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Visual IVR - A Migration Path to Mobile Self-Services
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Visual IVR - A Migration Path to Mobile Self-Services

August 05, 2014

  By Art Rosenberg

The business world is watching as telephony is being subsumed by unified communications (UC), and premise-based communications are being replaced by “cloud” based services to support multimodal mobile devices for BYOD for both consumers and business users. This is all leading to an increase in mobile customer self-services and “mobile apps,” which, in turn, is changing traditional contact center activities. However, the technologies are still evolving and not yet standardized, thus still requiring the use of legacy PSTN connectivity.

Aside from the evolution of communication technologies to “cloud”-based services and mobile devices, there is still the challenge of cultural change and the costs of migrating from the old to the new forms of multimodal business interactions. One big area of change is legacy telephony-based IVR self-service applications that provide some degree of ROI by reducing call center staffing costs. IVR benefits, however, have always been very limited to short and simple automated interactions and end up with frustrated callers hanging up or transferring expensively to a live agent.

With the rapid adoption by consumers of smartphones (BYOD), there is a particularly big opportunity to migrate existing voice IVR applications to support new mobile users more efficiently with their device screens. This will apply to mobile customers accessing online business apps (mobile apps), as well as being more accessible for automated notifications from any service providers they do business with. Of increasing importance will be health care telemedicine applications that will impact all consumers and their caregivers.

UC Will Be Critical to Mobile Customer Services   

Everyone knows that UC has been rather slow to be adopted by business organizations, because until end users got their hands on multimodal mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, they really couldn’t easily benefit from the flexibility of UC. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in supporting self-services for mobile customers who want to have more direct and easy interactions with both online applications and flexible contacts with people when live assistance is required. The fact that most customers will increasingly use their multimodal smartphones and tablets for customer service means that mobile self-services will displace legacy POTS-based IVR applications in many ways. 

The big change in customer self-service applications will take place in using screen-based inputs and outputs to online applications, better known as “Visual IVR.” Not only will this expand simplified customer self-service opportunities for information access and business transactions, thus increasing customer satisfaction, but will also reduce the need for live customer assistance staffing. A win-win situation! 

This trend toward exploiting “mobile apps” for visual self-service business interactions will apply to all types of end users, including internal employees, business partners, and, of course, consumer customers. The recent announcement by IBM (News - Alert) and Apple that they will partner in the development of business process mobile apps for a variety of vertical market “use cases,” shows how important mobility has become, and how quickly “cloud” services will start displacing legacy premised-based communications and information systems.

Visual IVR to Migrate More ‘Gracefully’

Although we can separate desktop online applications from mobile apps, in terms of the user interfaces, the reality is that there will be many consumers who will still be calling in from their PSTN telephones to get information and perform simple transactions via existing IVR applications. So, it really is important to plan for accommodating the old (IVR) and the new (Visual IVR) approaches simultaneously, while also facilitating the shift from the old to the new, cost-efficiently.

It should be noted that it is not enough to simply replicate old IVR capabilities. Once self-services move into the domain of multimodal mobile devices, there will be huge new opportunities to satisfy mobile end users that must be slowly but surely exploited.

All this presents channel partners and consultants with new revenue opportunities in assisting their business clients in planning and implementing new and more customized self-service applications for their end users and customers. To read a recent white paper I wrote on this subject, please check out this link to Jacada (News - Alert), a technology provider that has focused on the IVR to Visual IVR migration challenge.

Mobile Apps Will Always Need UC-Enabled ‘Click-for-Assistance’ Options  

Nothing is ever perfect all the time and the need for live assistance will still arise whenever a mobile user is interacting directly with an automated business process application. The question is whether the old contact center agent skills and routing strategies are good enough for the mobile online customer.

Unlike the situation when contact centers handled phone calls, emails, faxes, and even text chats separately, the multimodal mobile customer will want to dynamically start in their contact mode of choice, but then dynamically change from one mode to another as the situation warrants. So, don’t expect, as the communication mode changes, that you can simply switch the customer to a different agent. As survey results have repeatedly shown, customers hate it when they get transferred from one agent to another, especially if they have to repeat all the information they have already given.

A key factor here is that voice conversations may no longer only originate from the PSTN, but rather over the Internet from within a self-service mobile app. This approach has been widely promoted by Amazon in their “Mayday Button” video service designed for Kindle HDX tablet users. With the huge growth of “mobile apps,” coupled with the likes of WebRTC for voice and video Internet connectivity, we are seeing more hosted “cloud” service offerings that can support both self-services and flexible “click-for-assistance” options for mobile customers.

Business communications are becoming more and more multimodal, mobile, and “cloud based,” but also more complex to design and integrate with self-service business process applications. So, be on the lookout for the new technology tools that will simplify and facilitate “graceful migrations” for such changes. 

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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