‘Vanilla’ IVRs don’t make the grade anymore – customers want ‘gourmet’ interactions

Today’s consumer expects easy and intelligent customer service that meets their unique needs. A generic approach to the customer experience no longer cuts it. Customers want interactions that are similar from one channel to another, they want to be in control with easy self-service, and they want quick access to information and the ability to perform complicated tasks on their own terms. To keep up, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems need to evolve and modernize.
The modern consumer requires easy-to-use, intelligent customer service; a generic, vanilla approach no longer cuts it.

No one wants to feel like they’re just one in the crowd, and today’s consumer refuses to be treated as such. The modern consumer expects easy-to-use, intelligent, and personalized interactions across every channel – and with every company they do business with. A generic, vanilla approach to customer experience no longer cuts it.

The capabilities of websites and mobile apps have vastly expanded in the last five years, allowing consumers to help themselves through self-service from beginning to complete resolution. This has established a new standard for customer service and elevated customers’ expectations for control over their own experience. These ‘gourmet’ interactions are now expected, especially in the primary channel of customer contact – the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system ­– which still handles over 50 percent of all customer self-service.

Many people have said the phone will die out as a channel for customer communication, predicting other self-service channels would take over. But counter to the nay-sayers, it has actually grown due to the next generation of connected consumers. According to Forrester, 73 percent of consumers use the phone for customer service and 83 percent say the quality of an IVR impacts their opinion of the company; a good IVR means the company cares about providing exceptional service.

Though these nay-sayers were wrong in predicting the IVR would disappear, its function has shifted with the “Millennialization of customer service.” The IVR has become primarily an escalation channel; customers who call in are already frustrated and impatient because they’ve tried to solve their problem or get an answer through other means (such as an app or website), but were unsuccessful.

The new standards set by other channels for self-service are being expected in IVR systems as well. Modernizing your IVR is essential to success, especially since the phone is still the primary communication channel.

But what does a modern IVR look like? It needs to fulfill customer expectations for ‘easy’ and ‘effective’. The answer is a new flavor of IVR called conversational IVR. A conversational IVR uses natural language understanding and dynamic conversational dialog to provide personalized experiences that anticipate a caller’s needs. It leverages advanced design capabilities and predictive logic that deliver intelligent, natural and personal interactions, that allows callers to quickly access important information and perform complicated tasks. ‘Vanilla’ IVRs feature tedious menu mazes causing frustration and unhappy customers. By using natural language understanding, a conversational IVR has the ability to listen, understand, verify identity, process and return information seamlessly as if they were speaking to a live agent – without the need to select options from a rigid list.

With the convergence of increasing consumer demands for self-service and conversational interfaces, the rise of data and the cloud, escalating contact volumes and flat customer service budgets, organizations need to re-evaluate where they stand with their current IVR system and explore ways to enhance their customer’s experience. The simple IVR no longer meets the needs of the savvy consumer seeking easy and consistent service.

Get a fresh perspective on modernizing your IVR. Listen to this webinar to learn what callers want and tips for how to serve it up on a silver platter that’ll make them loyal, lasting customers.

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Amy Livingstone

About Amy Livingstone

Amy drives go-to-market strategy and product management for the Enterprise Division’s On Premise portfolio of products, services and solutions. With close to 20 years of experience in customer experience and intelligent self-service solutions, Amy brings strategic and tactical insights to organizations wishing to deliver a better experience to their customers, aided by innovative technologies and design.