Master the Madness: Advance your IVR to the Final Four

March Madness is officially here, and the hype, betting, and strategizing have already commenced. And just like the major basketball tournament, customer service all boils down to your customers successfully navigating your inbound support channels to reach their goal. Read on for four strategies to ensure your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system reigns victorious.
Basketball teams aren’t the only ones caught in a winner takes all tournament – your company’s IVR is in the same situation.

The Madness is upon us! Brackets are set. Teams seeded. Office pools across the country are buzzing with predictions. The basketball teams themselves are preparing for the long road to the Final Four in Houston in early April.

For some teams the journey will be difficult; for others it will be easier. Either way all teams must win four games in a row to make the Final Four. But I’m sure many teams wish they could skip right to the Final Four. Forget traveling 2,000 miles across the country for an early round game. Duke, Iowa, Oregon (insert your alma mater here) all want to hop onto a plane and go straight to Houston.

But these teams aren’t the only ones hoping for a direct path to their goal. Your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) unit is a tournament bracket of its own.  Callers dialing your customer service lines must work their way through a menu maze to meet their end goal. When your IVR greets callers, their personal “bracket” is established. Can they skip right to what they want – i.e. the Final Four or championship game? Or do they have to work their way through a maze of menus and complicated commands?


Simplifying your callers’ IVR bracket

Innovations in today’s IVR technology make it possible for customers to easily engage your contact center and reach their desired destination with fewer steps and greater satisfaction. Let’s see how we can work our way through four tournament-tested strategies and beat back the opponents getting in the way of IVR success.

First round game (Brooklyn) Personalize the greeting

It’s tip-off time. The first game is on and a customer contacts your IVR. A good start is crucial for both basketball teams and an IVR experience. How does your IVR greet your callers? Is it a long, canned message advising them to “Listen carefully because the menus may have changed” and instructing them to “Push 1 for Sales, Push 2 for Service,” etc. Any referee would call foul on this approach!

If this is the face your company shows to customers then you are missing out on great advances to create a more welcoming experience.

How about greeting your callers by name?

How nice would it be for a caller to hear “Hello Sue, welcome back” when they are a returning customer dialing into your IVR? Personalized greetings are possible using caller ID technology known as Automatic Number Identification (ANI). ANI matching lets your IVR connect to existing customer phone numbers, match that number to your CRM system and identify the caller’s name. Then Text-to-Speech technology converts names into a personalized greeting for each caller.

Nuance research has found 83% of respondents say the quality of the IVR impacts their opinion of the company.

Second round game (Brooklyn)Use voice authentication and send PINs to the bench

We’re further into the tournament now and the IVR must validate that you are who you say you are. Typically this requires entering PINs or passwords. Sometimes you can’t enter your pin, forget your password, or can’t remember the exact answers to your security questions. If you can’t easily confirm your identity, you could be stuck in a long loop of transfers to find a solution or be blocked from your account.

What if authentication was as easy as speaking into the phone? No passwords or PINs to remember – just confirming your identity by the sound of your voice.

Voice biometrics creates a unique voiceprint for each customer that is as individual at their fingerprint. Callers can validate themselves with a short vocal passphrase such as, “At Nuance, my voice is my password.” Using voice as authentication eliminates the need to remember PINs, passwords, or the answers to security questions (which require an average of 23 seconds of interaction with a live agent – adding time to the call and souring customers’ experience).

Customers want this technology. Ninety percent of users prefer voice biometrics over the status quo. Implementing voice biometrics will excite your customers while driving results against your key metrics – making you feel like you hit the long three pointer to win the game.

Midwest Regional (Chicago), “Sweet 16”Let your customers use Natural Language

Why not let your callers speak in their own words? Advances in Natural Language Understanding (NLU) allow your IVR to understand not just the words that are said, but their intent – and that makes all the difference when it comes to getting callers to the right content.

IVRs that use natural language are more personal, intuitive, and welcoming. The result is, as they say in basketball, a “triple-double”: 45 percent reduction in call volume, reduced escalations by 90 percent, and 53 percent fewer non-compliance letters mailed.

Midwest Regional Final (Chicago), “Elite 8”Multi-channel integration

One more opponent to vanquish until we’re at the Final Four. Now is the time to utilize all possible strategies. Now is the time for multi-channel integration.

The days of customers using only the IVR channel to communicate are long gone. Today, the majority of customers begin their self-service journey on your website, shifting to the IVR when they can’t find the answer they need. A modern IVR system will connect the dots, capturing the data and prompting the customer with an appropriate path. For example, “Hello Mrs. Smith. I see you recently accessed your account statement online. Are you calling to pay your bill?”

Unfortunately, older, stand-alone IVR systems can’t make these connections. Today’s forward-looking organizations see the value in all channels working together cohesively – just as all five players on the court must be a part of one team.

Cut down the nets!  Victory achieved 

We’re going to Houston! We took our IVR game to the next level through a variety of strategies and helped people navigate their own personal “bracket” and propel them directly to their end goal – the Final Four. All that’s left to do is to ask the local fortune teller if Yale can go all the way.

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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.