There has been a great deal of discussion lately regarding the death of the contact center IVR. Do people still use IVRs? Has the role of IVR in the contact center been replaced with other channels? Is being crated up and snuck out in the midst of a rainy night all that’s left?
I don’t think so.
I believe that the modern IVR continues to hold a role in the way we interact with our customers. But the important thing is that it is not the only way, nor should we be using it (or indeed other channels) in the ways we often have in the past.
For a long time, the only way to get in touch with a company was via the telephone. As technology advanced and ‘self-service’ or ‘assisted service’ (where an agent could be involved) became available, the opportunity to deal with at least part of the interaction in an IVR became attractive to businesses for many reasons. The IVR became the ‘first-contact’ workhorse for a company.
The problem with this role was that it became easy to keep customers away from a contact center. The IVR became a moat protecting costly agent resources.
It was also tempting to try to do everything in the IVR – the old ‘if all you have is a hammer’ line of thinking. Unfortunately, this can often lead to using the hammer to repair your carburetor, which doesn’t end well for those involved.
So the IVR has become the ugly stepchild of the contact center, much maligned, despised, and blamed for the ills of the world.
Now fast forward to the current era. New and exciting channels have emerged. Web, SMS, and mobile provide excellent options for a customer to contact a company. These are exciting times, but we are in danger of rebuilding many of the silos that were torn down when proprietary IVR technology was replaced with standards-based VoiceXML IVR. Worse, the new channels are sometimes used – again – for ‘containment’, rather than being used to help the customer achieve their goal.
At Genesys, we often speak of ‘cross-channel conversations’, where we focus not only on an excellent customer experience while using a single channel, but while using multiple channels. A conversation might start on the web, transition to chat, and then to an agent call using video. Or a customer might place a call to an IVR, transition to an agent, and have follow-up notifications using SMS. Tying these different channels together using context from multiple sources – our knowledge of the customer, their relationship with us, their recent history, and their circumstances – allows Genesys to create and manage a cross-channel conversation.
The IVR will often be an important part of cross-channel conversations, driven by demographics, geography, and the needs of the customer interaction. But the IVR needs to work in concert with other channels as well. The Genesys Voice Platform standards-based IVR platform has been designed to support the Genesys Conversation Manager model of cross-channel conversations.
It is easy to create a poor customer experience on the most advanced smart phone on the planet – and an IVR can provide an excellent customer experience if you choose to provide it. Focus on excellence within a channel – including your IVR - and across channels as well. Offer your customer the choice, and they will use the channel that makes the most sense for them in a given situation and for them personally. The combination of interaction excellence with cross-channel conversation management lays the groundwork for an excellent customer experience, and customer service success regardless of the channel.