IVR is not a Field of Dreams

I continue to be surprised by the large number of poorly designed IVR applications in the market. Customers blame the technology when the fault lies with the interface design –either the script for touch-tone applications or the voice user interface (VUI) for speech-enabled systems. In most cases, except when a very old IVR/speech-enabled system is used, the underlying IVR or speech engine is very good. Unfortunately, too many companies allow programmers or other people without best practices expertise to design their IVR applications, instead of hiring experienced IVR scriptwriters or VUI experts who understand what it takes to get people comfortable with using a voice self-service application. This is a common mistake that is easy to rectify, as there is now a large pool of IVR experts from which to choose.

Another mistake that organizations often make with IVR applications is that they build it, make it available to their customers or constituents, and do not strive to improve it on a monthly or quarterly basis. To give companies their due, most pay attention to their applications when they first introduce them; at that point, they are generally looking for technical bugs. While this is a good practice, it’s as important to continue to review the ongoing performance of an IVR (whether touch-tone or speech-enabled) throughout the year. Keep in mind that business requirements and expectations evolve; likewise, customers’ willingness to interact with a voice self-service application changes over time. Additionally, many of the underlying platforms for voice self-service applications are getting better, making them more flexible. This enables companies to automate more activities.

DMG Consulting recommends the following best practices to help get the most from an IVR solution:

  1. Use a touch-tone or VUI specialist to develop your application. Optimal results will be realized with someone who is also very experienced with your particular vertical.
  2. When building the application, insert “trackers” at every decision point so that you can see where system users drop out of the application.
  3. Create a report that allows you to follow call usage and drop-out patterns. The report should reflect this information on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and show trends.
  4. Set up automated alerts to notify you if system performance drops below expected thresholds.
  5. Establish a working committee with business and IT staff to evaluate the IVR’s performance on a monthly basis. This team should be dedicated to identifying ways to improve customer satisfaction and IVR utilization.
  6. Ask contact center agents for recommendations for new IVR options.
  7. Make minor IVR enhancements as needed; make major IVR improvements on a quarterly basis.

The goal is to set up a continuous improvement process that is dedicated to making ongoing IVR enhancements that enhance customer satisfaction while increasing your automation rate. This is an approach that I have used successfully since I implemented my first IVR more than 20 years ago, and it will work for you, as long as you apply it consistently.

Other blog entries on this topic:

The Art and Science of Developing Effective IVR Applications, by Donna Fluss

Finding the Balance between IVR and Live-Agent Support, by Donna Fluss

Donna Fluss is the founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis and consulting. She is the author of The Real-Time Contact Center, the Contact Center Executive and Management Briefing, the Contact Center QA Guide, the PC-DSS Guide, and many other leading industry reports on contact center hosting, UC, dialing, IVR, speech analytics, performance management, workforce management, surveying, QA/recording and contact center analytics. Contact Donna at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.