Self-Service Can't Deliver by Itself

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Typically, when organizations create speech-enabled self-service applications, their primary focus is on helping callers reach their goal and terminate the call in the IVR. Designating self-service success as a primary goal makes sense for return on investment reasons, if nothing more.

Post-implementation, focus on the same goal continues through monitoring of successful versus unsuccessful calls via various means. Sometimes this process continues in perpetuity across all self-service applications.

In some cases, the organization will concede that further progress cannot be made with the existing applications, so it moves on to create new self-service applications. Unfortunately, this often creates many applications, each focused on a smaller volume of calls.

If you did not react to the previous sentence, reread it and consider why it is a major problem. Many organizations do not proactively anticipate the problem, and often don't understand the root cause, even after they feel its negative effects. The answer is that increasing the amount of applications expands the size and complexity of your menu, making it less likely that callers will interact with it. This is true whether they are self-service, authentication, or routing applications. Furthermore, natural language call steering is not a panacea for most IVRs for several reasons, including cost and caller dissatisfaction with a less-than-perfect call steering deployment.

Here is an alternative that works extremely well: Consider caller experience in total, rather than solely attempting to raise successful completion rates. This course of action includes what happens to callers if they choose to transfer or the application transfers them to a customer service representative (CSR).

To understand why this is critical, look at it from your personal life as a consumer. Why would you ever use a self-service (or any IVR) application again after having invested your time inputting authentication details and perhaps other information and then being required to repeat all of that information to a CSR?

Many major analysts covering contact center services list repeating information in the top three complaints, along with long queue times and complex IVR menus. We have just discussed why too many organizations have complex menus. The reason behind long queue times should be self-evident to everyone in the contact center industry. The most quoted reason behind organizations' lack of information sharing between IVRs and CSRs is cost. Low-cost alternatives such as a "whisper" from the IVR to the CSR become less viable due to high queue times that increase IVR port requirements, and they raise telecom costs in a hosted and/or multisite contact center environment.

Add the two other major self-service channels that have been reducing call volumes, and the problem becomes much larger. Internet sites and mobile applications offer a tremendous opportunity to reduce call volumes and provide a great customer experience. Again, consider your consumer experience using either channel; it is frustrating to spend your time trying to help yourself, only to have to repeat yourself to a CSR when the self-service channel cannot complete the transaction.

Several hosted solutions address the lack of information passed from IVRs, mobile applications. and Web sites to CSRs. Furthermore, when customers need to speak with a CSR while using a mobile or a Web self-service application, the ability to eliminate all IVR menus will ensure that those customers appreciate that touch point as an excellent customer experience. Add the ability to eliminate queue hold times and your speech-enabled self-service channels will entice your customers to use them every time they need the information or action supplied by those channels.

Whether your speech-enabled IVR and supporting telephony are premises-based or hosted, the solutions provided by companies like Fonolo, Jacada, LucyPhone, or Radish should improve your caller experience to the point where your customers will continue to use your IVR, mobile applications, and Web site before jumping to a CSR. The speed to deploy and low cost will have a higher ROI than solely focusing on increasing your IVR applications containment rate while enhancing your caller experience.

Kevin Brown is managing director at VoxPeritus, where he specializes in speech solutions and caller experience consulting. He has 20 years of experience designing and delivering speech-enabled solutions in premise and hosted environments. He can be reached at kevincbrown@voxperitus.com.

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