Calls of Fury


I’ve just had one of those maddening IVR experiences that consumers love to hate. I called a local cable tv service provider and got caught in the IVR purgatory which led to a customer service hell. It all started when the system kept asking me for an account number that I didn’t have. By the time I gave up – dozens of unproductive buttons later — I was greeted by an enthusiastic agent who yawned in my face.

Ever meet anyone who sang praises for an interactive voice recognition system? In fact, people get so frustrated they use the Internet to get around IVR roadblocks. Whether stuck in a touch-tone, phone-tree bottomless pit or in a voice recognition system that understands you as well as you understand Icelandic.

In today’s environment, where brand loyalty is becoming an endangered species and every company foible can be “outed” online, a bad IVR experience can be especially damaging. Dissatisfied customers can broadcast their grievances to millions of people in a nanosecond with a well-placed tweet or blog post. The impact can be devastating.

Although there are some shortcomings of IVR systems, it’s not necessarily the technology, but the implementation that’s at the core of the issue. When done right IVR technology can be the preferred choice among users just as automatic teller machines are among many bank customers today. When people equate automation with being empowered and saving time, they will choose automation.

The approach should ideally hover around creating an as near human experience as possible. This is not a long shot when you look at the technology options available to you, or that your chosen solution can provide. Case in point, IVR solutions now come with ASR(Automatic Speech Recognition) and TTS (Text to Speech) technologies which make the ride much more smoother, faster and humanoid.

The bottom line is stop thinking of your interactive voice system as a tool to deflect live-agent call handling and instead put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Figure out what you would want automated, and design your IVR accordingly. Or else, find a solution that does it for you after understanding your requirements.

Another problem firms encounter is the lure to automate everything. That kind of thinking leads to endless and confusing options. Pick a solution which gives you freedom to only automate what can elegantly be done. Since IVR technology is here to stay, let’s hope enterprises think more carefully about the solution they deploy, so when callers encounter it they will be able to make it beyond the first base.


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