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Improving the Customer Experience with IVR Analytics

Streamline the service process for end-to-end benefits.
By Donna Fluss - Posted Nov 10, 2012
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Interactive voice response (IVR) analytics is a highly effective end-to-end call assessment solution that should be part of every contact center's customer experience strategy. IVR analytics contributes to the success and profitability of companies of all sizes by helping to reduce costs, increase and enhance self-service options, improve first contact resolution, and boost customer satisfaction by providing a better overall customer experience.

Customer Experience Analytics

IVR analytics is an essential element of customer experience analytics (CEA). DMG defines CEA as an analytical solution that captures, measures, analyzes, and evaluates the quality and outcome of the customer experience throughout all phases of the interaction for all customer-facing touchpoints, channels, and activities. This includes IVR and Web self-service, live agent and fulfillment or follow-up activities, and all actions initiated by the customer or agent on the customer's behalf.

The goal of CEA is to identify and understand how to better serve each and every customer while determining ways to optimize the use of all channels and streamline the service process.

IVR analytics systematically captures, tracks, and evaluates the "whole call" caller experience and leverages the embedded information to improve the overall customer experience across all channels, both automated and live agent. This includes evaluating the caller's experience during the entire call, in granular detail, from the initial contact, which is often with the IVR, through resolution, which may involve interaction with the IVR or an agent. The output of this analysis is used to do the following:

1. Identify call reasons.

2. Identify what happened in each call (call outcomes).

3. Assess the total caller experience, including the degree of customer frustration and effort involved in getting the issue addressed.

4. Identify new automation opportunities.

5. Identify activities that prevent or impede an organization's ability to deliver outstanding service.

Improving Containment Rates

The number-one purpose of IVRs is to automate the handling of calls so that customers do not need the assistance of live agents. Consequently, the primary goal of IVR analytics solutions is to improve IVR containment rates. These solutions address this goal by identifying the root cause of common drop-off points, misunderstood menus and prompts, or customer reticence to even attempt IVR usage. Once the issues are understood, an organization can make enhancements to its IVR solution to make it easier for customers to succeed in using the self-service solution. However, it's important to point out that the goal of IVR analytics is to identify opportunities to improve these solutions so that they are easier to use, not to compel customers to use an IVR. Forcing customers into an IVR is blatantly poor service and does not increase IVR utilization rates. In fact, it is likely to thwart efforts to encourage IVR usage, and will result in a bad customer experience and negative PR.

Understanding Caller Behavior and Intent

The more advanced IVR analytics solutions go beyond providing the details of each step of the customer's journey through the IVR, and look at how agents handled the call, if applicable. By reviewing the agent-handled portion of a call, these solutions can identify why customers initiate contact with a company, as well as the reasons callers elect to transfer out of the IVR to an agent. This enables these solutions to identify where there were breakdowns in the IVR call handling process. Once these fault points are identified, managers can figure out ways to fix the IVR application so that it does a better job of fully resolving customers' issues.

IVR and CEA solutions are aimed at identifying and eliminating activities that prevent or impede an organization from delivering outstanding service. The process involves analyzing the whole call, from dial to hang-up, and reconstructing what the customer experienced each step of the way. Aggregating and examining the data enables identification of customer confusion, bottlenecks, and critical points of failure, which can then be rectified to improve the overall customer experience. When customers have a good experience in an IVR, they will likely be willing to use the IVR again for the same function, and also be amenable to trying out additional options.

IVR Analytics' Competitive Landscape

Currently, only three vendors offer IVR analytics solutions that can integrate with any third-party or homegrown IVR solution: BBN Avoke, ClickFox, and Nuance.

BBN uses a whole-call recording approach to capture the entire caller experience, from the initial contact through the IVR, to agents, as well as all transfers. Captured audio files are loaded into the AVOKE application, where they are analyzed. The findings are delivered to users in reports and dashboards. Analysts can drill down through the data to the underlying audio to identify the root cause of IVR issues.

ClickFox ingests raw data logs from a variety of third-party systems, including IVRs. It uses a behavioral pattern recognition engine to build a path visualization layer that displays the customer's task flow for every transaction. The system creates a granular model that shows the actual paths customers follow for every self-service and live interaction.

Nuance records a predefined percentage of calls, end-to-end, including any IVR interaction and agent conversation, and follows the call through all internal and external transfers until it terminates. The company creates a full text transcript and performs a natural language analysis of all captured calls. This allows Nuance Voice Insight to systemically group calls by caller intent/category so that this information can be further analyzed.

Additionally, many IVR vendors offer an optimization service to assist their clients in increasing their automation rates. Clients typically pay an incremental fee for this service, which is made available only to their own customers. There are also independent consulting firms that work with organizations to assist in optimizing and enhancing their IVR applications without investing in additional technology.

There is no longer any excuse for an organization to use a poorly designed IVR. The underlying technology is excellent, and there are well-established best practices and plenty of experts available to help companies build highly effective IVR scripts and voice user interfaces (VUIs). Unfortunately, too many companies have been unwilling to make the investments needed to enhance their IVRs; DMG estimates that the majority of IVR scripts and VUIs have not been refreshed in more than three years. As a result, IVRs continue to frustrate and anger callers, instead of delivering the pleasant experience that they are capable of providing. DMG Consulting encourages every IVR user, particularly those who have not refreshed their interfaces in the past three years, to invest in an IVR optimization initiative. Sure, it will cost a few dollars, but if the process is done well, it will pay for itself in as little as three to six months.


Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.


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