Despite the fact that it was a short business week due to the Monday Memorial Day holiday, there was a lot to talk about on the IVR front. Over the course of four days, writers for TMCnet provided interesting insight into the current state of IVR from a number of perspectives.
Facing the reality square on that the IVR experience has not always been rosy, TMCnet Contributing Editor Susan J. Campbell wrote in her article, Design Your IVR to Deliver Efficiency Benefits or Customers Will Suffer, “Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has not always been the customer’s friend. At times, spotty systems could leave the caller frustrated and landing in departments they didn’t need or that could not help them. At other times, primitive IVR platforms could only capture specific instructions and had a limited number of choices when it came to execution.”
But she quickly noted that things have changed dramatically with IVR. She explained, “The advancements in this space have enabled companies and contact centers to streamline much of their standard communications, all while delivering an optimal experience for the customer.”
She pointed to a recent blog from Plum Voice that reveals how “the automation of a company’s repetitive calls ensures users can access the information they need in a quick and easy way, avoiding the queue in the process.” Campbell goes on to detail how that is accomplished.
Campbell also provided a separate discussion on the ways communications have evolved over the years and how that has affected the world’s political and social climate. She wrote in her piece, Communications Technologies Evolve Beyond IVR, “The world of communications has evolved immensely over the last several generations and what is interesting is how much of a role it has played in history. Even today, the telephone, social media and even IVR are used in campaigns for or against political parties, social agendas, environmental campaigns and so much more.”
She noted that “Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert) were…used during the Egyptian uprising and organizers used these platforms to get mass messages out instantly as they lacked the necessary IVR platform to reach all intended parties.” Those who do have access to an IVR platform, however, can use it similarly to get a message out to the masses. She wrote, “Companies use IVR technology on a consistent basis to do the same thing when they want to push a message out to their client base. The same is true when they want to capture information during a telephone call.”
The question arises, however, of just how much automation the general public is willing to accept. Pondering this question, on Wednesday, TMCnet Special Guest Dan Fox, who is a marketing director at Interactions Corporation, posted a piece on TMCnet.com called Are Consumers Fully Prepared to Accept Self-Service? In it he wrote, “We don’t want to waste our time and the time of the customer service agents when we can find the solution without outside intervention.” Backing up his opinion, he cited research from Gartner (News - Alert) that predicts, “by 2012, consumers will be willing to perform all possible customer service functions themselves.”
Therefore, he reasons, “Automated systems should be prepared to complete a plethora of self-service requests that are easy to access for the caller.” He goes on to say, “I consider customer service phone lines much like a game of chess – IVRs are the pawns and customer service representatives are the queens and kings. There’s no point in using your queens and kings before you’ve used most of your pawns.”
In the meantime, vendors have been working on developing IVR to become more valuable to their constituents and their customers. TMCnet contributor Calvin Azuri reported, “Enterprise Integration Group (EIG) has been quietly solving difficult user interface design problems, while other companies have been focused on patenting speech recognition technology. The company’s latest patent, “Method and System for Interjecting Comments to Improve Information Presentation in Spoken User Interfaces,” includes ShadowPrompt, or a mechanism for prompting speech and touch-tone in IVR systems”
Also looking at speech recognition and IVR, TMCnet Contributing Editor David Sims reported on a recent blog post at EliteTele.com that pointed out “the successful elements behind IVR have become such an essential part of everyday activity that it has gone from being a mere application to boost productivity…[to] a key factor in identifying fraudulent activity.”
Commenting on that, Sims said, “when you buy something nowadays it’s more likely you’re buying over the phone or online, and eye scans or fingerprints aren’t exactly the most effective way of establishing identity in that situation, are they? But with an IVR system using voice recognition, as the blog post says, ‘not only does your business gain enhanced security but also cuts costs in workforce – saving time and money for both parties.’”
Speaking of purchasing online or over the phone, the weekend is upon us, so here’s to great weekend shopping and IVR experiences that dispel the not-so-happy experiences of yore.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.
Linda Dobel is a TMCnet Contributor. She has been an editor in the contact center space for more than 25 years, and has the distinction of being the founding editor of Customer Inter@ction Solutions (CIS) magazine. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell