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IVR - Treading Water in Uncharted Territory
May 04, 2011

Treading Water in Uncharted Territory

By TMCnet Special Guest

A Google (News - Alert) search for “hate interactive voice response” yields over 6.6 million results. By contrast, a Google search for “love interactive voice response” yields around 2 million. Without debate, the IVR industry is one that carries a negative connotation by outsiders. In the rapidly growing market of speech recognition and its limitless application potential, how do you label a new generation of innovative, helpful products when the accepted term is stagnant and outdated?

In this marketing conundrum, my first thought was to look towards other things people hate and what innovative releases have been labeled. With a history of Sales in my system, my first thought was “Salesman”. People hate the word salesman. Yet, a major category of jobs these days fall in the category of Sales. But try to find people in Sales labeled as Salesmen on LinkedIn (News - Alert), I bet you’ll have difficulty. As a former “Financial Representative” I can tell you, my job was nothing short of Salesman. The entire market seems to avoid the term Salesman in lieu of an alternative, dressed-up role. So, in this example, the solution to the negative connotation was to change to a new term that people won’t associate negatively.

I followed up this thinking by looking internally to the Industry. Specifically the term “Call Center” and its gradual change to “Contact Center”. While many companies are still fine using call center, the term contact center undoubtedly carries a more positive connotation because of customers’ troubled history with the traditional call center. This is a little different than Salesman. I can understand why Salesman carries a negative connotation – because people hate deliberately being “sold” to, they would much rather have a representative advise them on selecting products. But call center? As far as I see it – not a negative term in origin. I mean after all, it’s a center of calls. Pretty black and white.

On the other hand, one must also look towards terms that have carried a negative connotation in the past that have now evolved, yet kept the terms the same. Take “Outsourcing”. When Outsourcing first came onto the scene, it was a term of negativity. One immediately related outsourcing to taking away jobs from Americans. However, outsourcing was and still is a practical solution for many large corporations. The term outsourcing undoubtedly has dressed-up names, such as offshore operations, however outsourcing is the dominantly used word. While many still contain a negative connotation for outsourcing, most businesses and associated parties have accepted it, and it is an industry, which has kept its name, but improved its image.

An easier one to relate to for many would be fast food. We have all been led to believe that fast food is the enemy – the bottom of the barrel feeding option. Through movies, such as Supersize Me and through word of mouth and even personal experience, many of us have realized that the most nutritious option for lunch is not McDonalds. However, in recent times, the industry has recognized the negative image of fast food, and as profits and satisfaction ratings show, have completely revamped. Cleaner stores, caloric content posted on the menu, and healthy options have made fast food an option for nutrition-conscious diners. Yet, fast food is still the label on the industry and the corporations behind it do not shy away.

So, is IVR like the word Salesman? Will we have to find dressed-up ways to refer to our industry? Or is IVR like fast food, and it will continue to adapt to our new standards? Or is the new generation of speech automation in customer service roles not even accurately labeled in the IVR industry?

Dan Fox is a Marketing Director at Interactions Corporation (@interactionsco)

TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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