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From Puppet to Puppet-Master: Regain Control of the Customer Service Experience with IVR

Control can be an elusive thing. Like a handful of sand, the tighter you grip it the faster you lose it. This idea has a practical application when it comes to voice-based customer service, especially for large insurance and financial services that use call centers.

Insurance and financial services companies, especially, have a vested interest in providing great customer service. After all, these are the companies that people trust with their money. How can these companies develop and maintain that trust?

Problem #1: The Cost Center

It’s no secret that many companies view their customer service efforts as a cost center. That’s not to say that companies don’t value customer service–they do. Nevertheless, cost-cutting measures have led companies to outsource all of their call center services, a practice known as business process outsourcing (BPO).

Controlling customer experience is even trickier for large enterprises that outsource more than one process, e.g. claims and payments. This could mean that each process has its own dedicated provider, with its own IVR and corps of agents. In this situation, the same customer can call about claims and to make a payment and have drastically different experiences. This is not ideal.

Problem #2: Getting Locked In

Why do companies stick with their call center providers if they’re not getting the desired results? Usually because breaking a contract with a BPO consumes significant time and resources. This creates a “locked in” situation where benefits of breaking a contract don’t outweigh the cost. With so much time and money invested in the current call center(s), no way to force change, and no guarantee that switching to a different vendor will improve things, maintaining the status quo becomes increasingly attractive.

But is this necessary?

A Better Way

What if, instead of outsourcing an entire business process, companies just outsourced part of it? The most important point in voice-based customer service is the initial phone call that customers make. If companies can control that initial point of contact with customers, then they can shape the entire process that follows.

A centralized IVR application that fields all of a company’s incoming calls and re-directs them appropriately solves a big part of the control problem. If Insurance Company X has a centralized IVR, it takes the calls and then passes them on to the BPOs based on real-time data and availability.

Here, Company X still outsources the agent component of its call center service, but instead of the call center’s IVR doing all of the work, Company X central IVR ensures that the right calls get to the right agents. Furthermore, because Company X controls where the calls go it accumulates data on these interactions, making it easier to measure vendor performance.

This centralizing approach creates a more consistent customer service experience and makes it easier to personalize that experience for individual callers.

Establishing control over voice-based customer service is step one. Figuring out how to wield that control is a whole different animal, which we cover in the next post Uses for Voice Technology in Customer Service, which highlights three real-world examples in the insurance industry.

This approach really does work. Check out this case study from a client that used this strategy to great success.