Oh, the humble IVR. Has any piece of technology even been more globally disliked? (OK, aside from the colonoscopy camera, maybe.) Boston-based voice solutions company Interactions Corporation has released the results of a study on what customers really think of interactive voice response systems (as in, “press one for English, press two to be put on hold for eternity, and press three if you'll just make us happy and go away forever.”)
It's not pretty.
The study, conducted by Liel Leibovitz, New York University assistant Professor of Communications, on behalf of Interactions Corporation, found that there is “continued overwhelming dissatisfaction” with IVR systems, despite continued investment and technological growth of the IVR industry.
As far as customers are concerned, they are still the least desirable service option.
But does it deserve all the ire, or is it just a victim of its own success? As they might say in the National IVR Association, if such a group existed, “IVRs don't annoy people. People annoy people.”
As anyone who has managed or even worked in a call center knows, IVR is an important element of customer care delivery, and is widely used by companies large and medium-sized all over the world. While the global market for IVR equipment and services is expected to grow to $1.9 billion by 2015, 83 percent of consumers feel IVR systems provide either “no benefit at all” or “only a cost savings benefit to the company.” Only 16 percent of consumers feel that IVR systems benefit them.
One of the major complaints of IVRs that consumers have is that they are difficult to use. On an ease-of-use scale, IVR systems scored lower than any of the other service options and was the only option perceived as difficult to use, the study revealed. In addition, IVR was the least preferred service option: only 15 percent of consumers chose IVR as their preferred option.
This would seem to fly in the face of other studies that have indicated that consumers are increasingly looking for self-service options when it comes to customer care. The Interactions Corporation found that customers still seem to prefer a live agent (67 percent) over any other medium.
“This study reinforces why companies are seeking customer care solutions that provide a better consumer experience,” said Interactions CEO Mike Iacobucci. “There is a significant, measurable experience gap between a customer service agent and IVR. If IVR is going to remain relevant, this gap must be narrowed.”
So how to narrow the gap? Companies need to realize that there IS such a thing as a well-designed IVR that will help – and not annoy – customers. Offering too deep a menu tree (too many options, leaving customers feeling like they have been pushing buttons for hours), to complex an input (assigning customers 28-digit customer numbers and then requiring them to enter them via touch-tone), too much difficultly for a customer who is clearly lost in the menu tree (pushing buttons seemingly randomly or moving in loops) to attract the attention of a live agent are all human errors – not the fault of the IVR.
There is also some evidence that customers may prefer a high-quality speech-related input rather than touch-tone when it comes to using an IVR.
If your organization is attracting too many complaints about its IVR, it may not be the fault of the IVR. It may be time to make some changes.
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Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell