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ivr software applications

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Tech Article - IVR systems interactive voice response

IVR Applications

Our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Development and custom IVR software and products. Call center phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country.

Our IVR systems add another dimension to our call center phone systems and solutions.

What Is IVR?. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either inhouse service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.

The following is an article relating to IVR including tips and best practices as well as product and answering service information.

Designing Better IVR Systems
Page 3

Building voice systems that don't alienate callers takes careful planning and management


Don't Do It Yourself

As this article notes, we rarely find technical problems with IVR systems that were "installed and maintained by major suppliers." That qualification is important.

Many small computer companies and some IT departments believe that anyone who understands personal computers is qualified to build IVR systems. We've seen too many barely working semi-pro systems, cobbled together from garage-built PCs, Dialogic boards, and shareware, by someone whose entire experience in the field was reading an article in a computer magazine.

For small, non-critical applications, such systems can sometimes be acceptable. But if you want your system to work reliably 24/7, handle a variety of applications, and grow as required, get one that's designed for the task, by voice system experts.

Keep It Current

With large and complex menu systems, it's easy to miss things when you do updates, leaving obsolete recordings to amuse and confuse your callers.

A case in point. While writing this article, we called 310-BELL, Bell Canada's customer service number, just to check how many menu levels it has. After pressing "1" five times, we reached a promotional recording for "Advantage Per Call" service. It told us to order now to be sure we'd have the service "when the rates come into effect on September 28, 1998."

That didn't reassure us that everything is up-to-date at Canada's largest telco.

You don’t need an elaborate or expensive Computer Telephony Integration system. A simple screen pop that displays the numbers the caller entered is usually enough to avoid annoying callers with a repeat request. If necessary, let the agent re-enter the data — don’t make the caller do it.

Test, Test, and Test Again

…and then test some more. You can never test an IVR menu too much. Obviously you should test to make sure that every single choice branches to the right place. But after that, test to ensure that the menus actually are, as you hoped, in language that callers understand. Try them on callers who weren’t part of the development team, and who don’t speak your business jargon. Test, revise, and test again. Testing shouldn’t stop after the system goes live. Establish a process for capturing and reviewing every caller comment, good or bad. Read the system printouts faithfully to identify how callers actually use the system, and to see if that suggests improvements.

Printouts can show you, for example, which menu choices are most often selected. Those items should be at the beginning of each menu, and as high as possible in the menu hierarchy. Reorganize your menus to refl ect what customers want to do, not what you thought they might do.

And remember: customer interests and priorities will change over time, so it’s essential to review the menus and printouts regularly.

Watch for Frequent Exits

Ask anyone familiar with IVR for implementation tips, and you’ll be told: “Always allow callers to leave the IVR system and reach a live person easily.” Really knowledgeable advisors will add: “Always ensure that a live person is actually available to answer.”

That’s very good advice, but often “We let them reach a live person” becomes an excuse for sloppy design. Rarely do you hear the most important piece of advice of all: “Design your system so that most callers will not need to leave.”

Allowing callers to leave the system easily is very important. But if a high percentage of callers leave early, then either your menu system is badly designed, or your callers want services that the IVR doesn’t provide. Either way, it’s probably time to revisit and rethink the system.

None of this is rocket science. Put business issues fi rst, adopt your customers’ point of view, plan and test the system to be sure it does what you want it to — these are the ABCs of any customer contact system. So why are they so often ignored with IVR?

Much of the blame must be placed on the organizations that sell IVR systems. The sales reps are eager to prove that their equipment will cut your costs, so they don’t emphasize (perhaps they don’t even know) that IVR requires careful, long-term management attention.

Customers contribute to the problem by focusing on price as the most important acquisition issue, an approach that frequently leads to selection of suppliers who cut corners on implementation. IVR systems are often sold by systems integrators who know all about bits and bytes and very little about human factors. Checking out the supplier’s ability to implement the human side of IVR is critical, but often forgotten.

In other words, both vendors and customers are guilty of treating Interactive Voice Response as a purely technical matter — buy the right box at the right price, and ensure that it runs properly.

It’s important to do those things, but they are by far the least demanding and least time-consuming parts of the process. Implementing an IVR system that actually meets business goals is a management task, not a technical one. If your IVR is producing more complaints than compliments, look to management, not technicians, for the solution.

"On the Line" is a monthly feature, based on the consulting experience of Henry Dortmans Associates. For information on Henry Dortmans consulting services, seminars, and workshops, call Henry Dortmans at 1.888.845.1135 or visit him at henrydortmans.com.

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