Happy Holidays from Acclaim Telecom Services.

Everyone at Acclaim Telecom would like to take a moment to express our thanks to our customers and vendors for the opportunity to work with them in 2010. A special thanks goes out to our long term customers, as well as a welcome to our new customers who came on board in 2010.

We hope 2010 has been a prosperous year for everyone, and wish each and everyone of you a great holiday season.

We look forward to working with you in 2011

Merry Christmas

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Kwanzaa

Three IVR Functions Customers Will Appreciate

Impress. Don’t just satisfy. Stand out. Don’t just aim for invisibility.

Your mindset while designing an automated IVR system shouldn’t be to minimize customer annoyance and frustration, but rather to maximize customer benefit and enjoyment.

Granted, sometimes the best IVR system is one that is hardly noticed at all. But that mindset is important, because customers will detect a commitment to professionalism, innovation, and intuition about their needs.

In fact, when done well, customers can actually prefer an automated system to a customer representative for certain uses.

Here are three:

1. Avoiding Human Error

Placing orders. Booking tickets. Making reservations.

In any situation where there’s a possibility of human error—based on verbal misunderstanding, difficulty with accents, or simple processing mistakes—IVR can offer a welcome alternative of automation and uniformity. In other words, when people trust the machine, people often prefer the machine (with, as always, an easy opt-out option giving them the control to escape the machine).

Of course, if the system is poorly designed and confusing, that trust will vanish in a heartbeat.

2. Keeping Sensitive Information Queries Sensitive

Bank balances. Lab test results. School grades.

For these sorts of queries, many people would rather not have a human representative pulling up their files and relaying such sensitive information to them over the phone. The fewer strangers handling it, the better. Using IVR, on the other hand, has the same sort of privacy effect as pulling up results over the Internet. There is at least a situational amount of privacy given.

3. Simple Information Gathering

Polls. Surveys. Database updating calls.

If a process done with IVR is actually quicker and simpler than if it were done with an actual human representative, customers often prefer it. For example, for straightforward tasks like polls and surveys or periodic calls to update database information, using a human adds a sort of complicating factor to the call. That little human “connection”  requires more of customers—cordiality, small talk, etc. (seems insignificant, we know, but little stresses add up)—than simply responding to the questions asked.

In other words, sometimes it’s nice just to talk to a computer.

In the end, an automated IVR system that’s easy, professional, and intuitive will do more than just avoid frustrating your customers, but also create a lasting and memorable impression that will solidify that relationship.

Old Lesson, Eternal Value

A few weeks ago I had an unexpected, but pleasant experience in creating customer loyalty.  In fact, I had the good fortune to experience this twice in just a few short weeks.  And it was a great feeling.   Interestingly enough, the experience was not due to any technological advancement that took the user experience to an all time high. The experience was due to service delivered for car repairs of all things.  But the lesson in customer service is universal in its application, especially for companies relying on technology to help support their customer service efforts.

The first occurred when my wife took her car to a small yet established auto repair shop, Euro Connection in Dallas.  A turn signal lamp had burned out, and due to the make of car I was not able to easily perform my shade tree mechanic repairs I like to do.  The dealership wanted $65 to change the bulb (almost all labor). So off to the independent shop she went.  The owner Nino Papadopoulos said he would fix it while she waited, and so she did.  But when all was said and done, he would not take any money for his efforts, not even for the cost of the bulb!  “No big deal” he said “it’s only a light bulb.”  You can bet I will remember him the next time I need auto repairs.

The second came a few weeks later when a neighbor accidentally backed into my son’s parked car.   Big Ford Expedition, meet little Honda Civic.  Round one goes to the Ford with Honda being the loser.  With 120,000 miles on the Honda, there were already a number of dents and dings in other areas we had decided not to fix, even though the car was in great mechanical shape.  Estimated cost to repair the accident damage; $1900.  With damage appraisal in hand (and insurance company check), off we went to another local independent repair shop, Orbit Automotive owned by Curtis McCarty in Dallas.  No problem, they will take care of it.  They also cut me a deal to repair the other areas of damage at a reduced personal cost since those repairs were not part of the accident. It was only a couple of hundred dollars additional.

One week later we pick up the Honda, looking better than when we bought it.  And when it came time to pay for the extra repairs, the owner would not take the additional money.  “Don’t worry about it”, he said.  While I hope to never need his fine body repair services in the future, you can safely bet they will be the first I call if necessary.

One act of customer service was rather small, the other slightly bigger.  Yet each significantly impressed me.

Neither required Herculean effort on their part, but the undeniable theme was to do a little extra for the customer.   As a company providing IVR hosted services and mobile solutions we constantly ask ourselves what can we do to improve our customer’s satisfaction. And in many cases it really comes down to the small items. A tweak to a custom report, a referral to another company for a need outside our core competencies, or just a suggestion on how to improve a speech recognition application based on work performed for another client.

Sometimes these small acts have as much impact as a large-scale effort or even a business concession.  Typically selfless acts, no matter how small, almost always pay dividends going forward.