The secrets of a successful IVR deployment

While many companies field five million customer calls a year, one leading electronics retailer managed five million calls in November and December alone! But it’s not just the holiday rush. IVRs are taxed year-round, with high call volume coupled with rising expectations of customer service. Read on for insights from Nuance’s Jim Stoeckel on how companies can manage the pressure, and the secrets behind a successful IVR.
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With high call volume and increasing customer expectations, companies must ensure their technology solutions meet customer needs.

If you’re a consumer electronics company, life isn’t always easy. From callers checking their order status and rescheduling installations, to customers inquiring about member rewards or tech support, those companies’ IVRs have a lot to handle.

With so many customers and demands, one leading electronics retailer is tasked with managing more than 1.8 million calls every month! To efficiently manage this high number of calls and help customers get the answers they need, the retailer chose a Conversational IVR from Nuance.

We spoke with Nuance’s Principal Project Manager Jim Stoeckel, who oversaw this particular IVR deployment, and has more than a decade of experience working with companies in this exact situation – high call volumes, increasing customer expectations, and an antiquated IVR that’s not up to the task. Jim shared key learnings for how other companies can have a successful implementation.

What drove this electronics retailer to upgrade its IVR? What was the problem and why did it need to be solved?

The retailer’s previous IVR was made up of several individual applications, each set up to address specific reasons a customer might be calling. Depending on the number you dialed, you had a different experience and could complete different tasks. Nuance streamlined the process by providing one application that would allow callers to accomplish any task, from one place.

The Nuance-hosted application also deployed a Natural Language menu, to allow for a more conversational and friendly application, while also enabling callers to be connected to the right agent as necessary. And because different product categories need different handling, Nuance deployed Natural Language technology to assist with product selection. Nuance’s conversational approach spurred more human-like exchanges like this:

IVR: “What can I help you with?”

Caller: “I want to buy a TV.”

IVR: “Sure, what TV are you looking to buy?”

Caller: “Samsung 40-inch smart TV”

IVR: “I’ll get a team member to help you out.”

In the old IVR application, callers had to sit through a list of options and then select “Sales” or “Purchasing” from maybe two or three menus down, then have to select a category such as “Appliance” or “Home theatre.” This resulted in a longer caller experience which often led to callers reaching the wrong department or being misrouted.

Is the retailer using any kind of data to be predictive?

Yes, the IVR knows who’s calling and will predict the reason for their call, such as an upcoming order or appointment. This helps callers reach their desired resolution with less effort than traditional IVR menus could provide. We did this using an upfront proactive notification functionality, in partnership with the company’s existing customer information systems, in an attempt to predict the reason for a customers’ call. We find that having even small amounts of data – such as past purchasing history, membership reward information, upcoming order or appointment information, as well as current subscription service status – allows our predictive technology to more accurately assist callers.

Are you seeing any metrics that show the success of this deployment?

While we’re currently in the process of reviewing metrics for the last six months, we have some key metrics around one of their busiest weeks. Overall, the application was focused on reducing misrouted calls (improving routing with NLU), improving self-service, and increasing containment. Once the application was deployed, we saw a 30 percent reduction in service agent transfers, as well as an improvement in routing – meaning callers are getting to where they want right away. In addition, all tasks for self-service showed improvement from the previous application, the repeat callers dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent (reducing overall call volume), and containment stayed positive.

While we’re currently in the process of reviewing metrics for the last six months, we have some key metrics around one of their busiest weeks. During that week we saw a 30 percent reduction in service agent transfers, as well as an improvement in routing – meaning callers are getting to where they want right away. In addition, all tasks for self-service showed improvement from the previous application, the repeat callers dropped from 35 percent to 25 percent (reducing overall call volume), and containment stayed positive.

What made this a successful implementation?

People, people, people. The retailer was very knowledgeable, in terms of both the business and in the IVR sector. The company understood what was needed and allowed the Nuance team to provide recommendations and use our expertise to help guide them in the right direction. By having a true partnership with the customer, we were able to combine our deep experience in creating powerful IVR applications with the retailers’ knowledge of its’ own business to deploy an application that produced positive results for both customers and the business.

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Benefits of Refreshing the IVR

More than of half of all customer service interactions are handled over the phone. Frost & Sullivan’s report – “Benefits of Refreshing the IVR: Customers Speak Out” explores how investment in your IVR can help you to exceed caller expectations and lower contact center costs. 

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Chris Caile

About Chris Caile

Chris Caile joined Nuance in September 2015 as senior solutions marketing manager for Nuance Conversational IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Before joining Nuance, Caile worked in various marketing and sales support positions at Microsoft and Motorola and has over 20 years of experience in the high tech industry. Caile holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Illinois State University with minors in mathematics and economics.