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Is Your IVR Naughty or Nice?

by Mariann McDonagh, Chief Marketing Officer, inContact - June 4, 2012

Is Your IVR Naughty or Nice?
 By Mariann McDonagh, Chief Marketing Officer, inContact

We’ve all heard the horror stories of IVR purgatory—and maybe have even experienced it ourselves. The relentless looping menus that never lead to a resolution. The frantic punching of numbers on the keypad in an effort to reach an agent. Finally slamming down the receiver and giving up out of despair, frustration and disgust.

Don’t let the ghost of IVRs past haunt your company’s call center. As the holidays approach, it’s a great time to take a cold, hard look at your IVR practices and determine which list they belong on this year: naughty or nice? Regardless of whether your business will face a crush of post-holiday customer service demand, there’s no better time than the present to give your customers the gift of an effective, efficient and useful IVR that helps both you and them resolve questions quickly and easily.

The Naughty List

These IVR offenses will garner little more than a lump of coal in your customer service stocking this year:

1. Not publicizing opt-out to agent. All IVRs fall basically into three camps when it comes to offering opt-out to agent: 1) the opt out doesn’t exist, which is an aggressive tactic to reduce incoming calls to agents (and also one of the quickest ways to alienate your customers); 2) opt-out exists, but you don’t tell customers how to use it, which leaves them feeling trapped, frantically pushing buttons to escape; 3) opt-out is quick, easy and obvious, which establishes trust, builds satisfaction and may actually help to increase the use of self-service among customers who feel more comfortable knowing there’s a “safety net” if they need help. An obvious opt-out to agent also prevents “channel shifting”—the tendency for customers to go directly to their sales rep or use other, more costly means to get help, which undermines the cost savings of IVR.

2. Giving callers too many choices: Especially when callers are unsure of exactly how to describe their problem, offering more than three or four menu options at a time can be overwhelming. The KISS theory applies perfectly here (not just under the mistletoe): keep it simple and the IVR will deliver better efficiency and greater savings—and your customers will thank you for it.

3. Repeating menu options too many times: When callers fail to respond, some IVRs loop through the same menu over and over again until the caller simply hangs up in frustration. Worse yet, some IVRs are programmed to hang up on the caller after a set number of repeats or a certain period of time has elapsed with no response. The key is to find a balance between repeating the menu enough times to elicit response—to properly route the call or populate screen pop for the agent, for example—but not ask so many times as to create ill will with the customer. Let’s face it, if the caller hasn’t responded after the third repeat, do you honestly think repeating it a fourth or fifth time will do the trick? Aim for two repetitions before automatically routing the caller to an agent. If your menu is so complicated as to require more repetitions….see #2 above.

The Nice List

The holiday season is stressful enough; bring a little peace, joy and sanity to your IVR and your customers with these best practices:

1. Maintain a well-tended IVR: Do you know what your customers hear when they call into your IVR? You should. Call into your own system at least once each quarter—or delegate someone to do it for you—to check the status and make sure the messages and menu are timely and relevant. With the right system in place, tuning your IVR doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. In addition to altering messages for quality assurance, take time to review stats on the individual menu options. For example, if Option #2 is the most popular choice among callers, why not make this Option #1 to make it that much quicker for your customers to access the service they want? With the right platform in place, these simple adjustments can be made on the fly and by non-technical personnel, which will also get you on the “nice list” with the IT department.

2. Offer an automatic call-back feature: Your customers are busy too, and the last thing they want is to sit on hold and wait. Offering an automatic call-back option not only eliminates the wait by saving their place in line but it also demonstrates a tremendous amount of respect for your customers’ time. Call backs are very effective and well used: for one company that serves retailers, seven percent of their customers used the call-back feature on the very first day of implementation. These busy shopkeepers raved about the service that allowed them to register their concern, reserve a place in line and get back to servicing their own customers while they waited for help.

3. Use your Voice of the Customer program to ask customers about your IVR: Is your IVR meeting your customers’ needs? How do you know if you don’t ask them? Be brave: regularly solicit customer feedback to make sure your IVR is living up to your customers’ expectations. In the event you don’t get glowing reviews, at least now you’ll know what to change, and you may even find new opportunities to automate additional functions to improve efficiency. If the majority of your customers are completely satisfied with your IVR and wouldn’t change a thing, take comfort in the confirmation that you’re doing something right and use this valuable business data to justify future decisions down the road.

Ultimately, in order for your company’s IVR to deliver the benefits it promises on paper—efficiency, cost savings and customer satisfaction—it must function properly in practice. A poorly executed IVR can actually cost more in terms of both time and money than not having one at all. As we enter the season of resolutions and new beginnings, resolve to make your IVR live up to both your and your customers’ expectations with an effective, efficient system that solves problems, rather than creates them.

About the Author:

Mariann McDonagh is Chief Marketing Officer for inContact (www.inContact.com), a provider of cloud-based contact center software and agent optimization solutions. She can be reached at mariann.mcdonagh@inContact.com.

 
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