January 11, 2013
Is It Really Time for Sunset on the IVR?
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
If we had to name two call center technologies that are despised by consumers, the first on the list would probably be the dialer: those solutions that enabled outbound robo-calls that drive the public crazy. The second would probably be the interactive voice response (IVR), or the solution that greets customers’ inbound calls and demand they “press one” or “press two.”
These nefarious reputations may not be deserved: dialers are used for many useful purposes, such for appointment reminders, notifications and pharmacy refills. IVR technology, too, is handy when implemented properly: they route our calls to the people most likely to help us. It’s when these two technologies are misused – and they frequently are – that irritates consumers.
While the dialer may be here to stay – the expanding application for outbound pre-recorded calls can testify to this – there are some industry analysts who believe the days are numbered for the IVR. The reason? The enormous proliferation of smart phones and the apps available for them.
“Companies will completely rethink customer support, leading to the demise of Interactive Voice Response (IVR),” according to CNBC in an article this week. “Instead, consumers will turn to mobile apps to inquire about products and services, ultimately making call centers irrelevant. Insurance companies already allow you to submit claims directly from your smartphone. Others will quickly follow suit.”
Is this prediction on-target? If it happens, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Customers still prefer speaking to a live agent over any other customer service media, so it’s unlikely they will give up picking up the phone to call a toll-free support line anytime soon.
Once they do, however, the onus will be on the customer support centers themselves to adequately support their mobile apps, ensuring that customers who can’t find their answers through apps be connected quickly to a voice call with a call center agent.
There will always be a need to direct customers’ queries: call centers know from experience that self-service can only go so far in servicing customers. So in the future, while the IVR may not look the same as it does now, and it may not work the same way, one way or another, there will always be a need for something much like it.
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Edited by Rich Steeves