In this business it’s not uncommon to encounter customer care professionals that question the intelligence of making large improvements to their IVR applications. Many view themselves as visionaries, so investing in a twenty year old technology is not high on their priority list. Their attention is on consumer adoption of new self-service channels.  After all, isn’t making a phone call an outdated way for consumers to do business?  Aren’t mobile apps really the way consumers will get answers in the future?  Won’t customers stop calling into the contact center and turn to chat, Web, or social networking to get their answers?  But neglecting your investment in the phone can be a big mistake. Studies show customers who need support:

  • overwhelmingly prefer self-service
  • want it to be fast and easy if you want to make them happy
  • have no patience for waiting on hold – so give them options
  • are being conditioned by applications like Siri and Dragon Go! where interacting with a non-human is truly natural and works brilliantly (for more on this topic, check out my previous blog).

So, if you’re one of those professionals looking to invest in the future of customer self-service, we challenge you to broaden your definition IVR and how it fits into today’s self-service paradigm.  IVR is no longer the isolated system designed with the primary purpose of keeping callers away from your agents. Today’s IVRs are designed to meet the changing needs of the connected consumer; to build brand equity and customer loyalty. Modern IVRs are constructed using natural interaction building blocks; those same building blocks used to construct next-gen Web, and mobile customer care applications.

If you haven’t been planning for IVR modernization, Nuance suggests you re-consider and evaluate these five key building blocks, and which can leveraged for IVR and for other self-service channels:

  1. Natural Language Understanding. Implementing an IVR that can speak “customer- ese” and allow customers to use natural language leads to increased customer satisfaction and increased usage with IVR. Your customers are learning that dealing with a non-human, can be successful by simply using their own words.
  2. Speech recognition. Studies show that up to 70% of your callers are calling custom care using a mobile phone. Providing the option for callers to simply speak their request rather than fumble with the touchtone keypad improves IVR usage. The speech components built to recognize your callers response to questions such as account numbers, transaction dates, or travel destinations can also be used to add speech recognition to your mobile applications so that mobile app users are freed from typing into the tiny keyboard.
  3.  Personalization. Tailor the IVR experience specifically for each caller. For example, use a caller’s mobile number to identify them and proactively offer them information about recent purchases or transactions. Consider a structure, such as a personalization database that can facilitate appropriate personalization across all self-service channels.
  4. Voice biometrics. A company focused on data security can use a caller’s voice as a password to quickly and easily authenticate that caller. The same biometrics voice print can also be used to authenticate customers within a mobile app or even from your web site.
  5. Dynamic audio. Your IVR can be the voice of your brand. Today’s IVR doesn’t have to sound robotic and can interact naturally with callers. The same audio technologies that are used to put a voice to your IVR can also be used to provide a voice of your mobile application.

With all the advances in technologies and consumer expectations, it’s more important than ever to re-evaluate your IVR investment plan.  No more “old school” IVR’s with their menu mazes and robotic voices.  Your goal should be to provide a natural and easy self-service IVR experience using technologies that you’ll repurpose across other customer care channels.

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore the five investment areas in more detail, including how each building block has its own unique value on cost savings and customer experience.

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About Andrea Mocherman

This was a contributed post by Andrea Mocherman. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.