Why IVR? Part 1 of IVR Series
By Karl Bricker | August 3rd, 2012
Remember your reaction way back when if a business telephone was answered with a machine? I recall commenting that it was tacky, or even hinted at a lack of staying power. In fact, I once had a peer in Chicago who was a tremendous sales person, but could not manage people at all, so he just surrounded himself with capable admins and sold the heck out of his product. He was so particular about first impressions that he never hired anyone to answer his phones who did not have a British accent. I’ll bet Barry didn’t have an answering machine for a long time...
A lot has changed since those days of complaining about “voice mail jail,” and what we were sure would be the end of good business as we knew it. Technology and automation have become not only tolerated, they have become the preferred method in many routine tasks, from paying bills to finding the right department to help with a customer service issue. Even if all of us want a private assistant to solve all our business problems, we recognize that technology and automation have made us more productive, saved on expenses, and also made us better at our jobs.
While IVR (Interactive Voice Response) will never be the “silver bullet” for all business challenges, adoption of telephony automation has proven it to be of great value in providing solutions to common business challenges. In this series, we’ll explore everything from the most basic reasons for you to consider IVR solutions for your business challenges, to industry-specific and technology-focused methods which have become household experiences for most of us, and finally, the creative application of solutions developed for one group of businesses (for example, appointment reminders for medical offices) when reviewed at a high level for similar conceptual needs (as in, “...did you forget to...”) such as arrest warrant calls which offer automated payment methods as an alternative to being arrested before the bank opens in the morning...
To start, let’s examine why a business might want to deploy an IVR solution. In almost all cases, the motivation is based on a need to accomplish one of the following:
- Reduce operating expenses
- Example: cut labor costs
- Increase revenue
- Example: schedule more sales appointments by talking to more prospects because all the dialing was automatic
- Improve business processes
- Example: Offering callers a chance to complete a telephone survey to give feedback on a recent experience, in a secure, confidential and private manner
Few will argue that such goals are not each worth pursuing passionately, but often the journey from identifying a need to satisfying it with technology gets muddled by too much focus on the technology, and what it can accomplish, as opposed to the solution, and which technology best enables the desired outcome. It’s always best to remember what motivated you to research the technology as you are reviewing features and benefits.
Here are a few ideas to consider the next time someone in your leadership wants to cut costs, or sell more, or become a “best in class” for your industry, and technology and automation are being considered as an option:
- List the reasons someone might call your company
- Try to experience that anonymously, and don’t use your inside know how to avoid possible irritations
- Put yourself in the place of someone else in your company who has less choice than you as to when and how often they are required to communicate on the telephone.
- Is answering the phone “blind” as to who is on the other end stressful? Might they have a more pleasant voice if they answered with confidence from knowing who is calling? Could the caller hear the tone as more helpful, and notice that less time is spent identifying and more time fixing?
- What are most of the inbound calls about? Are they for the same purpose? Are there repetitive, manual tasks being performed by the most powerful computers ever made (human beings!)?
- When employees make calls, are they repetitive? Do they usually get the person they are calling, or is voicemail more likely?
- What group of people (age, gender, passions/interests, education, etc.) do you cater to? If you were one of them and were interacting with your company, what choices would you want? What hours of availability? Payment methods?
- Finally (and this can be a bad reason, but well worth considering), what is your biggest competitor offering, how are they offering it, and what might you learn from “reverse engineering” their processes?
Tom Peters wrote about “high tech/soft touch” when computers became more than just calculators. IVR’s are not intended to replace human interaction. The technology merely offers your customers and your associates another choice for how they accomplish their tasks. I encourage you to take a holistic look at your business communication processes, and explore the possibility for telephony automation (IVR solutions) to either resolve business challenges, or give you more time to work on those challenges by removing much of the repetitive, manual tasks which might take up much of the day.
Next time we’ll look at common business processes, and how IVR solutions have simplified and improved them. But don’t wait for that article before you start to explore the potential of IVR for your company. We are here to help you dream, design, develop and deploy, all in the hope of delighting those you serve.Tweet
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