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IVR Systems

IVR Strategies.
There remains a great deal of confusion amongst organisations concerning the use of this delivery channel, especially amongst the vertical applications:

¤ why should they provide this channel and what are the main drivers for its use? Is it to reduce costs, maximise effectiveness of their existing customer service centres, increase customer service, etc.?

¤ what are the cost benefits of introducing this media? Is there a sound business case, will it just increase the number of transactions per customer, etc.?

¤ what are the other implications associated with IVR? Will I lose the opportunity to cross-sell / up-sell to my existing client base? Should I segment the offering according to my existing customer segmentation? Will I lose customers to other organisations who provide this channel if I do not? What functionality should I provide, if at all? Can my existing Identification and Verification processes support IVR?

¤ how should IVR be integrated with my other delivery channels? Should this be a discrete, stand-alone offering? Should it be provided in combination with customer service representatives?

¤ implementation strategies: what functionality should be provided on IVR and what should be provided by customer service representatives? Can I segment these offerings to retain my ability to cross-sell / up-sell? What clever nuances can I apply in the implementation to introduce new ways of cross-selling? How should I phase the introduction of this technology? Consistency of Identification and Verification across delivery channels?

...and many more. It is clear that there are many different strategies in this area, exemplified within the financial services vertical applications by the following implementations:

FirstDirect & Prudential Bank: do not provide any IVR, and have publicly committed not to do so, highlighting degraded customer service as the reason

National Westminster Bank: completely segment their offering with ActionLine, a stand-alone IVR facility completely separate from their pure CSR capability, Primeline

Barclays Bank: initial contact through IVR system, although opportunity at any point to speak to a customer service representative

Royal Bank of Scotland: enforced use of IVR up front giving the option to use either IVR or speak to a customer service representative to conduct transactions. Regardless of which option is selected, Identification and Verification is still enforced through IVR. name but a few. What can be learnt from this is that there is no one right answer, but there are certainly key success factors and characteristics of failure. At the very least an organisation should have a clearly defined and articulated strategy in this area.

In addition, should an organisation decide to adopt IVR technology, a key success factor is the effort devoted to developing the interactive application, including: choice of functionality, menu design, choice of voice, interaction with agents, choice and implementation of 'help' options, etc.

Associated Technologies
There are a number of associated technologies within IVR applications. The applicability of these is obviously dependent on both the organisation and industry:

¤ Audiotext, isolated digit speech recognition
¤ Touch tone (DTMF), continuous digit speech recognition
¤ Grunt detection / interrupt, limited whole word speech recognition
¤ Yes / No recognition, continuous speech recognition, involving so called 'natural language' speech recognition technology.

However, despite recent improvements in technology the characteristics of many current systems typically fall into the following categories:

¤ menu-based: prescriptive rather than reactive
¤ driven by technology. Motivation - quick fix to answer the telephone
¤ not used as a true business channel
¤ some reflect processes meaningless to customers
¤ little ergonomic design and limited usability testing
¤ some do a good, solid job, some are terrible...!

For more information, please refer to What We Can Offer for IVR systems.

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