A Few Personal IVR System Observations

I recently used my telephone to contact a credit reporting agency, to change the address listed on my credit report. Because I design and program IVR systems,   I was disappointed when I dialed the number and started listening to the menus. Their website already directed me to call and speak with a customer service representative.  So I had hoped that I wouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get to one. Well, no.  It took me over five minutes PLUS wait time to finally get to speak with a live person.

Once reaching them, I had to give all the information I’d just entered all over again. I asked the person if they’d received a screen pop, and they said “no.”

So then I asked if they ever got screen pops, and they said they used to. Just out of curiosity, I called back after business hours and tried to see if I could get into the ‘cloud’ of the office using standard methods of back door and random number pushing. Sure enough, I was able to get into their office voice mail system.  I probably could have left some fun messages, but I opted to blog about it instead.

You have to wonder if anyone has ever said anything to the appropriate person about this program flaw.  But I digress…

To make a long story short, the application was poorly written, broken, and had a security breech.

So what do you do? What should you ask yourself when trying to build a customer service application that your callers will love, use, and praise; instead of complain, hang up, or possibly get angry with one of your live customer service representatives?

Cheap isn’t always best. When you find an IVR development company, ask for references. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but you might be surprised how often this does not happen.  They should be able to give examples, even phone numbers of companies they have done work for. Call the applications and listen to how it sounds.  Call a customer service representative for that company and ask them what their experience has been with the IVR system, good and bad.

One caveat to keep in mind.   A good IVR firm should be able to share best practices and experiences with their customers during the analysis and design phase.  However at the end of the day, the customer makes the final decision on how the call flows operate.

Remember the point of having the IVR system. You want your  customers to be able to perform tasks that can be time consuming, repetitive, and require little to no complex decision making process .  You want your highly trained customer service representatives assisting your clients with more complex transactions and needs.  In short, you want them involved higher up the food chain of customer assistance requirements whenever possible.

However, don’t force your customer to listen to lengthy options or execute too many decisions before allowing them to speak with a customer service representative.  Most customers know when they call whether their needs can be satisfied through the normal IVR options or whether they need to speak to a live agent.  The more complex the task or need, the quicker they need to speak with a customer service agent.  You don’t want your customer service representatives receiving the brunt of a caller’s frustration because you didn’t capture basic information already provided by the caller.

Here is a suggestion to consider.  If possible, release the new application to a small audience of customers initially.  This is your test market.  It’s a great time to get feedback from callers as to how they use the system; if they were able to complete the tasks they were calling about; or if another service option might be missing.  Here is another hint.  Have the customer service representative ask the caller their opinion of the IVR system.   Don’t offer them a survey at the end of the call.  You’ll get better results and more honest answers.  And in the end, the caller will be happy that you are taking the time to show your concern about them; further creating a loyal returning customer.

Finally, try the “5 year old adolescent” test technique to check for any possible back door logic.  Just start pressing buttons on the phone.  It’s pretty simple.  Star and Pound, or do a zig zag through the digits.  If there’s a way to get out of the IVR and into the cloud of voicemail, you should be able to find it.  You don’t have to be methodical about it.  All you need to know is that it worked or didn’t.

If you find an unexpected trap door, let the IVR programmer know, and they will fix it.

If you would like to know more about good IVR design practices, hosted IVR services or on-premise IVR solutions,  contact us and we would be happy to discuss those with you.