Orchestrate Your Outsourced IVR Offering

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Whether you are contemplating outsourcing your IVR offering or have already done so but find it a challenge to manage, ensuring success is not a point-and-make-it-happen exercise.

In my current role, I have the pleasure of observing many different organizations’ deployments of outsourced speech-enabled IVRs. Having been on the delivery side for 10 years, it has been very enlightening to be on the customer side.

Most often, we see the classic command-and-control relationship between customers and their infrastructure partners (vendors) where the customer provides requirements in the form of what, when, and where. Sometimes customers issue commands on virtual cocktail napkins; others have cadres of project managers, application owners, and various IT and business managers involved.

Having a well-staffed and experienced team managing your outsourced IVRs increases the likelihood of good outcomes. However, even very professional command-and­control management structures eventually begin to break down and mistakes to occur. When call volumes are high, and/or the complexity of applications and routing are even moderate, these mistakes quickly snowball. This is the most common status of outsourced IVRs in scenarios where our customers ask for our help. Usually, a significant effort is required to correct the situation.

Business publications constantly cover the reasons why command-and-control methods break down, so we will not get into details here. In short, disparate organizations change at different rates of speed. Therefore, the song you started with breaks down when the band leader changes the tune or a new musician is brought in who cannot seem to follow the leader.

The most successful customers, we observe, follow this principle: Treat your entire infrastructure like a well-trained orchestra. Each performer has a distinct role, and every one of them must be up to the task of playing their piece. As the maestro, you, the customer, need to carefully choose your players and constantly listen to them to ensure that they are not getting lazy and not practicing. You should also have a backup player in the wings, ready to take over if your first chair player is unable to fulfill his role.

To extend the analogy, renowned orchestras exist due to strong conductors who carefully listen to their performers, and strong performers who listen to their compatriots while taking their lead from the maestro.

This means that your telecom provider, your outsourcing platform provider, your application management and business management and other team members all need to meet regularly in one setting to review performance and plan future offerings. Meeting with each vendor separately and trying to coordinate through command and control results in more effort expended in communication, more risk of miscommunication, and timing discrepancies. Imagine trying to listen to “The Nutcracker Suite” when every player practices separately, never meeting until the Big Performance. Moreover, doing so without first tuning as a group. Ouch!

One of our banking customers regularly meets with all of its vendors together, and the meetings are quite humdrum. Everyone is well aware of upcoming changes in detail, all buy into the coordination, and all risks are visible within the entire group.

Call volumes are staggering even in the banking industry; however, the lack of turbulence with this customer would be astounding to anyone who has not experienced an orchestrated IVR management offering. Note that its telecom and IVR vendors are well known and involved with other organizations that attempt to manage by command and control. Therefore, there is no magic vendor sauce. It is all about bringing your vendors together, treating them like an expensive yet experienced and well-practiced orchestra. When you move from a command-and-control to an orchestrated environment, it is beautiful music to your ears!

Try it by inviting all of your vendors in for a joint meeting. Ask for the proper representatives, those who actually deliver or manage delivery, and get a sense of whether you have the right players on your team. If they cannot play well together, it is likely time to get rid of that player who makes everyone else cringe. The most likely result, however, is that they will play well together—they were just looking for a strong maestro.

Kevin Brown is managing director at VoxPeritus, where he specializes in speech solutions and caller experience consulting. He has over 20 years of experience designing and delivering speech-enabled solutions on-premises and in hosted environments. You can reach him at kevin.brown@voxperitus.com.

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