A Spring Cleaning for Your IVR

Thinking about spring cleaning—out with the old and in with the new? You know: get rid of all those newspapers in the garage; plant fresh azaleas around the garden; update your IVR.

Maybe your IVR is just getting long in the tooth, with old style functionality and awkward interfaces. Maybe, you’ve outgrown its capacity or capabilities—it just doesn’t do what you want. Or maybe you’ve made a strategic decision, determining that it makes business sense to find better ways to offload your live agent call center. Your question is: what sort of move should you make—if you should make one at all?

A thumbnail sketch of the State of IVR might help you answer that.

Touch Tone: Press 1 for Billing

This is the basic IVR: Touch Tone only. Many companies start here. It’s a good solution for basic transactional interactions, such as checking the balance on a gift card.

Press or Say: Press or Say 1 for Billing

A simple next step is to move to Press or Say. Here, you offer customers the ability to use voice prompts to move the call along. It’s not the most flexible option. The grammars it uses have no more than the 10 numbers that correspond to the touchpad and that the IVR prompts you to say. But it’s a good way to a personal touch.

Directed Speech: Press 1 or Say Billing

Next up is Directed Speech. Now you move into saying names of things instead of just the corresponding touchpad numbers. This provides a much more personal experience. It’s more complex to implement, since the grammars have to include many more words beyond just the ten numbers on the keypad.

Natural Language: Tell Us in a Few Words

This is the most advanced, most personal method. It’s also the most time consuming and expensive. With Natural Language speech, callers can speak using their own words, and use their own vocabulary. (Did you know that USAN records and analyzes 30,000 calls to build grammars for all the potential responses that could be given to the same prompts?)

Advanced Directed Speech: If You Said Change Policy Press 1. If not, Press 2

This is a hybrid of Directed Speech and Natural Language Speech. Essentially, this is how IVRs handle those speech patterns that they don’t reliably recognize. If there are problems, the IVR lets Touch Tone take over.

Should You Spring into Action?

The bottom line is this: Let your customers decide which move is the right one for you, if any move is needed. How? Run the numbers. How many of your calls that start with IVR still end up in your agent’s laps, what types of calls are they, and what are they costing you? The answers there will help guide you to both the right IVR functionality, and the right investment level for you.

Editor’s Note: Get a more detailed explanation of IVR functionality in this white paper, Which IVR is Right for You?