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Be a Warrior: Make every call to your IVR a three-pointer

After winning the NBA Championship in 2015, you’d think the Golden State Warriors might have coasted a bit during the grueling 82 game regular season in 2016. Instead, they broke the record for wins in a season by posting a record of 73 - 9. How did they do it? Their winning strategy is shaking up professional basketball, and when it’s applied by companies providing customer service through interactive voice response (IVR), a similar strategy is turning what is typically one of the most frustrating customer experiences into a cause for celebration.
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The Warriors three-point shots revolutionized basketball strategy in the same way as conversational IVR revolutionized the call center experience.

A recent profile in the Wall Street Journal shows how the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors ­– for many years a league doormat – used statistical analysis to determine its traditional strategy of working all of the 24-second shot clock for a chance close to the basket (“down in the paint” in basketball parlance) was costing them points and victories. Instead, the numbers said players should be attempting more long range three-point shots. Many more.

Based on this, the Warriors redesigned their offense. Instead of making multiple passes and cuts in an attempt to get a lay-up (Figure 1), the Warriors get the ball to their best three-point shooters as quickly as possible, even if it meant they’d be taking the longer shot (Figure 2).


The result? After winning the NBA title in 2015, the Warriors went on to win a record 73 games during this year’s regular season, and having won their first two series are heavy favorites to repeat as champions.


Very interesting, but what does it have to do with my IVR?

When you examine the design of a typical IVR application, it looks remarkably like the complex, old-style basketball play:

bball complex

The customer starts at the top, with a prompt that says something like “please listen carefully, our menu options have changed” and then proceeds to hear at least a half-dozen options that might, or might not, match what they’re calling about. If they make a wrong choice, they either have to go back to the top and start over, or they call “TIME OUT” and press 0 for an operator.

When management looks at the performance of such a design, they have to wonder, as the Warriors did, if there is a better way.

There is. It’s called Conversational IVR. Instead of reciting a long list of options, hoping the customer will find what they’re looking for, Conversational IVRs simply ask, “How can I help you?” Using speech recognition and natural language understanding, the IVR is then able to determine the reason for the call and provide either the right answer or a way to get something done.

bball simple

Statistical analysis of Conversational IVRs show they increase containment and task completion. We’re seen companies leveraging Conversational IVR show a 5-15 percent increase in containment. Just like a Warrior being given the ball at the three-point line and launching his shot immediately. SCORE!

Of course, neither the Warriors nor the Conversational IVR would win if they didn’t put the right players on the floor. The Warriors have built their team around two of the best long distance shooters in the game, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, with a supporting cast of top-notch pros who understand the strategy and execute it flawlessly.

In the same way, your Conversational IVR needs the best speech recognition and natural language understanding capability, with applications designed by pros who know how to get the customer from “hello” to “happy” as quickly as possible on platform that performs without a hitch.

Who are you going to pick for your team?

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Turn self-service into a conversation

Nuance customer experience expert Greg Pal discusses how self-service is getting—well—downright chatty, and why companies are fast making the switch to conversational interfaces as a key component of their customer service strategy.

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Brian Moore

About Brian Moore

Brian Moore, senior principal, industry solutions of Nuance’s Enterprise division, brings more than 30 years of experience in financial services, mortgage and collections operations and technology to the company. He is also our resident compliance expert, advising companies on the TCPA, FDCPA, TSR and other regulations impacting customer engagement.