By Justin Lemrow
Editor's Note: In his role as Director of the Continuous Improvement (CI) Practice at Contact Solutions, Justin Lemrow oversees the delivery of guaranteed business results to enterprise customers. Blending both business and technical experience, Justin has built an effective approach for matching and evaluating solution improvements for executive business owners. Under his leadership, the CI Practice quantifies recommended improvements to increase revenue (customer experience) and operational savings (increasing self-service). A Six Sigma Black Belt who visits more than a dozen contact centers a year, Justin has more than a decade of process improvement experience in the telecommunications sector.Your customer puzzle is likely missing pieces, and it's those missing pieces that could be the difference between delivering customer service that is only passable and that which is absolutely exceptional. Integral to the success of any customer service program is knowing how to properly mine and utilize customer interaction data.
However, a key part of data collection and interpretation is making sure information from all channels (web chat, email, phone, website, social media, etc.) is captured and utilized. If any channel is ignored, the enterprise misses major pieces of the puzzle that determine customer experience and customer service benchmarks.
One channel too often disregarded is phone self-service – or more specifically – interactive voice response (IVR). IVR remains a high-use service channel for consumers wanting their financial information quickly and as an important first touch on the way to an agent. But many financial service providers overlook the improvement potential of IVR programs.
Customers hate bad IVR, but contrary to popular belief, increased automation does not always lead to lower customer satisfaction. Actually, research demonstrates that consumers prefer the IVR if it gets them what they need more quickly and easily. Following are simple steps that can get prepaid providers and others on the right track for improving automation rates while saving money and improving the customer experience.
2. Personalize: Another important use of customer data is tied to personalization. If you are properly tracking each customer interaction, you can blend that with what you know about each customer to personalize future communications with customers in the IVR.
3. Ensure channel consistency: Linking the IVR to other service channels can make the service experience more cohesive. For example, if a customer is using web chat to resolve a problem, and then calls customer service, the IVR should recognize that at the beginning of the call.
4. Anticipate needs: To enhance the likelihood that a customer is going to self-serve, you must anticipate caller needs. For example, if a customer frequently calls to check the status of a deposit to his or her prepaid card, you should prioritize that option to streamline the interaction, allowing the individual to get in and out quickly and painlessly.
5. Remove the fluff: It is important to have a clutter-free IVR system in place. It is crucial that the caller be able to quickly hear and consider resolution options. If an option in your IVR system is never used, confusing or time consuming, remove it.
6. Don't make the "0" so obvious: Give consumers some credit – they aren't naive. They know they are talking to a machine, and by now, most of them know that they can press "0" at any time to reach a live agent. Don't remind them too many times of that fact, or they might decide not to try to self-serve.
7. Treat your IVR like an automated agent: Do not hold your IVR to a higher standard than your agents. For example, if customers have to authenticate with at least three pieces of information in the IVR, but only one piece of information with the agent, you are training them to opt-out for a live agent.
8. Make authentication simple: Fear has made many enterprises over-authenticate callers. Without sacrificing security, make authentication as simple and quick as possible.
9. Set an automation target: The best approach is to set a realistic improvement goal. The last thing you want to do is force too much automation too fast and have your customer experience suffer as a result. Slow and steady wins this race.
10. Don't automate everything: A successful contact center comprises a number of channels, none of which would survive on its own. Neither your IVR nor your agents can handle everything, so it's important to understand the strengths of each channel.
Once you've decided to follow these steps to improve automation, establish a system to continuously monitor and analyze the success of this channel. An effective, fully optimized IVR balances your costs via self-service with your customer experience goals and increases customer retention, loyalty and brand value.
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