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Reform Your IVR for a Better CX Future

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This blog was excerpted from the upcoming Summer/Fall 2019 issue of the Customer Strategist journal. Subscribe today to get the whole story, delivered in September.

Many customer experience professionals ponder whether voice in the contact center is dying. The fact is that it’s far from becoming obsolete—it’s simply evolving. When looking at the future of voice offerings, it is incredibly important to understand innovations in the voice space and what your voice strategy for the future should ideally look like.

In the foreseeable future, customers will continue to turn to voice as a channel with their complex and urgent inquiries. That doesn’t mean, however, that every call needs to be handled by a live agent. In fact, voice-of-the-consumer studies show overwhelming evidence that consumers have an increasing comfort in interacting with digital interfaces.

Through quick and growing adoption of interfaces such as Alexa and Siri, consumers are becoming accustomed to natural language access to service and more intuitive experiences across digital touchpoints. Growing trust in conversational assistance from digital touchpoints means that customers are ready for a different way to access customer service.

With rapid adoption of virtual assistants and significant investments going into new iterations of the technology, contact centers need to understand how to leverage voice assistance as a modern age voice offering alongside the IVR.

Current-state pitfalls

The traditional IVR approach lends itself to be outdated, complicated, and frustrating. Many organizations find that the IVR or other areas of voice are the last to get budget allocation with the large push on omnichannel building a strong portfolio of channel offerings. Many organizations think they have an advanced IVR, but traditional systems don’t leverage natural language processing (NLP) or any voice commands. Rather, they are just call menus that collect customer information using alphanumeric inputs on the keypad, largely known as an auto attendant.

The IVR is your customer greeter, the first thing your customers interact with as they try to get an answer. And when the path to solve a customer issue is riddled with trap doors and tension, customers grow more frustrated by the second. Traditional IVRs can be excruciatingly painful to navigate through, as many of them were simply not designed with customer-centric best practices but rather as a means of call routing or deflection.

With consumers already comfortable with having conversations with digital touchpoints, these voice technologies will become a critical component for meeting the needs of customers. Numerous studies have found that voice commands, not keyboards or phone screens, are the most common way to get information. Soon, it will be the way customers expect to receive support and service.

Next-generation voice strategy

Contact centers need to be ready to meet this demand. Between the rise of voice assistants (and smart devices) and the old-fashioned auto attendant systems not cutting it any longer, the strategy needs to evolve. Voice assistants provide a fantastic interface to collect customer information, leverage that information for a personalized experience, and route the call quickly and accurately—just like a strong IVR. When looking at ways to bring your voice strategy into the future, here are some key ways you can leverage new voice technologies to modernize the experience for today’s customer:

  • Provide context continuity by preserving context across channels and personalizing the customer experience.
  • Predict customer intent based on recent transactions.
  • Adapt to each caller’s experience level in dealing with conversational digital touchpoints and cater to their needs.
  • Call them before they call you with proactive outreach for notifications and reminders.
  • Go digital. Mobile IVR solutions including Visual IVR and Text2IVR create an easy experience.
  • Queuing leaves no time wasted on hold. In queue, offer self-service and courtesy/ scheduled callbacks.
  • Leverage voice assistants to gather customer information and route calls.

Speak up

The traditional IVR is not long for the modern contact center. However, voice assistants and Alexa-type devices aren’t the end-all-be-all customer service solutions for the foreseeable future. It’s essential to recognize what is and what is not working in supporting customers and allocating resources to the right areas for the greatest impact.

A marriage of voice assistance and the modernization techniques listed above can help organizations bring your voice operations to meet the expectations of today’s customers. To learn more about the key features of a well designed IVR system, read our post Ten IVR Best Practices to Improve Customer Experiences.