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Why You Should Care about Your IVR

Contact centers are finally becoming omni-channel organizations where customers can interact in their channel of choice. Technology like WebRTC is altering the service experience by allowing customers to change modes – moving from a chat session to a phone call, for example – without changing medium. Outbound environments can chase customers using many channels, as long as they comply with regulations. Despite all of this welcome innovation, traditional, dependable interactive voice response (IVR) systems continue to handle a large percentage of both inbound and outbound calls cost effectively.

Back to the Future
While the Millennial generation has a strong preference for using non-voice channels that are accessible from their smart phones, they are not opposed to using an IVR, as they often prefer any form of self-service over talking to a live agent. Of course, the IVR experience has to be a good one; which we all know is much less common than it should be. Enterprises need to invest in enhancing their Web and voice self-service channels. The service experience delivered by these channels needs to be consistent, as should the information available to customers. The self-service channels should be optimized to allow users to easily access the information or transact their business. Web and voice self-service channels should mirror as many activities as possible, as there will be times when customers are unable to call and others when they cannot get online.
Millennials are giving voice self-service a new lease on life, even if voice is not their preferred channel. But, Millennials will not put up with the many poorly designed IVRs in the market. This means that if companies are willing to invest in enhancing the scripts, voice user interfaces (VUIs) and integrations between the system and agents, they have a great opportunity to use their IVRs, which remain one of the most inexpensive forms of service.
Tips for Using IVRs with Millennials

Here are a few tips for using an IVR to deliver service to the Millennial generation:

  1. Make it speech-enabled and be sure it works – Millennials don’t have a lot of patience; they may try it once, but if it doesn’t work you’ve lost them, and even worse, there is a good chance they’ll share their grievances on social media.
  2. Make it easy, and give callers the options they want – In the “old days” companies put up the options they wanted callers to use on an IVR. This didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. If you want callers to use an IVR, automate tasks that they want to do on this channel.
  3. Do not torture callers who do you the favor of using your IVR – Make sure that it’s painless for a caller to transfer from the IVR to a live agent. Transfer their account number, and tell the agent what the customer already did in the IVR. Forcing callers to input and validate their identity in the IVR and then asking them to do it again when they get to a live agent is a waste of time and money for your company and a total “put off” for any customer, particularly a Millennial.
  4. Optimize your IVR scripts and options – Continuously look for ways to improve the performance of your IVR. Callers are open to changing scripts, especially if it improves the service.
  5. Personalize the IVR – Use analytics to personalize the IVR experience. If a caller always does the same thing on the system, either immediately give them this information after they authenticate, or present it as their first option when reading them the script.
  6. Use visual IVR technology to build consistency in your self-service channels.
  7. Invest in voice biometrics to reduce fraud risk – Once a customer passes the initial verification screening, give them what they want, and if they need to transfer to an agent, make sure they are not asked to re-verify.
Final Thoughts
When scripts and VUIs are well-designed and optimized, customers welcome IVRs as a useful form of self-service. This means that the old days of building an IVR application and leaving it alone for months, if not years, is no longer an option. There’s been innovation in the IVR market, and there is good technology available from on-premise and cloud-based vendors. But companies that want to succeed with voice self-service today need to continuously invest in their application to ensure that it is meeting customers’ ever-changing needs.

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Ask the Experts

Question:
I keep hearing about agent engagement and empowerment, but am really unclear how this can be applied in a structured and metrics-driven contact center environment. Can you give me some practical ways that this can be accomplished?

Answer:

The influx of Millennials into the workforce is contributing significantly to changes in technology and management styles. Millennials are driving companies to come up with better ways to engage and motivate their staff, although the need to feel recognized, valued and rewarded transcends generational boundaries. Here are some practical and useful suggestions for engaging and empowering contact center agents:

  • Gamification: Gamification is proving to be a highly effective method for motivating and rewarding all employees. Gamification is about using game mechanics, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and recognition to engage employees and drive desired behaviors. It empowers employees by giving them visibility into their performance data, and provides the tools they need to make self-directed improvements and sustainable changes.
  • Voice of the Employee (VoE): Creating a formal employee feedback process, and utilizing VoE feedback to understand employee motivations, perceptions, suggestions and potential business process improvements, are best practices for engaging employees. Effective VoE programs invite employees to participate in improvement programs. Organizations should use VoE to share findings and recommendations with the staff, and then take action on the feedback, which is an important way to let employees know that they are valued and respected.
  • Agent self-service: Today’s workforce management solutions have a wide variety of features to empower agents to self-manage their work/life balance. Agents can define and prioritize their schedule preferences, manage time-off requests, and initiate shift swaps. Alerts and notifications keep agents on task for schedule adherence, and real-time KPIs help them track their own performance effectiveness. Mobility and SMS alerts notify agents of schedule changes and overtime opportunities.
  • Analytics-enabled quality assurance (QA), coaching and eLearning: Activities such as analytics-enabled quality assurance and coaching, team meetings and up-training can also improve agent engagement. Analytics-enabled QA leverages speech and text analytics, business rules and automation to identify, classify and rank interactions and agents that require management attention. Analytics-enabled QA evaluates 100% of agent interactions to provide a clearer picture of agent performance, and enables managers to pinpoint key performance opportunities and provide targeted feedback, coaching and eLearning content to effect improvements and monitor progress.

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DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.