to navigate 7 levels of the menu to ensure the calls get to the right agent, the journey for your customer is pretty terrible. Put yourself in their shoes and use terminology that makes sense to them, to help them quickly self-serve in an IVR or get to an agent.
Bottom Line: The customer experience is exactly that, an experience. Make it a positive one and the customer will be able to self-serve quickly and effectively.
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IVR Project Essential – Test Your System and Test It Again
An IVR project is a software development project with many chances to go wrong and is very visible to your customers. You need to test heavily upfront and before launch. This is generally in the form of a comprehensive User Acceptance phase. Once launched, you must review the data generated by the IVR to make sure it’s tweaked (the industry term is tuning) to optimize the customer interactions.
In User Acceptance Testing your test cases may work well, but once you let your customer loose on the IVR with different dialects and usage patterns, a few things might become noticeable – and these must be acted upon. In the first 30 days, expect to do several tuning exercises; this would likely need to be revisited quarterly.
Involve Your Customers in Testing
Where possible, invite customers you have a deep relationship with to beta test your application, and garner honest feedback from them to help hone your application to greatness.
Bottom Line: Testing isn’t just a one-time thing, but a continual improvement process. Bake this into the lifecycle of the IVR to ensure it’s accounted for in terms of cost and resource.
Breadcrumbs or Footsteps – Capturing Your Customer’s Journey Through Your IVR
When developing your IVR, capturing every step, every breadcrumb your customers take through the IVR for each call is a paramount objective. This is not just for tuning as described in the previous section, but also for personalization and future IVR application enhancements. Capturing this information can help you understand where and why your customers are exiting the application, or where your customers have the most success in self-serving. The industry term for how successful your IVR is in allowing your customers to self-serve is containment. We describe more IVR terms here.
It might be that you need to capture and retain the steps your customers took, the words they spoke and what the IVR responded back with if you are in the financial services, health or insurance sectors or for other legal reasons.
Bottom Line: To help you build a better customer experience, gather data at every point of the IVR journey. This will gather spoken words, misinterpreted policy numbers, points in the IVR where callers frequently drop out and where your customers have the most success in self-service.
Baby Steps: Launching Your IVR
Moving your new IVR application into production for your customers to access feels like a big event. It doesn’t have to be, and in most situations, it shouldn’t be a Big Bang event. Migrate your traffic in waves if you can, perhaps you can load balance your traffic so you can gradually increase traffic from a toll-free number to your new app, whilst the rest of the traffic goes to the old routing method. Then, over a period of a week or two, ramp-up until 100% of your traffic is reaching your new IVR.
Bottom Line: Plan your migration in advance. Despite all your testing, migrate your traffic slowly and review the data you gather from the customer journeys to quickly identify issues and fix them before they impact all your user traffic.
What Next for Your IVR Project?
No matter what you go live with, you will be surprised just how much you will learn about your customers, their experiences, and how to improve the service you offer and the journey your customers take.
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Chris has been working in UC/CX for 20 years. He’s passionate about project excellence but also believes a project is only worth doing if you have fun doing it.