What to Do When Your IVR Goes Out of Support

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE

What to Do When Your IVR Goes Out of Support
Illustration by David Grey for Contact Center Pipeline
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As some folks gaze into the future, they see a world filled with smartphones where users routinely text instead of call. With that in mind, they’re reluctant to invest in voice-based technology—especially IVR—given an expectation that its days are numbered.

But wait! Phone calls still constitute a substantial volume, if not the majority of contacts, for most centers. And some centers have IVRs that handle a double-digit percentage of their contacts. Their customers would protest mightily if it were taken away. So you can’t just toss out that golden oldie IVR technology just yet.

If you must invest, do so with an eye toward the future. Determine the best sourcing strategy given your near term and longer-term plans. In the process, you can give yourself more ability to change how you use the solution over time. With opt for a cloud-based service, your vendor will evolve, and you can move with them as they add capabilities. If you opt for an on-premise solution, put processes in place to avoid a static approach to investment once the IVR implementation is “complete.”

Look at a variety of vendor types, because it’s not just “IVR vendors” that sell IVRs anymore. Solutions can come from a core contact center technology vendor, workforce optimization vendor, or a niche vendor. Some are “bot” vendors, or omnichannel solution providers.

You may be able to leverage vertical packages, proven vocabularies, and pre-built reports. You may be able to more easily integrate with a modern solution and its APIs. Speech and dynamic menus can be things you do out of the gates to improve your customer experience and drive greater IVR success.

As you plan and pursue changes, be mindful of what the new IVR will look like. Define the role natural language will play. Speech recognition is more accurate now, as it can leverage more context (data) and even artificial intelligence (AI). Users are also more comfortable with it as they use it on phones and with other applications, so may be more likely to engage with it, and even like it!

Use data to optimize each step of the customer interaction. A context-aware IVR is a smarter IVR. It enhances what the IVR can do and improves the customer success rate. With data and AI, the IVR can go beyond “if… then…” into predictive service, guiding and offering the best fit for the situation and behavior. The result is the low level of effort sought for the customer experience, along with high level of success measured by containment, successful authentication and proper routing.

You may also want to consider some other value-added applications that an IVR can provide, depending on your call flow and hot buttons. For example, voice biometrics may be important to prevent fraud and ease authentication. Eventually, Alexa or other personal assistant interfaces may come into play as a new front end to the IVR (it’s not just about “phone calls” anymore). This interface can leverage the same kinds of things as the phone call, such as natural language and AI.

In short: Customers won’t stop talking to centers (by choice or necessity), at least not any time soon. If you have an IVR, there is a good chance it plays an important role in your center. Unfortunately, there is also a pretty good chance it is not so good. Whether you need a new platform, or just some improvements, it’s time to do something, and do it with an eye toward the future with this changing but still very important technology.

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