If you’ve called a call centre number recently, then you’ve dealt with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. You’ll recognize it as the automated voice that lists menu options and directs you to “press 1 for X.” It’s been around since the 1980s, when companies realized the robot receptionist was cheaper than hiring teams of people to transfer calls.
Technological improvements to IVR over the decades have made the system capable of functioning as a customer support agent for simple issues in addition to its receptionist role. You’ve probably used one to pay a bill or reset your modem.
When the systems are deployed properly, an IVR call is seven times cheaper than a live call. But when they make it more difficult for customers to get the help needed, IVRs can cost companies significantly in the form of lost customers and employees.
Below are common problems Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems cause call centres, along with solutions to prevent them.
In theory, IVRs are supposed to help customers find the information they need without waiting in a queue to speak with an agent. The reality is that most consumers think IVRs ruin the customer experience, and those feelings haven’t changed much in almost 30 years.
Companies can improve customer satisfaction by automating communications to provide answers to common questions. This could be in the form of SMS messages notifying a customer when a delivery is scheduled. Or for customers who prefer calls, use Interactive Voice Messaging (IVM) to let customers know when a bill is due and give them self-service options to pay without needing to speak with an agent.
How is Interactive Voice Messaging (IVM) different than Interactive Voice Response (IVR)? It’s simple. IVR is focused on inbound calls while IVM deals with automated outbound calls. We think that the latter is an improved method of contacting customers proactively, removing the need of calling up contact centers. Nevertheless, as communication and First Contact Resolution are important, Interactive Voice Messaging (IVM) also includes the option to call back that will guide the customer to the right department from the first try.
Across industries, “fully 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.” Improve their experience by giving them the tools and information to make it easier for them to handle issues.
For example, cable and internet companies receive a high number of customer service calls, usually because a customer’s internet connection is down. If these companies were to automatically send a text or interactive voice message when there was an outage in a particular area, customers wouldn’t have to call to see if there was an issue with their equipment.
Or, in the case of retail companies, which often receive service calls because a package didn’t arrive, customers could get a text when their package was delivered, including a link to report delivery or product issues.
Discover how VoiceSage provided a solution fit to collect payments, send out notifications and collect customer feedback for Express Gift Ltd. Read case study.
Call centre workers have it tough. “Like retail staff, we are frontline cannon fodder,” said an anonymous worker in an article in The Guardian.
Customers are already upset when they call because they couldn’t access their account, the package arrived broken, or the service representative didn’t show up for their appointment. Then, their problem isn’t listed in the automated menu. They press “0” and yell “representative,” and by the time the agent gets on the line, the customer is seething.
One-way companies can reduce stress for their call centre agents is to provide customers with additional communication channels for support, like two-way SMS.
As daily interactions become mobile-focused and instant, customers appreciate having their questions answered and their problems solved without having to call customer service and wait on hold until an agent is available. Two-way SMS is easy for customers to use, and they can usually get answers faster because agents can handle multiple chat sessions at once.
“The main business drivers for using VoiceSage’s proactive engagement methods are to limit or reduce inbound contact centre calls, which are expensive to process and which should only be used for service queries that cannot otherwise be automated, plus to move customer outreach from failure demands (‘Why hasn’t my delivery happened?’) to value demands (‘I’d like to order more goods from you’). This, coupled with speed of response, high response rates and the fact that they are easy services to execute, makes VoiceSage’s proactive technologies highly useful to both Capita and its contact centre clients” says Michael Cheng, Quality Insight & Strategy Manager at Capita, one of VoiceSage’s valuable customers.
First-call resolution is when your customer’s problem is solved within a single call. It’s one of the most important metrics for measuring customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, call centre agents can feel pressured to close tickets prematurely to meet aggressive call-time and closure-rate goals, which could make them mark a customer’s issue as resolved before it is.
When a customer is already upset because they have a problem, are frustrated with the call centre’s IVR system, and have ended their call with no resolution, they’re going to be unhappy. Call centre company SQM Group reports that “customer satisfaction drops by 15% every time a customer has to call back about the same issue.”
With just one instance of poor customer service leading some customers to switch companies, low first-call resolution percentages can be costly problems.
By using customer satisfaction surveys, companies can track first-call resolution rate and better understand common reasons their customers contact them.
Sixty percent of companies that measured first-call resolution for a year or more reported improvements of up to 30%. This is beneficial for a company’s bottom line because “for every 1% improvement you make in FCR, you get a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction.“
Additionally, surveys are important because they can uncover patterns in calls that require multiple contacts to resolve. If a company can uncover these patterns, they can fix the issue so it’s not a recurring problem in the future. It could be as simple as correcting information on the company website that’s causing customers confusion.
Interactive Voice Response was developed to save companies money and customers time. But when not used properly, it does neither. Poor Interactive Voice Response (IVR) leads to angry customers who abandon companies for the competition and to burnt-out call centre agents who leave their jobs.
But there are solutions to help customers and call centre agents, like SMS and IVM, which adjust to customers’ communication preferences, automate information around common customer questions, and provide self-service options.
VoiceSage offers customer service solutions that increase customer satisfaction, reduce inbound calls, and increase agent productivity. Our communication channels help call centre teams deliver enhanced customer interactions and self-service tools that reduce operational costs. Book a demo to see our solutions in action.
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