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Rich Tehrani

[April 30, 2004]

Improve Self-Service, Get Paid



Editor's Note: This is the last in a series of short articles from Rich Tehrani based on recent visits with a number of VoIP vendors. The previous article is available here.

Customers hate IVR. At least if they need anything but the most basic bit of information. Most people can�t wait to speak to a live operator as most IVR menus usually aren�t designed to be easy to use. Costs skyrocket, however, when a person decides to �zero out� to a live operator. Some estimates put the cost of an automated contact at 50 cents for IVR and $1 for speech, while a live agent costs about $4. So keeping a customer in the IVR system (referred to as containment) can save up to $3.50 per call. As an example, large insurance companies can receive 75+ million calls a year. A 10 percent increase in containment results in a savings of over $26 million  per year (7.5 million x $3.50). If there is something more important than saving money, it�s pleasing your customers and subsequently keeping them.

A company called Sterling Audits is making a name for themselves in the area of helping companies improve their customer touch points (READ containment).

The three areas they focus on consist of:

  • Contact Center
  • IVR/Speech
  • Web

The company will publish a number of research reports in various industries that will basically score each of these segments in terms of how well they service their customers. Some sample markets are high tech, healthcare, finance and manufacturing. We can also expect publications that encompass much of this information titled, "Web Site Usability Almanac 2004" and "Voice Response Usability Almanac 2004."

In order to rank these sites they have come up with a usability index which is composed of the following areas:

  • Navigation
  • Content
  • Usability
  • Interactivity
  • Credibility

Companies are scored through questionnaires that consist of questions in each of the above categories. Some of the areas queried are related to site persona, persistent navigation icons and typography. The top company in each industry will be published.

What differentiates Sterling Audits from many other companies in similar spaces is their willingness to help you figure out how to rate your own self service applications such as your Web site and IVR systems through books titled "How to Benchmark and Audit Your Web Site" and similarly, "How to Benchmark and Audit Your IVR." They feel that teaching you how to do it yourself will get more people interested in their methodology and the likelihood of you asking Sterling Audits for assistance will increase.

You may be asking just what types of services the company provides. Here are the highlights:

Expert audit. They benchmark you against your peers. You receive:

  • A score and benchmark
  • Best practice advice
  • Specific recommendations on areas of concentration

Report Card. You receive:

  • A quality audit/survey
  • Customers can click on an icon on your site which links to a questionnaire
  • They further recruit customers and pay them to complete the questionnaire
  • They further aggregate and present the answers

Video based usability testing. (Can be performed for IVR, call center or Web.) I am told the cost for this testing is very reasonable. How it works: 

  • They pay volunteers and bring them together
  • They give the volunteers a task sheet
  • They record people as they ask them to go to various sites and check on things (i.e. bank balance)
  • They determine how easy the tasks are for the focus group to perform
  • They focus on the areas of site or IVR weakness
  • They monitor behavior of the group
  • They map facial expressions, grunts, guffaw, chortles
  • They edit the video, retaining essential content that represents general patterns
  • They generate a detailed usability report that is backed up by video examples of user behavior

You may be asking how it is possible to generate so much research on so many companies in so very many industries. The answer is simple: Sterling Audits has come up with a way to generate research using the Internet via an incentive program. Using a researcher portal, potential researchers are able to sign up with potential projects. Each project is either accepted or denied (for example porn sites are not an area of focus, banks will likely be accepted).

Once accepted, you fill out the questionnaire and once completed, you receive $10 via check or PayPal. You receive this amount per project! The only catch is that you must be doing business with these companies and you must complete the form in one sitting. The survey is designed to help you if you get stuck by allowing you to click on words you may not understand and having a dictionary definition pop up. Aside from getting money, many researchers are happy to see how the whole system works and are happy to contribute to a centralized repository of usability data. Other researchers are happy to either praise or criticize the companies they work with. Whatever your motivation, you have to admit that this is a great idea and a great way to compile volumes of information about many companies across all industries.

If this isn't enough of an incentive, here is more. If you represent any non-profit organizations such as a school district, church, soccer league, etc. Parents, teachers or adults associated with these organizations can sign up and once their organization produces 20 surveys, Sterling Audits will pay $10 as normal to each researcher (make sure to use the name of your organization as �company�) and also make a $250 donation to your organization�. The deadline for completion of the surveys for this �round� is May 31, 2004.

I encourage you to become a researcher for Sterling Audits and while you�re at it, help all customers of many companies out there by improving self service applications across many industries.

Please talk back to me in our forums

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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