While most of us are used to working with an interactive voice response (IVR) solution, as the technology has been around for decades, it’s easy to forget that these solutions were once the provenance only of the largest companies: call your credit card company or your utility provider, and chances are good that your call will be answered and distributed by an IVR. Call your local small landscaping company, however, and until recently you would have found the phone answered by either a human or an answering machine.
The cloud has changed all this. The IVR, once an inflexible box situated in the depths of a large organization’s IT room, has changed in every way possible, except the name and the goal of the technology: to accurately distribute calls to the proper people and departments, and to offer some self-help solutions to callers. Today, a cloud-based IVR is simply a small solution that a company can access via the cloud to set up, configure and change in any way they deem necessary. Best of all, they are easy to administer (unlike the IVRs of old) and quick to get up and running. Even individuals with little technical expertise can build and manage automated voice applications that customers actually like to use.
Wait…customers like IVR technology? This may have sounded like a joke, but it is no longer. According to some studies, customers prefer self-service when it’s available, and it goes a long way toward providing a satisfactory or even excellent customer experience.
Solutions providers such as Five9 (News - Alert) allow even small companies to configure a customer self-service experience that raises customer satisfaction scores with a user-friendly graphical interface and tools that can help them offer customers a speech-enabled IVR experience quickly and cost-effectively. (You can view a demo of the solution here.) Organizations that don’t have huge technology budgets can realize the full potential of automated voice applications that actually drive up customer satisfaction.
“Customers don’t want a menu-driven experience,” writes Five9 on the company Web site. “They want a convenient self-service experience that’s accomplished in seconds, or immediate live-agent support without repeating information multiple times. Sophisticated features give you call-by-call customization capability tailored to what each customer needs. IVR Data Query makes instantaneous data connections to internal CRM systems or external web services to identify your customer and provide quick self-service solutions.”
Not every customer’s problem can be solved with an IVR solution, however, which means it’s vital to ensure that there are clear escalation procedures so users can connect with a live agent. Each company’s escalation variables, however, are likely to be different, depending on industry. For customers needing live-agent assistance, call variables attach data query results along with the call for actionable routing through a fully integrated automatic call distribution (ACD).
The result, ultimately, is self-service when a customer needs it and quick escalation to a live agent if, and when, a customer needs it. Also, IVR can be used to boost customer satisfaction, a concept that was once an oxymoron in decades past.