Customer Experience Zen and the Art of IVR Maintenance

​A Q&A with Forrester's Art Schoeller on Optimizing IVR

Recently, we hosted a webinar featuring Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Art Schoeller to present "Transforming IVR: From Pain to Prosperity." In this informational session, we acknowledged the industry view of IVR as a "necessary evil," and proceeded to discuss ways the technology may be explored and optimized to deliver both efficient, cost-effective operations for the organization while ensuring customer satisfaction and retention.

While IVR interactions account for more than 70% of contact center traffic and more than 80% of customers are dissatisfied with their IVR experience, less than 10% of organizations are now investing in IVR optimizations. However, those who take action to address this critical component of the customer experience stand to reap a considerable return on their IVR investment.

Following our presentation, we sat down with Art to discuss further the importance of IVR optimization, and its role in meeting the demands of today's customers.

​NICE: If you could cite one key reason why optimizing IVR processes is something brands should take seriously, what would it be?

AS: Improving customer satisfaction, which would boost utilization of IVR. Forrester's research on consumer satisfaction shows that IVR is the least liked of all self-service channels, so there is an opportunity to correct this and improve IVR ROI.

NICE: In your presentation, you note that customers are tending increasingly towards self-service options; do you see this as more of an enabler or a challenge for organizations intent on optimizing the customer experience?

​AS: It's actually both. The challenge is that contact center agents now have to deal almost exclusively with the exceptions instead of routine requests from consumers. Agents need to become more skilled problem solvers and advisors instead of handling simple information requests or processes. Done well, this can be the "magic moment" when a brand can excel. This is why IVR optimization is key to helping smooth out the transition from voice self-service to the right agent, at the right time, with the right information.

NICE: How does being able to incorporate multiple social media outlets within the customer journey analytics program improve one's ability to optimize the customer experience?

AS: This depends on the brand and whether or not social media is a channel for customer interactions and feedback. Social breaks into two categories: brand feedback, and specific, actionable customer service requests. So if the brand has activity in either of those categories, analyzing consumer activity is critical to understanding the full customer journey and discovering where there are opportunities to influence customer satisfaction, drive revenue, and reduce costs. Social interactions can be used to influence the IVR journey, as well. A customer complaining on Twitter about a flight change could get a more personalized greeting on the IVR if they call in.

NICE: Where would you rank "personalization" as a driver for optimizing the customer's journey, and why?

​AS: While it's harder to manage the technology and business rules for personalization, it can impact satisfaction, revenue, and costs. For example, specific notifications about offers or events (e.g. again back to flight cancellations or delays) can help inform customers and deflect requests for assisted support. So I would rank it as important, but it comes after getting the basics down first, such as IVR containment.

NICE: You've described the notion of a "customer-obsessed" mentality being one that helps brands win on the basis of their customer experience; can you cite a recognizable brand that is demonstrating and succeeding with that approach in the marketplace today?

​AS: At Forrester, USAA comes up very high in our customer experience research. Granted, they have a very special customer base predominantly serving the U.S. military and their family members, but they do tune their customer experience efforts to specifically serve that audience. Their commitment to CX is embedded in their culture, and it translates to their people, process, and technology investments.

Watch "Transforming IVR: From Pain to Prosperity," or read more about the valuable insights and bottom-line benefits of optimizing IVR systems and processes, if you're prepared to turn a typically customer-unfriendly technology into a source of high NPS® and increased revenues.