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IVR Technology Solutions

This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Development and custom IVR software and products. Business 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. The PACER and WIZARD IVR System is just one of many DSC call center phone system features..

What is Interactive Voice Response?. 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.

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.

It’s True: Your Customer Can Love Your IVR (or least be good friends)

By Dr. Tal Cohen, Ph.D., CEO & Co-Founder ClickFox

As organizations become larger and more complex, providing that ‘personal connection’ with customers becomes more and more challenging. Serving customers well, however, is a requirement to remain competitive. Focus groups uncovered that customers want transacting to be easy, quick, free and “without a wire”. So, to handle the rapidly growing volumes of customer interactions, financial institutions have turned to automation…pushing more functionality out to ATMs, building elaborate web sites, and expanding the duties of what is often looked down upon as the black sheep of the customer service family, the dreaded interactive voice response system, or IVR.

IVR technology has been used for some time to handle routine customer inquiries, or to direct calls to the appropriate agent. And although many customer tasks can now be easily accomplished on the organization’s Web site, like bill payments and loan requests, the number of cell phone users is outpacing Internet adoption and will continue to do so for the next several years. Gartner states that 92 percent of all customer transactions still take place over the telephone, and 45 percent of all customer interactions begin in the IVR. The IVR is not going away.

So what is an organization to do? The IVR trails far behind all other interactive channels in customer satisfaction levels. Developers of speech recognition technologies, who had high hopes for polishing the IVR’s tarnished reputation, have met with varying degrees of success. But, the IVR’s potential is compelling; the cost-per-transaction in the IVR is a mere fraction of the cost of talking to a live agent, who should be spending their time on more complex customer issues that require human intervention. One of the major problems with IVRs today is that the users’ experiences are virtually invisible and often poorly understood. Additionally, ease-of-use initiatives must be balanced with the economic need to automate increasingly complex tasks.

Given these circumstances, it is no surprise that often the customers’ experience with the IVR is less than satisfactory. When the IVR system does not meet a customer’s expectations, they become frustrated and hang up or “zero out” to a live agent. Currently, organizations must rely on “predictors of behavior” (e.g. customer demographics, psychographics, transaction histories) to try to design tasks and experiences that are aligned with user needs. In addition, “indicators of behavior” (e.g. transaction logs, call logs) are used to make a best guess as to why the IVR is not meeting customers’ expectations. An actual methodology or technology is not being used to pinpoint what part of the system needs to be modified, in what way, and why.

The key to IVR success is to measure how customers use the system, and to align these usage patterns with the business objectives for the system. This information can be used to continuously modify and evolve the IVR system to maximize cost savings, revenue and customer satisfaction. When customers complete tasks quickly and successfully without having to wait in a queue, they are happier and require the assistance of a live agent less often. As a result, the organization can quickly realize substantial cost savings as well as improve customer satisfaction (as long as customers are successful in an automated, interactive channel).

The Problem

According to Forrester Research, customer satisfaction levels with IVR systems fall in the 10 percent range, compared with a satisfaction rate of approximately 80 percent for face-to-face interactions. This is not just a customer relations issue – it’s a financial problem.

Consider this conservative example:

A financial institution receives 500,000 customer calls each day

  • 20 percent zero out to live agents because IVR isn’t meeting their needs
  • Each live agent call costs $10
This organization is spending $1,000,000 each day to have live agents unnecessarily complete simple customer transactions.

In many instances, customers are unable to accomplish their desired task via the IVR. This could be for two reasons. First, they call the IVR with a particular task in mind and the system is not set up to handle that task. Second, the IVR is set up to handle the task, but the customer finds the system difficult to use, confusing or incomplete. The customer then chooses to zero out to a live agent—or worse—hangs up frustrated and considers taking their business elsewhere.

The reason why so many customers do not find their task options available in the IVR system, or have a difficult time using the system even if the task is there, is because companies often fail to take into account three factors when designing an IVR system—business objectives, user objectives and business environment dynamics.
  • Business Objectives: A business objective is what the organization wants to accomplish via the IVR system and must be articulated as a user outcome.
  • User objectives: User objectives are what the customers hope to accomplish via the IVR system. These may overlap with the business objectives, but often the user has goals that the IVR designers did not take into account, or chose not to put into the IVR system for business reasons.
  • Business environment dynamics: Business environment factors include the competition, market conditions and awareness of market desires.
In a recent Forrester study of 15 large IVR systems in credit card, airline and wireless industries, not one IVR received a passing grade in terms of value, navigation, presentation and their ability to engender trust and repeat usage. What factors can explain such widespread failure? These companies have invested millions of dollars in designing and building these systems—a critical element must be missing.

