Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have not traditionally played a significant role in sales-oriented contact centers, particularly those involved with complex products or services. The prominent thinking is that people do a better job selling than machines. While that point might be true, an effective IVR can play a key role in a sales center even if the IVR does not take on the role of selling.
IVRs should not take the place of highly skilled sales agents who are selling complex products or services. That does not mean that IVRs cannot do an adequate job taking orders for simple products, especially if the customer knows exactly what he wants to buy. In that case, an IVR with the proper understanding capabilities can collect all the necessary information to place the order. However, for more complex purchases, such as buying and configuring a computer or shopping for auto insurance, the IVR should play a different role.
The goal of the IVR in these types of sales should be to maximize the selling time of the sales agents, while providing a good experience for the customer. Through this approach, an IVR can provide both an increase in revenue per call and a reduction in cost. This is accomplished by completing the following tasks that are important to contact center sales:
-- Call routing—identifying the purpose of a customer’s call, separating sales calls from non-sales calls, and routing accordingly;
-- Initial sales discovery—completing the opening data collection steps of identifying the customer, collecting profile information, etc.
Call Routing Benefits
For call routing, by effectively understanding the true intent of the caller, we have seen a reduction in non-sales calls to sales agents by as much as 60 percent. The following illustrates the potential increase in revenue per call in such a case. Assuming the average order size is $1,000, non-sales calls make up 20 percent of the total call volume, and the average revenue per call is $800, with a 60 percent reduction in misdirected calls to sales agents, the number of non-sales calls to agents would drop to 8 percent and the revenue per call would increase to $920, representing a 15 percent increase.
There would also be an additional savings to the sales department for the calls that sales agents no longer need to handle. In this case 12 out of every 100 calls would be eliminated. These calls will either be sent to the appropriate department or handled via self-service. This savings could represent as much as $24 in savings per every 100 calls.
Sales Discovery Benefits
It is common practice to gather information from a caller before starting a consultative sales process. This discovery process can range from a few simple questions to gather the name and address of the caller, to completing a short discovery survey. In some cases, such as insurance or loan quotes, the discovery process can last several minutes.
Interactions implemented a simple sales discovery system that collected name, address and email address from a customer before sending the call and the collected information on to a sales associate. In a simple sales discovery process such as this, the average number of seconds per call for sales discovery purposes would be 40; the average agent discovery cost per call would be 66 cents, compared to 22 cents for an IVR, leading to a savings of 44 cents per call.
Collecting the right information up front can enable you to better segment your customers, tailor offers, and match customers to the most appropriate sales agents. When you look at call routing and the sales discovery in combination, the results can be even more impactful. However, most IVR systems cannot achieve these benefits while maintaining a positive customer experience. To accurately capture data, such as names and email addresses, the IVR needs to understand as well as a high-quality agent. The IVR should also have the understanding capabilities and intelligence to enable a natural conversation that does not disrupt the normal sales flow. Fortunately, advanced technology is now available that enables the following capabilities:
-- increased revenue per call;
-- an accurate collection of data;
-- cost savings from handle time reduction; and
-- better customer segmentation to provide tailored offers and to match to the most appropriate sales agents.
If implemented appropriately, an IVR with advanced understanding capabilities can have a profound impact on a sales center. Even if the IVR doesn't take on the role of selling, it can still positively impact revenue per call and lower costs. The IVR can identify why customers are calling and filter out non-revenue calls from reaching sales agents. In addition, it can complete the initial sales discovery, which will not only reduce costs, but also provide better customer segmentation and sales agent matching.
Phil Gray is executive vice president of Interactions, a vendor of customer interaction services to businesses.