Most companies spend a lot of time and money determining what their customers want. Obviously, they want quality products and services at good prices. But it’s also important to determine what customers want when it comes time to interact with the company. In an era when everyone is pressed for time, what customers seem to want most are easy transactions that are solved on the first call or contact, via any channel they choose.
In a recent white paper entitled, “How ‘Friction-Free’ Care Can Bolster the Bottom Line,” call center solutions provider Contact Solutions writes that customers are taking control of where, when and how they contact their selected vendors and brands. Contact center solutions such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems, are too often seen as friction points that interfere with direct contact with live agents.
It doesn’t need to be this way. IVR solutions, after all, are designed by humans, and can be well made or nightmarish, depending on how customer-centric they are. Well-designed IVR applications are those that are governed by continuous improvement (CI) efforts to ensure positive business outcomes and boost customer satisfaction. In other words, the IVR shouldn’t be a tool to keep customers at bay, but one that complements their call center interaction.
Most IVRs, unfortunately, aren’t designed for customer ease. In the study, which was conducted by Opus Research, respondents expressed dissatisfaction with multiple menus options in the IVR that seemed to keep them from their goal of speaking with a human.
“They [customers] don’t necessarily ‘hate the IVR’ or necessarily prefer human interaction,” wrote the report’s authors. “They resent any resource that gets between them and what they are trying to accomplish.”
While it’s acceptable to use an IVR to route calls or provide simple self-service information, it’s not okay to use it to prevent customers from reaching live agents. Yet at the same time, it’s critical to ensure that the IVR is designed well enough to truly assist customers who don’t really need an agent.
Customer care solutions providers such as Contact Solutions offer services to help clients build, refine and tune self-service applications such as the IVR and workflows in a way that helps both the enterprises (clients) and their customers achieve their goals.
“A well-designed IVR application can have immediate impact on both customer satisfaction and financial performance; but it must be accompanied at the outset by a formal program, akin to a partnership, to insure that the positive experience and financial outcomes continue over the years,” wrote the report’s authors.
In other words, the IVR is not a tool to administer once and forget about. If it’s to accomplish its primary purpose, which is to assist – but not block – customers and route calls where they need to go, the IVR requires a constant fine-tuning approach that never ends.