Review, Revamp & Replace Your IVR

Michael Meyer, CRO & CSO, MRS BPOA visionary leader, Michael recognized for developing, deploying and directing enterprise risk management, data analytics, security, and privacy solutions aligned with client and business needs

Do you still have an old traditional push button IVR system hanging around, handling or routing most of your inbound calls, or maybe a taking a few payments? Then it's time to re-evaluate it and consider upgrading or replacing it entirely with a newer, more customer friendly, and capable system. There are plenty of good reasons that you want to re-place the IVR now; some of those reasons are compliance related, the flexibility of changes, and even the cost of those changes. The real reason though is that it is costing you more money than you realize.

Those are all essential reasons but not the critical reason that drove the change. The real reason they made the change was to enable customers to self-serve themselves and get an answer to their questions faster, more accurately, and without waiting. Also, these changes mean that those companies do not have to have an employee in a call center or an employee in a store stop doing what they were doing and answer the same question for the umpteenth time that day, week, month or year. Hence, because of the newer technology, you need less staff to do the same amount of work, plus the new solution can quickly scale up as you grow. This also frees your existing staff to learn and perform functions that are more valuable. The potential cost savings in having less or redeploying existing staff is significant now and into the future, no matter how small or mid-sized your company is. If making customers happy and saving money isn't enough, then there is yet another perspective that will compel you to make the switch, and that is climbing client and customer expectations.

If a new or existing client wants to hear what their customers will hear from a customer experience point-of-view and hears your archaic IVR, well yeah let's face it, it's not exactly what you want them to hear. So, what do you do? Figuring out what you want it to do is by far the hardest part because we aren't used to laying out how we want a call to go or what routes the call should follow. I can tell you that mapping out each step of the call flow is by far the most
valuable aspect of an existing or new IVR upgrade. Don't skip this step! This will allow you to optimize what your IVR is doing in detail, because you might be paying for its usage by the minute, by each function that a customer chooses, or even paying a fixed or sliding percentage of each payment or a combination of all of these. You can start this process by looking at what your existing IVR does (or doesn't) and really looking at the report that the IVR has.

As an example, can you see where people are pushing zero or hanging up? Can you see how many people are stopping at making a payment or how many try three or four times to enter information in before they zero out and take out their frustrations on your agents? Have you heard any feedback good or bad from your agents who take IVR calls? All of these are great places to start when deciding what the next version or generation of your IVR should do, how it needs to treat customers and how it must perform financially. Said another way, the more effective you make your IVR, the less you will pay in fees, and the less your agents will have to work ­ which saves payroll. It really does not do you any good to spend time designing or buying a new IVR that ends up causing more than 90 percent of your customers to zero out and talk with an agent. That is just wasting money to say you have the latest toy and not doing the right thing for your customers or your business.

Melding and molding IVR technology with humans isn't the easiest of things to get right, and most of us take many tries to make it work ­ with lots of mistakes along the way

To help you get on the right track, here are two high-level measures to help you determine how your center and IVR are functioning. The first measure is called call deflection. Call deflection measures how many or what percentage of your overall calls were deflected away from human agents and handled by the IVR or an alternate non-human channel. For example, out of 100 inbound calls or contacts 50 were handled by agents, the IVR handled 30, and then the website handled 20. So you need to decide what you want these numbers to look like from an employee cost, a technology cost, and a client performance basis. Once you determine what the optimal ratio is for your business, then you know what your overall design strategy should be. The second measure is call containment which gives you an indication of how much work your IVR is really doing for you. This measure shows what percentage of the calls that went to the IVR was handled entirely by the IVR from beginning to end with-out needing a human's assistance. Once you know this number, then you need to take steps to improve it.

The bottom line with these numbers is that you might be wasting money on both sides of the equation (on the IVR and with agent's time) and not even realizing it. This is why it is so essential to holistically and completely flow out the entire call process into and out of the IVR and not just look at the IVR as its own square box. When you do flow this call process out and look at the reports of what is happening in your current IVR, you will learn a lot and probably be surprised about what your customers are or more likely aren't experiencing every day.

Melding and molding IVR technology with humans isn't the easiest of things to get right, and most of us take many tries to make it work ­ with lots of mistakes along the way. This is one of those things that is easy to say but hard to do right. So, take it one step at a time, play with it, make it fun and in the end your customers, employees and bank account will be glad you did!