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Avoid the Phone Slam with a Finely Tuned IVR

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Experience is another positive factor. “Designers have learned more about using data to provide personalization to predict and simplify interactions without making the user feel like Big Brother is watching,” Underdahl explains. Rather than input long sequences with vague possibilities, systems ask customers simple questions that have straightforward answers. The solutions no longer repeatedly ask customers for personal information once they have already given it.

Testing and Tuning Evolves

Despite these improvements during the past decade, speech-enabled IVR systems must still be tweaked, but the way in which organizations test and tune their system is evolving. Traditionally, companies completed testing and tuning in a vacuum. Individual department managers who should have been working together often were not. Increasingly, businesses have figured out whom to put on their testing and tuning teams.

The list of participants is lengthy. Designers play a key role: They must sift through often competing voices and develop applications that work for a wide audience. They also need to set expectations and eliminate misunderstandings about how the application will work. The team needs input from other sources, such as the marketing department, which develops campaigns to interest consumers in the firm’s products and contact agents who work with customers whenever problems arise. Finally, testing needs to involve the consumer. Ideally, the business recruits actual clients for the testing. “Customers who have never used the system before are ideal,” LumenVox’s Miller says. If those folks cannot be found, the organization should work with individuals in a similar demographic.

Passing the Test

Next, the test scenarios need to be written in a way that does not lead the callers. Also, the test should be done in a facility that records the interaction so that everyone can see cues, like facial expressions. The department manager should attend usability testing to see the system in action and watch participants interact with it. Ideally, the organization has the time and money to interview the participants afterward, so strengths and weaknesses are identified and improvements made.

While businesses are designing, testing, and delivering more effective systems, a lot of work remains before solutions are perfect. Unfortunately, plenty of speech-enabled IVR solutions still stumble in major ways and make negative impressions on consumers. “It’s human nature to remember the poorly designed experiences; therefore, those are the ones that most users focus on and complain about,” Underdahl notes.

In some cases, system designs do not provide the customer with a way to back out of the IVR and get help from a contact center agent. What is particularly infuriating is when the system leaves the caller with no viable option and then hangs up on the person, according to West’s Goodwin.

Putting Best Practices in Place

Some best practices can help firms avoid building such systems. Businesses need to avoid the temptation of making too many changes at once. Enterprises usually collect a number of alterations and bundle them together into a new release. Collecting too many changes may cause problems. If new issues arise or old problems are solved, it may not be clear exactly what caused the change. By limiting the scope of the deliverables, a business is often better able to tell what actually worked and what did not.

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