See What I'm Talking About?: The Future of Visual IVR

by guest blogger Laura Zegar (@LauraKZegar)

“Sorry, I didn’t understand you. Let’s try this a different way.”

Think about the last time you had a less than stellar interactive voice response (IVR) experience. You probably heard something like this phrase, didn’t you?

So do most customers, and it’s the number one reason so many actively dislike IVRs. Chances are good the IVR will misunderstand, route them to the incorrect agent or, worst of all, both.

A typical experience: Customer Bob dials his Internet provider’s IVR from his mobile phone to pay his bill. He is immediately greeted by a slew of menu options and misses the billing option the first time. After fumbling on his phone to bring up the keypad and select the “repeat main menu” option, he decides to speak into the IVR for the remainder of his call. He says “Billing” into the phone when he hears the appropriate menu option.

And then it starts. “Sorry, I didn’t understand you. Please try again,” the IVR replies. Bob repeats his selection and hears “Sorry. I still didn’t understand you. Let’s try this a different way. Please key in your selection.” Frustrated, Bob ignores the IVR’s instructions and snaps “Agent!” into the phone.

“OK,” the IVR replies cheerfully, oblivious to Bob’s growing irritation. “Tell me what you’re calling about.” The IVR repeats the same menu prompts.

“[Expletive]! AGENT!” Bob yells desperately.

The IVR finally relents and transfers him to a customer service agent. Bob is so annoyed by the experience that he vows never to call his provider again. With a customer experience like that, who can blame him?

Enter visual IVR.

Designed to eliminate customer experiences like Bob’s, visual IVR is exactly what it sounds like. Using a mobile app or website, customers complete typical self-service IVR transactions or connect to an agent via visual prompts instead of speaking or keying in their choices into a telephone IVR.

If, for example, Customer Mary wants to pay her wireless bill, she can simply access the mobile app and click the “Pay Bill” menu option. She can enter and visually verify her authentication data, then follow the appropriate prompts to enter her payment information, date and amount. Because Mary quickly comprehends her available options in the visual IVR, she is more likely to successfully complete her self-service transaction instead of abandoning it or requesting agent assistance.

If she has additional questions after her transaction, she can easily initiate a call or chat with the correct agent. Once connected, the agent receives Mary’s customer and account information, transaction and call history, and reason for her call. Mary does not need to re-authenticate or restate her inquiry.

She can also enter complex or sensitive information into the visual IVR, rather than speaking it, to ensure privacy and accuracy.

To provide Mary with additional visual support, the agent can push documents (including maps, PDFs, support documents, photos, etc.) through the IVR to her. If, for example, she requests a technical support agent to troubleshoot an issue, the technician can provide visual aids to quickly educate her. Mary can save the documents on her phone for future reference without writing anything down.

Overall, a great customer experience for Mary.

But she’s not the only one who benefits. Companies who adopt visual IVRs also reap significant rewards.

Efficient call handling is a clear win. Because visual IVRs provide customer interactions and data at a glance, agents spend less time verifying, explaining or searching during calls. Agents can quickly push information to the customer to address complex inquiries. And if a transfer is required, agents can view the call history and route the customer directly to another agent or supervisor

As a result, agent handle time (AHT) decreases while first call resolution (FCR) increases. Agents accomplish more in less time on the phone while reducing repeat callbacks.

Another benefit is rich, complex customer insight. Companies can use visual IVR data to track customer interactions from start to finish and use this information to better understand how customers use and experience the IVR. Traditional IVR reporting lends visibility to call center metrics, but doesn’t always provide a clear picture of the customer’s full IVR experience.

With visual IVR, companies can see exactly where a customer falters or initiates an agent interaction, then use this data to improve common customer pain points or inquiries. At a micro level, they can modify IVR scripts and flow to create a more nimble customer experience and further improve metrics. Meanwhile, at the macro level, companies can translate these additional layers of customer insight into their overall customer experience strategy, addressing IVR, call handling procedures, agent experience and customer interactions all at once.

The result? Everyone wins.

Companies offer a seamless, efficient and tailored customer experience, while customers resolve their inquiry instead of struggling to reach an agent or repeating themselves. The agent and customer quickly understand each other and work together for resolution.

Bottom line: Visual IVR is the ideal method for today’s multichannel customers to quickly, painlessly interact with a company or its agents via one mobile access point. Watch as more companies adopt this technology into innovative and unique customer experience strategies.

Oh, one more thing.

Remember our friend Customer Bob?  He recently switched Internet providers to one with visual IVR capabilities.

He is beyond pleased that he no longer needs to scream “AGENT!” into the phone just to reach one.