The largest complaints callers have with regards to call centers is waiting on hold for an excessive period of time or navigating through an endless phone menu with hard-to-follow/lengthy prompts. In fact, social media is filled with sites that consumers can voice their criticisms: On hold with.
This problem is further compounded by organizations who have IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and ACD (Automated Call Distribution) technologies but only use the ACD component in combination with simple rules to route calls to agents. These shortcuts are often because of the costs or challenges associated with deploying.
Inevitably delivering the bare minimum queuing with no self-service results in overloaded agents, angry consumers and excessive queue times.
Self-service to the rescue
Self-service can refer to a variety of solutions.
- Self-directed calls, where the caller navigates through a series of menus to triage the calls, replicating the functions of a receptionist.
- Integrating with a company's back-end systems, which allows callers to obtain account information, make purchases, pay invoices, and more.
- ASR (Automated Speech Recognition) provides a richer experience - it can flatten menus and allow for a more complex dialog interaction. However, this solution can be significantly more expensive to deploy and maintain.
The advantages of self-service
- Reduces staffing overhead,
- Allows more efficient allocation of resources,
- Enables an organization to extend its operating hours 24x7x365,
- Handles larger volumes of calls (reduced queue time means telephony resources are devoted to larger volumes of calls that require human intervention),
- Provides a consistent user experience with proper corporate branding.
Caller experience is paramount with self-service
- Menus need to be well-designed, intuitive and structured so as not to overload callers with options (the typical cognitive load a person can handle is 3-5 tokens - so limiting menu options to 5 or fewer is necessary).
- Navigation rules need to be clear and consistent to reduce caller frustration (for example, * to go to the previous menu, # to repeat a menu).
- Proper error handling, avoiding black holes, are also essential to ensure that this experience is painless and that the caller can achieve their objectives with a minimum amount of interaction and fuss.
Analytics plays a key role
Paying attention to how callers navigate through the IVR may identify 'hot spot' menu items that would be best for a higher-level menu. Analyzing where callers drop off, where they hang up, where they zero-out (default 'go to the operator' option), allows proper adjustment of a system. Some organizations debate whether to allow zero-outs at all; there can be legitimate reasons not to do so - but to eliminate it will certainly lead to caller dissatisfaction.
What about callers who just want to go directly to the operator?
Many businesses try to incentivize callers who do not want to stay in the self-service IVR. For example, informing the caller of a wait time, and offering to reduce the wait time if they provide some information, such as an account number, or select a business unit that they want to speak with, will often get callers to stay in the self-service queue.
Overall, there are enormous advantages to deploying self-service solutions, especially for a company that has acquired the technology but is not using it to its fullest potential. All it takes is proper business analysis to understand the requirements and know-how of an IVR specialist who understands the best practices of how to design and build a successful self-service solution. What callers like, ultimately, is achieving their objectives quickly, and efficiently.
Need some help or advice with Self-Service, let us know. We won’t keep you on hold!
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