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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
June 2007 - Volume 26 / Number 1
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Fun Things To Do With Your IVR

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Editorial Director, Customer Inter@ction Solutions


Today, many people are in the enviable position of having to figure out what to do with their legacy IVRs. Some suggestions include door stops, booster chairs for small children and boat anchors.

Increasingly, IVRs are more of a service than a “thing.” Hosted IVR service providers can turn a company’s IVR on and configure it to match an organization’s needs almost in an instant. (Making changes to traditional IVRs menus used to be a task that ranked below “getting a root canal without anesthesia” on the “things I’d like to do this afternoon” task list.)

Some of today’s hosted IVR solutions are actually more like toolkits — they allow companies to build their own IVRs using point-and-click, and make changes in the same way. Who would have thought that building IVR menu trees could almost be — dare one say it — fun?

Because of this flexibility, the humble IVR, once used by large companies to get customers off the phone quickly regardless of the ultimate ramifications (“Welcome to Acme Airlines. Press one to be cut off, two to be put on hold for hours and three to leave a message in a mailbox that was last checked in 1992”), has organically sprouted a host of new capabilities and applications.

“IVR” and “call routing” used to be synonymous. That’s all the IVR did: take a call and do a little pre-qualification so the system knew where to send it. The information input by the customer was never carried with the call, which is why the annoying need arose to repeat your account number to an agent even after you’d spent 10 minutes punching your 57-digit account number into your phone’s key pad.

Scientific Research
Imagine you’re conducting a study on blood pressure. You have 5,000 patients enrolled. Every day, each of those patients measures his or her blood pressure and reports the stats to you. Using live agents took too much time: in addition to reporting the numbers, your patients were chatty: “Well, the blood pressure is high today, but my grandchildren came over yesterday and we ate ice cream so maybe the pressure would be lower if…” After taking 500 of these calls, your agents are ready for disability. Voice mail would be equally ineffective; leaving an “open forum” for patients to ramble would require that someone listen to those messages. IVR can force the patients into entering only pertinent information: “Using your phone’s key pad, please enter your patient number now. Please enter your systolic number now. Please enter your diastolic number now. Thank you. Good-bye.” Additionally, rather than rely on patients to call in every day, the IVR can initiate the outbound calls, resulting in a higher rate of compliance.

Outbound Alerting
Remember when IVR was only inbound? No more. Your package has arrived. Your flight is delayed. Your doctor’s appointment is tomorrow at 2:00 pm. Your kid didn’t show up to school today and was instead found spray painting the words “Calculus Sucks” on the principal’s yacht. Hosted IVR solutions can be easily configured to deliver these
alerts to your home phone, your cell phone via voice or text and even your e-mail.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Once upon a time, customer satisfaction surveys were conducted (when they were conducted at all) so far after the interaction that the information gleaned was nearly meaningless. It also needed to be processed and analyzed by humans. The results didn’t tell a company what they were doing wrong — only what they’d done wrong.

Sure, companies were able to do customer surveys with traditional, premise-based IVR. But making changes on-the-fly to the system was so cumbersome that surveying in this way likely cost more than it gained. Today’s hosted IVR services can be altered, added to or swapped out completely as a company’s needs change.

IVR-based surveys can either be inbound (the system asks an inbound customer if he or she is willing to take a survey; if the answer is yes, the customer is transferred into the survey) or outbound (the customer is contacted by the IVR the next day to complete a survey). Today’s systems are also smart enough to be preconfigured to offer a survey under pre-set criteria: if the customer was on hold for a long time, was transferred more than once or mentioned a competitor’s name during the call.

Earlier customer feedback surveys done by legacy IVR relied on the agent to manually transfer the call into the survey system. Since few agents would transfer a call that had not gone well into a survey, the results gained from such manual agent transfer were based in reality about as much as “Baywatch” plots.

Cyclical Changes
How big did your premise-based IVR system need to be in the olden days? As big as it was ever going to get, of course. Such systems could only “scale down” and leave unused capacity on the shelf for when it was needed. You bought the maximum capacity you thought you would ever use (don’t even THINK about what would have happened if you’d suddenly needed more), and 99 percent of the time, that excess capacity gathered virtual and literal dust. Hosted IVRs can scale quickly as needs change: companies pay for only what they use.

Host Your IVR On Your Web Site
How about this for the pièce de résistance? Hosted IVR solutions allow you to put a button on your Web site that lets customers make IVR-type choices and initiate calls to you — through your Web site.

Many people turned to hosted IVR solutions because they needed the technology but didn’t have the capital to lay out upfront. What they ended up getting was many times more capabilities and value for a fraction of the cost.

The only downside? You’ll have to go out and buy a real boat anchor.CIS

The author may be contacted at [email protected].

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