These days it seems that every company I encounter has all sorts of transformative ideas and plans for investing in their websites and mobile apps. I get the attraction. It’s easy to see the advantage of improving self-service across these increasingly popular channels. Still, it baffles me that most of these same forward-looking companies have done little to modernize their Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems — the front door to their contact centers — in years. They’re not only using outdated technology, but they’re giving minimal consideration to how the mobile and Web channels are changing the needs and expectations of their IVR callers. It’s no wonder that consumer dissatisfaction is higher for IVR than it is for other channels(1). As consumers, we’ve grown accustomed to using our voice to interact with technology – and even expect it – thanks to personal assistants like Siri®. We now expect the same speech-driven ease and flexibility from IVR systems. The problem is that most IVRs still fail to meet our expectations.
With up to 46% of all customer interactions still being conducted via the phone (2), businesses are missing an ideal opportunity to differentiate themselves and better serve their callers through modern over-the-phone self-service. IVR technology has advanced dramatically in recent years and barriers to implementation, including cost and deployment time, are lower than ever before. These developments make it possible for almost any business to deliver a fast, easy, and personalized IVR experience.
Some smart companies are catching on. In 2011 US Airways launched the travel industry’s first Natural Language Understanding (NLU) IVR system that greets callers by name, proactively provides information about their trip, and passes any information the caller provides to the customer service agent- all to save time for the caller. Best of all, it lets callers interact using conversational speech instead of navigating through frustrating menu options. US Airways’ IVR is not only delivering the kind of effortless and personalized caller experience that today’s consumers expect and deserve, but it’s also saving the airline millions of dollars per year because more callers are getting what they need fast, often without having to speak with an agent.
Why aren’t more companies offering this type of modern, personalized phone experience? It’s as if they’ve abandoned the IVR, forgetting that nearly half of their customer service is still handled over the phone. Do we, their loyal customers, not matter simply because we choose to use the phone? I, for one, expect the companies I do business with to value my time and to get me what I need quickly and easily, regardless of the channel I choose to interact.
The time has come for enterprises to make phone innovation as essential as improvement across their other channels, re-inventing IVR based on OUR needs. What do you think?
(1) Forrsights Networks and Telecommunications Survey, Q1, 2013
(2) Unisphere Research (in partnership with Intellisource) Survey, 2013