IVRS: Friend or Foe?

All of us have faced this gatekeeper in our pursuit of getting information or raising a complaint with our banker, telephone company, cable TV, or any other service we subscribe to. No prizes for guessing, I am talking about the IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System).

What is an IVRS?

IVRS: Friend or Foe?

Simply put, it is a software (or firmware in legacy applications) which plays back pre-recorded messages to the caller. It is also capable of making decisions based on DTMF inputs (phone keypad entries) which are recognized and processed by the computing engine underlying the application. It provides callers a plethora of choices: from requesting a new cheque book to selecting the showtime of the latest movie. This is achieved by creating a workflow or script based on customer needs in contact center solutions like AMEYO.

An IVR script is simply a combination of algorithmic logic utilizing if, and, or, and then criteria. IVR systems take in account all possible outcomes and actions associated with a phone call and keep an alternate route of action available. Pre-recorded messages are then strategically placed giving the end caller a more human touch.

So now we know all of the great actions that an IVR can take to assist the caller. Question is, is it helpful? Do I really want to navigate through seemingly unending choices till I reach an agent, i.e., IF I reach an agent. You will notice that the larger an enterprises customer base, the more complex their customer service IVR will be. (There are some exceptions though.) Ever wondered why? Well, the most obvious reason is to get with the times! But there is an even more clandestine cause of such complexity: cost cutting.

How can IVR be uncomplicated?

IVR girlConsider this. Lets say, there is this customer service center of a telecom company with a complex IVRS. Now, this center receives around 50,000 calls a day out of which approximately 30% of the calls get handled (graceful completion, disconnected, caller confused and hung-up, what have you!) at the IVR level itself. That means only 35,000 calls reach the agents. Considering that each agent does a 9-hour shift and the center is open 12 hours a day, with average call duration of 3.5 minute, the center would require roughly 180-190 agents at any given time. On the other hand, if all 50,000 calls were to be answered by the agents, then it would require 250 agents. Notice the difference?

Just think about how much the company will end up saving by reducing the number of agents. Using the above example, it means 60 less salaries to pay, 60 less workstations, 60 less cab pickup and drops, and so on. Overall, the figures amount to huge savings.

The point I am trying to put across is not to focus solely on savings in customer service, but rather on whether or not this complex IVR way of life is actually helpful to the caller. Personally, I will consider customer service to be efficient when I dial them and am greeted with a simple welcome message then be routed to an agent; or be placed in queue for an agent to be available; or the choice to opt for a callback in case of longer wait times, which is available in platforms like AMEYO. To achieve this, efficient and well-analyzed staffing mechanisms can assist in reducing the overall wait time for a caller. After all, call waiting is the biggest bane of any call center.