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IVR systems interactive voice response

IVR Solutions

This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Solutions 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.. Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.

The Customer Experience is It!

Extract from IVR Improvement Strategies,
A new research report published by the Ascent Group, Inc.

The technical definition of Integrated Voice Response (IVR) is a telecommunications system that accepts a combination of voice and telephone touch-tone keypad input and provides appropriate responses in the form of voice, fax, callback, e-mail and perhaps other media. Ask anyone on the street and you'll most likely hear the following definition--"those confounded machines that won't let you talk to humans."

With the advent of IVR technology more than a decade ago, many predicted the demise of the call center. The promise of automation proved so alluring that many implemented IVR technology with little or no consideration of the customer experience. In fact, many IVR applications provided absolutely no way of opting out to an agent, all in the name of reducing agent-handled calls. The all-out push for automation was devastating--most customers hated IVR technology. IVR became a "bad name", making it even more difficult for those companies just embarking on an implementation. In many cases, companies implementing IVR systems were worse off than if they hadn't done anything at all. Poorly designed IVR implementations dissatisfied customers, lost sales, and ironically ended up increasing calls into the center rather than eliminating them.

Benchmark Study of IVR Deployment

To better understand the state-of-IVR today, the Ascent Group recently conducted a benchmarking project to evaluate IVR performance, to understand the never-ending deployment challenges, and to identify IVR "best practices". Companies from nine industries participated in the research. The following pages summarize the study's objectives, findings and observations, and recommendations.

The main objective of the study was to evaluate the strategic deployment of interactive voice response technology and to identify best practices or opportunities for improvement. Secondary objectives included understanding:

  • The range of deployment strategies;
  • Primary business objectives and drivers of IVR deployment;
  • How IVR technology fits into a customer service strategy, and
  • How companies incorporate the customer perspective.

Participants were asked to share the history of their IVR implementation, deployment and design strategies, performance statistics, best practices, and lessons learned. The study also asked companies to relate how they measure the success of their IVR implementation and plans moving forward.

What Did We Learn?

  • The most frequently cited "lessons learned" was the need to incorporate customer input and feedback into the design and ongoing management of an IVR system. Companies are not taking the time or effort to gain knowledge from the customer experience--a critical mistake that can inflict serious damage to your customer satisfaction ratings, and ultimately bottom-line revenue.

  • More than 40 percent of study participants utilize automated speech recognition (ASR), which further confirms the progress of IVR technology in the marketplace. Another 32 percent have plans to implement speech recognition in the near future. In a similar study conducted by the Ascent Group in 2000, speech recognition was only prevalent in less than 10 percent of companies. At that time, most were waiting for the technology to improve, and it clearly has.

  • Companies Implementing IVR Systems Report Significant Benefits. Nearly all participants reported benefits of reduced or avoided costs. Companies migrating from touch-tone to ASR generally reported a 15 to 20 percent gain in call completions. Others reported increased customer satisfaction for after-hours self-service options. Estimating the number of agent-equivalents that would have been required to handle IVR completed calls--our panel ranged from 1 to 10,000 equivalent FTEs (two companies reported very significant FTE equivalents). Excluding the largest, the panel average 85 FTE equivalents--very real cost savings or avoidance.

  • Companies Are Not Adequately Capturing the Customer Experience. Only half of participants actively measure IVR customer satisfaction (or have measured at one time). Only 14 percent report the adoption of usability labs or prototype testing. For those that do gather customer feedback, it's usually obtained from customer surveys or focus groups, and not necessarily on a regular basis or coincidental to any changes.

    In addition, only a little more than one-third utilize call monitoring (live or recorded calls) to observe the quality of the caller's interaction with the IVR. What is more surprising is that two-thirds of the participants with speech-enabled IVRs don't utilize IVR call monitoring at all.

  • Companies Are Not Promoting IVR Self-Services. Less than a third of participants promote IVR Self-Services to customers or callers. And, of those that do, this usually means printed messages on bills or on bill stuffers. A small percentage (27 percent) promotes through discounts or no-charge services, and even fewer (14 percent) asked agents to promote usage, when appropriate.

  • Few Companies Test IVR Operational Performance. Only 18 percent of participants use or have used a service or application to monitor and test IVR system reliability and operational performance. These applications conduct stress tests and other simulation tests to measure IVR, system, and network responsiveness and reliability.

  • Companies that "Selectively Force Callers through the IVR" achieve the Highest IVR Success Rates. 40 percent of participants selectively force callers through the IVR for some services. These same companies averaged the highest IVR Success Rates--more than 40 percent (percent of IVR completed calls versus total handled calls). Conversely, companies that present IVR services as "optional" average an IVR Success Rate of only 13 percent.

  • Speech-enabled IVR Applications Experienced Higher Growth in IVR Success Rate than Touch-Tone Applications. Our evaluation of IVR handled calls over the past three years indicates that companies with ASR experienced a bigger growth in IVR handled calls than those without ASR--68% growth versus 30% growth.

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