Friday, February 23, 2018

IVR: A game of "Chutes and Ladders"?

By Diana Aviles

 In my career so far, I’ve probably listened to a gazillion calls (or so it seems) in which the first 90 seconds consists of a spirited rant about the IVR. The complaints vary- from how they feel it takes too long to reach a human, to how the IVR has trouble understanding what the customer is saying.  Heck, even I have had issues with IVR’s sometimes.  My worst experience was when I called to pay my mortgage and when I would get to the actual payment part, the IVR would not understand me speaking my routing number and would hang up on me!  This occurred 4 times in a single instance before I asked my husband to take over and he was able to knock it out after 2 attempts.

The fact is – we need IVR systems in place.  Call centers require them as a method to efficiently route traffic to the correct department.  They also contain valuable data from a business intelligence standpoint.  For those of us in speech analytics, IVR Category Codes allow me to zero-in on the specific reasons a person has called to further refine listening analyses we perform.  However, let’s be honest with each other here- customers do not care about those things. They want their issue or question handled immediately and accurately. The other truth to IVR’s is that while they do a great job of routing call volume and reducing unnecessary volume with self-help options such as bill pay or even sending a hit to your cable box for you, they are certainly not perfect.  There are ways the technology can be improved to benefit both the call center and the customer.

IVR’s should not be disconnecting callers if they can’t understand the caller:
  • If you can’t understand me you should transfer me to a general agent for assistance.  Would you really want to exacerbate what may have started as only a non-to-mildly volatile situation and irritate me by dumping my call thus creating a proverbial hornet’s nest?  If there are no agents available due to the time of the call being after hours, just give me an automated message that says you have reached us after hours, please try your call again during hours of operation so we can assist you.  A customer should not feel as if they are playing a game of chutes and ladders just to pay a bill or troubleshoot a technical issue.
Improved Accent Recognition:
  • I speak with a Midwestern accent which I learned means that I am prone to raising emphasis on certain vowels like A and U.  Why this is something worth pointing out is from what I have been told, this contributes to my issues with some IVR systems.  The IVR hears my raised vowel pronunciation and cannot process my request.  Southern accents, in which words are pronounced with the drawl of a more deliberate cadence, can also complicate the IVR’s ability to detect voice. These are English speaking callers having issues- now just imagine having a thick Spanish accent while trying to navigate through an IVR!  We sometimes encounter this in SA where we have “false positives” that generate from accents.  For example in my early years of SA, we had a “Supervisor Escalation Query” that would merely hit on the word “Seven” if the speaker had a thick accent. Certainly IVR systems should be configured to understand different accents to account for such a wide array of language diversity.
 Keep It Simple Silly:
  • An IVR is designed to help route my call to the department best suited to assist me.  I understand that there are MANY self-help options available, but I also know that I wouldn’t be calling and waiting on hold if I had not already exhausted the alternative options.  This is important to be mindful of in case a customer had a bad prior experience with the self-help solution. This also may be something your organization would need to investigate to remedy.
These are just a few examples of things that can be done to enhance overall customer experience and improve the customer’s perception of the IVR system your organization uses.  The simpler we make the IVR experience for the customer the more likely customers will utilize the self-help features offered. This will benefit your organization through reducing call volume for basic tasks.

Diana Aviles is an Operations Manager with more than 5 years of Quality Assurance experience in a call center environment. Diana's objective is to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Follow Diana on LinkedIn.

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