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Achieving IVR success in 2017: Obstacles and opportunities

Successfully fulfilling New Year’s resolutions in personal and business life means conquering obstacles along the way. The same holds true when companies decide to make technology changes. Improving the company IVR is a goal that businesses annually strive for, but don’t often achieve. Chris Caile examines the top obstacles and opportunities that enterprises must consider as they resolve to enhance the IVR in 2017.
Companies must understand the technology and market trends as they strive to improve the IVR experience this year.

The new year brings the promise of fresh ideas, opportunities for change, and the commitment to work towards elusive annual goals. Many people know the feeling: while January starts with enthusiasm, reality kicks in by March and progress is sidetracked. The same holds true for business. Each year there is hope for huge new technology trends that will sweep through their industry driving improvements in time to market, product innovation, or customer service. But often these trends are beaten back by real-life road blocks that impede progress.

As we start 2017 let’s let look at six factors shaping progress on the IVR – three potential obstacles and three positive opportunities that will impact companies when driving change.


Obstacles preventing IVR improvements

There will be hurdles on the path to any goal. Many times, the roadblocks a business faces are similar to those we face with personal resolutions. The top three obstacles to IVR success that Nuance sees include:

  1. “Good enough” mindset – It’s easy to avoid making a change if you think everything is fine. Many enterprises invested in their IVR in the past and now believe one of two things – either their systems are okay as-is, or new technology will not drive further improvements. The company has achieved maximum benefit and containment goals with its current IVR and don’t see how to create incremental value. This attitude leads to an IVR stagnating and not meeting consumer desires. Significant advancements have been made in automation, speech recognition, prediction and analytic capabilities that allow companies to create intelligent, conversational IVRs that exceed caller expectations.
  1. Continued investment in other channels (mobile, web, SMS)Enterprises are encouraged to service multiple new touchpoints, yet their budgets remain flat or see limited growth. Companies put investment into the cool new technologies and as a result, the IVR suffers and falls further behind. Rather than seeing it as a zero sum game, forward-thinking companies are using IVR investments to create links and common experiences between various channels for a superior experience that callers will notice.
  1. Slow market adoption of new IVR technologies – No matter how impressive new advancements appear, it’s human nature to take a wait-and-see approach before making a move. Many new IVR technology trends such as human-assisted artificial intelligence, analytics, and prediction are shown to add value and improve experiences. But if the industry or peer companies aren’t seen as adopting new features, it’s natural for companies to hold back. Consider forging a different path and pilot new technologies in the IVR – your results and customer satisfaction just might surprise you.


Opportunities driving improvements in IVRs

To counter any obstacle, it helps to have tailwinds pushing you along. It’s much easier to make progress on resolutions if there is support and encouragement along the way. Organizations have roadblocks but there are also positive industry trends propelling them to improve their IVR and customer service. Nuance is finding three key trends that will bring about IVR improvement:

  1. On-going need to continuously improve customer satisfactionWith so much technology at their fingertips, the customer has never been more powerful. Texts, tweets, Facebooks posts, and even Snapchat rants can hurt a company much faster today than even a year ago. An old, outdated IVR with cumbersome menus that can’t effectively recognize callers will make any customer roll their eyes. The customer’s push for faster, quicker, and easier options is moving companies to finally make the upgrades they’ve long pondered.
  1. Desire to create one cohesive cross-channel experienceBusinesses know that customers don’t exclusively call the IVR for support. They first visit the website, try the app, or check the Twitter feed. But does your IVR know about these customer interactions? Customers expect a similar experience across these channels. A slick app experience followed by a clunky, outdated IVR that sounds like it’s from 1987 won’t cut it. Today, more and more companies are investing in the work and technology to build an omni-channel experience that knows where their customers prefer to engage and, most importantly, can offer a common, intelligent experience within each channel.
  1. Increase customer use of self-service and reduce calls to live agentsThese are two trends tightly tied together in a yin and yang partnership. On the one hand, we are a self-service nation that seeks to remove any friction that slows progress towards resolving our issue. In parallel, the businesses we love encourage more self-service to reduce their operating costs and remain competitive. The faster they get our issues resolved, ideally without tapping a live agent, the better it is for the company’s bottom line. But this only works if the self-service it implements actually helps the caller. An intelligent, modern Conversational IVR knows who is calling, has context, and can take action just like talking to a live agent. Creating this balance will prove mutually beneficial for both customers and enterprises.

For any roadblock – be it personal or business – there are ways to overcome it. For the contact center and the IVR, broad market trends are giving companies a reason to revisit their existing systems. Forward-thinking companies see the opportunity available and adopt new technologies to offer a modern, conversational IVR that breaks down old stereotypes and delivers an improved customer experience.

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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.