Dale Holub

Say Goodbye to Your Traditional IVR – Today’s Top 3 IVR Options

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As customers have evolved so too has the need for companies to change and adapt too. If your customer service is lacking because your customers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the amount of time to gets assistance because of the cumbersome and non-friendly nature of DTMF technology, your brand can suffer and that in turn can affect your bottom line. Today’s tech-savvy customers are demanding a better, more responsive customer experience across all the touch points of their interaction with companies – and that includes DTMF IVRs.

Alternatives to DTMF being pursued by many customer service departments include:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Speech-directed solutions
  • Outsourcing to live agents

Artificial Intelligence

Using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine, an IVR system can create smarter self-service applications and potentially deliver better customer experiences. With AI callers can input the information using the keypad or speaking into the phone; AI makes it easier to process natural speech input intelligently resulting in an application that understands caller intent.

This means that you can ask open-ended questions with your voice self-service applications and provide conversational IVR that is efficient and customer-friendly. With AI, users can input information without using DTMF. AI offers incremental and in some cases significant value to companies that use IV by delivering smoother, faster and more efficient customer interactions, while at the same time reducing the time and costs necessary to implement these solutions.

The Pros:

  • Decreased handle time – The artificial intelligence behaves like a dynamic IVR, quickly moving callers through options till they either get their issue resolved, or till they are placed in an agent queue.
  • Reduced Issue Escalation – They can help reduce issue escalation to higher-cost support unlike DTMF, increase first contact resolution rates
  • AI Can Also Assist Human Agents – Helps reinforce existing customer support staff

The Cons

  • Cost – AI is more expensive than DTMF
  • Maintenance – AI can be expensive to maintain and being dependent upon this technology can result in data loss or potential downtime
  • Potential For Misclassification of Issues – A poorly designed AI system may misclassify and issue causing customer disappointment
  • Integration Issues – An AI system involves more complex technology so integrating it into an existing system can be challenging

Speech Directed

Using automatic speech recognition, automated self-service enables customers to interact with your system simply by using their voice. Speech-directed customer service helps brands acquire customer information efficiently and accurately. Speech-enabled IVR helps brands acquire customer information with greater efficiency and accuracy. It also empowers callers to resolve more complex issues than possible by DTMF as the technology helps customers bypass irrelevant menus and proceed directly to the information they need.

Speech self-service systems can reduce operating costs and agent handle times without sacrificing customer care. Speech-directed solutions can deliver natural, intuitive speech-based interactions that customers love.

The Pros

  • Empowers callers to self-resolve more complex issues than with DTMF
  • Directed dialog application presents callers with options that closely fit their needs
  • With speech, prompts are phrased as easy questions and callers can answer simply and naturally
  • Speech recognitionsystems provide a more “natural” interface than touch DTMF menus
  • Good speech call flow designs permit callers to get what they need more quickly, without having to wade through cumbersome filter menus.
  • Navigation is much simpler, and callers can use the application an interface they are most familiar with, their voice
  • Speech applicationsgive the impression of the ideal employee: attentive, empathetic, alert, and consistently agreeable, rather than an impersonal string of numbers and tones
  • Allows responses that are too cumbersome for DTMF systems; some DTMF systems are ineffective in handling inquiries requiring both alpha and numeric data
  • Users find it tedious to use DTMF systems for a great deal of input (i.e. 16-digit credit card numbers)

The Cons

  • Lack of accuracy and misinterpretation – voice recognition software won’t always translate words accurately and these errors can lead to misinterpretation
  • Voice recognition can have problems with accents, people who mumble, speak softly, or have cold/sinus/throat problems
  • Background noise interference

Live Agents

While automation does have its place, if someone has a more complex issue, they prefer having human interaction. A human agent has the advantage of being able to ask probing questions to get to the route of the customer’s issue.

Having more customer service agents as compared to automated systems can benefit companies through:

·         Interaction – while messaging systems are becoming more interactive, automated systems cannot completely replace the interactivity of speaking to an actual person; they can explain answers in greater detail, offer solutions, and direct your call to a more appropriate person if necessary

·         Complex problem solving – automated systems can answer simple questions, but any question that is more than basic requires the analytical skills of a human being

·         Shorter wait time – automated phone systems actually take much longer in addressing problems than speaking to an agent or tech support person as the caller has to listen to each menu item and the corresponding key

The Pros

  • Agents can have the ability to solve complex issues beyond the capabilities of DTMF, which can usually only simply queries such as account balance inquiries
  • They can multi-task and talk to multiple customers at the same time, reducing wait time
  • Efficient solution for basic support inquiries

The Cons

  • Long wait times; waiting in a queue
  • Background noise
  • Slow response time
  • Dealing with foreign accents
  • Expensive solution when you consider the training, facilities involved and need for at least two shifts for 24-hour coverage
  • Burn out of agents and potential for customer service damage when they handle calls badly

The Bottom Line

DTMF still has its place. It’s best in environments where:

  • Service offerings are limited and simple to understand
  • Consumers have to provide a long series of digits like account numbers
  • Information confidentiality is critical

While systems like DTMF can be advantageous to companies in the short term, the downside is by downsizing your staff to manage phones or relying strictly on an automated solution, you risk damaging your customer satisfaction and loyalty in the long term.

While automation and virtual assistants may save money and time, it is one the customer service methods that consumers complain about most. When a person needs an answer to a question or help with a problem, they want a quick response. Automatic responses can provide the needed information, but a live agent can do more to retain customers. Even if an agent only takes a message, consumers feel more confident that they are being heard and will get a response.

While there is a time and place for automated systems, customer service agents are still the best option to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.