Three ways your IVR can cut costs (while delighting customers)

Spoken | August 9, 2016

Three ways IVR automation can cut call center costs while delighting

Webinar reinventing your IVR to control costs and delight customers While customers love to hate bad IVR design, organizations love effective Interactive Voice Response (IVR) automation for retaining customers in self-service and reducing agent time and energy. And a well-designed IVR will do just that: keep customers happy while cutting costs.

So how does an organization create an IVR that will leave a customer pleasantly surprised at the ease of doing business while leaving the call center manager happy at the cost savings of doing business? There are two key functions of the IVR that can be technologically addressed to accomplish those goals: knowing who the customer is and what she is trying to do, also known as caller identification and caller intent.

1. Identifying the caller

The first key to an effective customer experience is identifying the caller. This is typically achieved by taking information the caller says or inputs into the IVR and using it to match that caller to an entry in the organization’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database, with the ultimate goal of providing a screen pop filled with caller data to the agent.

The challenge is that every business has a different way of positively identifying the caller, a system we refer to as “matching.” Elements such as the ANI (the number the customer is dialing from), caller name, email address or member number are common identifiers for positively identifying a customer in the organization’s CRM system.

  • ANI lookup While it’s easy to automatically look up the ANI, match rates for ANI-only lookups tend to be quite low for a number of reasons. The caller could be calling from a different phone, such as a VoIP phone or an office phone that doesn’t happen to be the phone number listed in her customer record. So a second piece of information is typically required to positively match the caller with her record in the CRM database. But each additional piece of information has its difficulties in terms of IVR collection.
  • Name First and last names can be difficult to hear and spell correctly via most speech recognition systems, leading to repeated questions, caller frustration and opt-outs
  • Email address Email addresses are notoriously difficult to accurately collect via speech recognition systems, once again leading to repeated questions, caller frustration and opt-outs
  • Member ID Numeric member numbers are ideal for IVR data collection. However, most customers do not have their number memorized, so they tend to skip this step or opt out.

Addressing name and email address matching How can the challenges of name and email address matching be addressed? One way is through technological innovation. The Spoken Smart IVR adds a human in the background to make pinpointed corrections to traditionally difficult-to-understand caller utterances (such as name and email address). Through a patented software interface, corrections can be made on up to 10 simultaneous calls to caller utterances where needed. The human sits at a dashboard like the one below and only listens briefly when a tab flags red or yellow:

Neat screen shot clean

The result is a dramatic increase in the caller identification match rate, which is the cornerstone of a personalized caller experience and accurate call routing. And here’s the proof for one customer:

  • Average Handle Time was reduced by 12%, since the IVR was doing the heavy lifting of caller identification
  • Self-service rates increased to 73%

2. Identifying the reason for call

The second half of the formula for an easy and elegant IVR interaction is accurate call routing, but in order to route accurately, the IVR must correctly capture the reason for the call. Whether the caller is calling to question a bill, cancel service, order new service or get technical support, the key to an excellent customer experience is getting the right agent in the right queue the first time, without transfers.

Both caller identification and reason for call figure into routing accuracy. The better the caller identification match rates, the higher the likelihood that the call will be routed to the right agent accurately, the first time.

Let’s look at an example. A customer call in to an organization and asks for technical support. However, from a combination of the ANI match and the email address, the CRM record indicates that the caller isn’t entitled to technical support over the phone. So instead of routing the caller to the technical support queue, forcing the agent to do a manual look up and having to deliver the unpleasant news that the caller isn’t entitled to live technical support, a better solution would be to route the customer to either a Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ) self-service queue to deal with a common question or to a sales queue so he can purchase the support he needs.

And voilà! Misrouted calls decrease dramatically. In the case of Neat:

  • Misrouted calls were decreased by 30%

3. Analyzing the numbers

The third and final part of the IVR cost-cutting equation is to analzye the customer experience to verify that the cost-cutting measures aren’t degrading the quality of that experience. For many of our customers, retaining callers in IVR self-service is a goal, since that automation is far less costly than live agent time. However, if the caller gets frustrated or leaves the brand, the cost of acquiring a new customer would override the cost savings of the IVR automation.

For that reason, it’s important to do a monthly IVR review to track all the relevant information, including:

  • Percentage of positively identified callers
  • Distribution of reasons for call
  • Percentage of accurate caller intent
  • Percentage of satisfied callers retained in self-service
  • Percentage of opt-outs
  • Percentage of misroutes
  • Call length
  • Overall customer satisfactions scores

It may sound surprising, but many callers are more satisfied when they can easily accomplish a simple task, such as checking an account balance or a flight status, within the automated self-service system. However, it’s the numbers that will speak to the value of the cost-cutting: if the IVR is accurately capturing caller identification and reason for call while customer satisfaction scores improve, there is little danger of losing a customer due to bad IVR design.


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