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What do you think of when you hear ‘cost savings’? Is it a corporate mascot skiing down a pile of money like Scrooge McDuck? One can only hope…

Cost savings is one of the major reasons why companies turn to automation and self-service. Computers can multi-task a lot better than people, so it just makes sense to automate common processes and tasks that agents typically handle over the phone.

Payment processing is one such task and it’s a big one because it directly impacts the bottom line. The cost for a live agent to process a payment can be $5 or more per call. Yet, when an interactive voice response (IVR) application enters the equation, it costs pennies on the dollar per call to complete the same task.

Therefore, when deploying a payment processing voice application, you want to make sure that as many customers as possible stick with the IVR to make their payment and don’t opt to use an agent instead. This is the essence of ‘containment.’

How Containment Feeds The Bottom Line

A brief example helps to explain what containment rate is. Let’s say that you have 100 customers calling to make a payment. Of those 100 callers, 18 get to the last payment menu and then opt to talk to an agent. In other words, they abandoned or transferred out of the IVR application to speak with an agent.

Some simple math gives us the figures we need. Starting with 100, subtract the 18 callers who opted for an agent. These are the callers who were not ‘contained,’ so the transfer rate is 18%. Conversely, the callers that were contained within the app, those other 82, represent the containment rate, which is 82%.

NOTE: A good containment rate for one industry might not be desirable or realistic for another one. For example, a contact center environment that deals with a lot of complex customer issues may use an IVR, primarily, to help get callers to the right representative. But it’s up to each individual company to figure out where that balance between customer service and automation should–or could–be.

Now if we want to think about cost savings, let’s think about how much it cost the company to process those payments. We’ll use some conservative numbers here. Let’s say payments processed by an agent cost $5 per call, and payments processed by the IVR cost 50¢ per call.

  • The total cost for agents is $5 x 18 calls, which totals $90.
  • The total cost for the IVR is 50¢ x 82 calls, which totals $41.

In this example, the IVR processed 4.5 times more payments, and cost less than half of what the agent-assisted calls cost. For merchant services or payment processing companies that process thousands of payments per day, the savings pile up fast.

So What’s A Good Containment Rate?

Naturally, the answer to this question is: it depends. It takes a bit of digging and some analytics to get a grasp on what an ideal containment rate is for any given company. Most of our customers that process payments see automation rates of 85% or higher, which is really good. Fortunately, for Plum customers, VoiceTrends, a custom analytics toolkit for voice applications, is built into all of Plum’s products.

VoiceTrends makes it easy to identify and track the data you need to determine what your containment rate is. Once you have the data you need on call volumes, you need to figure out your cost per call for your agents and your IVR.

The cost difference between these two customer service options can be one metric for determining whether your containment rate is acceptable. But ultimately, it’s up to each individual user to determine what an acceptable containment rate is for their business.

Improving Containment Rate

There are a number of strategies that companies can use to improve their containment rate. Check out our blog post about using VoiceTrends to visualize transfer rates. It also provides some ideas for troubleshooting low containment rates.

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Jason Myers stitches together letters and words into cogent thoughts as the Copywriter at Plum Voice.

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