How to Not Ruin the Customer Experience with Automation

Automated voice systems, such as IVR, handle more customer service transactions in call-heavy industries like financial services than agents, websites, or other communication channels.

These systems are the first and most common point of contact for most of our customers. As such, they need to be useful, not frustrating, especially in sectors like the prepaid card industry where customer service is the highest cost.

The Good and the Bad

If an IVR system performs well then customers get what they want in a short period of time, and your company spends less money on handling our customers’ calls. It’s a win-win.

If a system performs badly, then customers get annoyed, develop a negative feeling about your company, and transfer to an agent in a call center, which costs your company more money. It’s a lose-lose.

In industries with high call volumes, the bad side of the equation quickly becomes unbalanced. How companies in those industries handle incoming calls with automated systems becomes a mission-critical endeavor.

Balance Self-Service and High-Touch Service

Customer service is becoming a differentiator across the board. Success hinges on providing options to customers with a combination of self-service technology and high-touch call center agents.

Even when companies emphasize self-service, there are still times when callers want to speak to a customer service representative. In fact, there are people who only want to speak to a customer service rep. Denying them that option creates more imbalance.

It’s important to differentiate between the call center and self-service technology. There can be a conflict of interest for a vendor that offers both IVR and call center solutions. Vendors that offer both make more money off live agents and have no real incentive to optimize their automated offerings. Optimization is the key to creating great self-service experiences.

Monitor, Optimize, Improve, Repeat

Because costs rise so much when a caller transfers from an automated voice system to a live agent, companies have to provide the best experience possible with automated systems in order to reduce the number of transfers.

The only way to make sure systems are working correctly and adapting to changing customer needs is by analyzing and iteratively improving them.

The way to do that is to look at key customer experience metrics (e.g., event tracking, failure analysis, trend tracking), determine where the problem areas are in the user interface, and fixing them.

For example, if the last option in a phone menu the most popular then it shouldn’t be last. Make it option one instead.

Are callers repeatedly transferring to live agents from the same spot in the user interface? Zero in on that menu and make it most intuitive and user-friendly.

The Bottom Line

An efficient IVR system provides great customer experience, mitigating the need for callers to transfer out to an agent. In order to achieve that level of self-service success, continuously monitor, optimize, and improve your voice applications to meet the needs of your callers.