When interactive voice response (IVR) systems became available in the ‘70s, DMTF (dual-tone, multiple frequency) IVR allowed customers to use touchtone phone to access information. Today advanced technology with automated speech recognition lets customers access recorded messages with greater simplicity. The benefit of IVR is it gives organizations the ability to provide reliable customer service interaction without having to use service representatives, thus saving the organization a considerable amount of money. According to a new survey by ContactBabel (News - Alert), it costs organizations seven times more when a customer talks to a live agent compared to an IVR session.
The survey found seven IVR calls cost less than a single person-to-person call which translated to $0.98 for the IVR session while the live call reportedly costs an average of $7.76. Although the benefits to organizations are undeniable, the report found customers find IVR menus difficult to visualize leading to dissatisfaction with the system.
Legacy IVR systems have limited options because of the proprietary solutions in the market place, but the use of IP and open standards is now making it possible to overcome these limitations. This is made possible with new technologies such as smartphones and tablets which are introducing options that allow visual IVR solutions so customers can see not only the menu, but in some cases customer service agents.
"While the future of customer contact will involve the extremes of highly personalized live service on the one hand, and the increasing use of automated systems on the other, we’re seeing that businesses and solution providers are looking to build strong links between automated and live service options to support seamless transitions as required," said Steve Morrell, author of the report.
The breakdown of how customers contact organizations is still dominated by telephony (live agent) at 70.2 percent with telephony (self-service) at 7.3 percent and email at 12.4 percent, Web chat at 2.7 percent, letter at 1.7 percent, social media at 1.6 percent, fax at 1.4 percent, SMS at 0.7 percent and “other” at 2 percent. Although the study revealed voice call still dominates, around 3 in 10 transactions are coming from alternative sources, making voice-only call centers a thing of the past.
The auto-attendant functionality is used by many different organizations to complete different transactions for their customers without having to speak to an agent. One sector that capitalizes on this technology is utilities by providing services with automated meter readings, balances and payments. This is followed by the financial sector which has been using different IVR technology to allow customers to perform many different full-service functions.
While the technology provides proven cost-saving measures the study states not all calls are suitable for self-service because they might require multiple requests within the same call. It is therefore imperative for organizations to understand what can be used with IVR, and what needs to be directed to an agent in order to provide the best available customer service to the caller.