The Solution: Understanding User Behavior

Understanding user behavior is that missing element. Organizations need, but seldom have, visibility into the “black box” of what customers want to accomplish in the IVR system and how they want to accomplish it. Thus translating user behavior into new design strategies is nearly impossible, and making system improvements becomes a game of guesswork.

Today, many IVR systems are modified on gut feelings, subjective guesses or anecdotal, random information about what customers want—not using hard data about the users’ behavior and desires. Then companies spend millions of dollars on new technology to improve the IVR system, such as speech recognition, in an attempt to “fix” the problem. However, since they do not have a way of factoring in actual users’ behavior systematically, the new technology falls short of its potential.

A new approach to IVR design and modification is necessary to enable companies to manage IVR business performance. Understanding user behavior is critical in order to match business objectives to those of the users. For example, if 500,000 people call the IVR/Speech system each day, but 100,000 of them leave the system without doing anything, companies need to know why.

The best way to align these factors is by focusing on user behavior—understanding how customers are acting once inside your IVR system, incorporating that with existing customer and transactional knowledge, and using that information to drive IVR improvements that directly impact value-driving behaviors.

Customer Behavior Intelligence

A Customer Behavior Intelligence solution will assess customer usage of the IVR system and determine how it aligns with the company’s business objectives and user goals, resulting in cost savings and increasing the company’s bottom line. Customer Behavior Intelligence solutions will help organizations measure user behavior, analyze user behavior measurements and decide on how to change the system and implementing those changes.

Step One: Measure User Behavior

User behavior should be measured in two phases – discovery and addressing business objectives. In the discovery phase, analytics can be used to find specific functions in the IVR system that are causing users to zero out to live agents or hang up the phone altogether. Many times, these functions within the IVR system are not operating as intended, indicating the user’s behavior could suggest some adjustments for improvement.

The second phase addresses specific business objectives. Business objectives should be translating into expected user behavior, so IVR designers can determine if the customers are using the system in the intended fashion.

Step Two: Analyze User Behavior Measurements

The next step is to analyze user behavior data and pinpoint areas that are causing potential problems as well as function areas that represent opportunities for leveraging existing successes.

Step Three: Decide on Change

In most cases, decisions to modify the IVR system will fall into three main categories:

  • Modify experiences that are causing confusion or frustration
  • Extend the capabilities or proven and successful interactive experiences
  • Incorporate new automated tasks
In IVR with speech capabilities, behavior analysis can also help to determine how to change dialogs, properly tune speech recognition for optimal performance and improve error-handling strategies.

Step Four: Implement Changes

In this stage, changes are implemented to the IVR/Speech system with an eye toward ongoing improvements. This change process must be continuous for two reasons. First, streamlining one aspect of the IVR/Speech system often means that users will get farther into the system and uncover new problems that they had not previously experienced. Secondly, business objectives, user objectives and the business environment can change from year to year, month to month, or even more frequently.


As self-service options continue to proliferate for consumers, organizations are finding it essential to create online user experiences that are simple, fast and easily accessible for completing financial transactions. At the same time, these experiences must meet bottom line business objectives for the org – cost savings, revenue generation and customer retention. As companies respond to these opportunities, they are finding a variety of reasons to reinvigorate the IVR system.

With behavioral insight, organizations can better balance and meet business objectives. The key to optimizing business performance is to turn meaningful observation and analysis into new, value-driving action.

Dr. Tal Cohen, Ph.D., CEO & Co-Founder
Dr. Cohen is president, CEO and co-founder of ClickFox (www.clickfox.com). ClickFox’s software modeling solutions enable its customers to translate complex customer interactions across multiple self-service channels—such as IVR, speech recognition, Web sites, kiosks and CRM systems—into fact-based decisions that optimize channel and cross-channel business performance. Dr. Cohen holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters of Science in Computer Science. A data modeling expert and a leading research faculty member and educator at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Cohen alongside Nissim Harel, conceived the original concept of ClickFox. Through his vision and leadership ClickFox is growing from an idea to a leader in its field, counting among its customers several Fortune 100 companies. Prior to creating ClickFox, Tal helped organizations such as General Motors, the U.S. Air Force, and Boeing achieve better business results through creative modeling solutions. He has also authored multiple publications on data modeling and numerical methods.

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.