Automation was created to make your life easier, not harder. ATMs, IVRs, even vending machines exist for the purpose of enabling self-service – getting what you need for yourself easily without needing another person to help you.
Unfortunately, automation sometimes frustrates customers instead of helping them. Just look at your typical IVR, where pressing the wrong button or mispronouncing something can send you down a path that makes your day a little rainy-er. “Did you say cancel your flight?”… “No! Change flight.” “Cancelling your flight. Please reschedule.”
We know IVRs and phone trees have a bad rap — after all, it’s sort of counterintuitive if the money you’re apparently saving by using automation is ends up frustrating customers. But don’t be mistaken.
It’s too easy to think that customers just “hate automation.” That’s not true — what they hate is when they can’t get what they want, when and how they want it. For example, you might be forcing them to walk around with a phone glued to their head, while they might love you for offering the same automation over text message – so they could get on with their day.
Sure, IVRs are way less expensive than a call managed by a live agent ($0.15 vs $15) thanks to their automated nature, but where they’re really going to cost you is in the quality of your customer experience:
- According to a NICE survey, nearly 60% of customers try to bypass the automated phone system to speak with a live agent.
- The same survey found that 27% of customers get so frustrated that they hang up.
- Over 60% of customers are frustrated by waiting on hold for a long period of time.
- According to a 2011 study by JD Power and Associates, 93% of IVRs decreased overall phone satisfaction compared to talking directly with an agent.
The tool originally intended to cut costs and help customers faster has created more problems than it’s solved. But now customers don’t have to deal with all that phone tree drama. What if they could text your IVR?
The New and Improved IVR – The ITR
ITR is basically the enlightened era of IVR—a world where businesses get what they want while increasing customer satisfaction.
Sounds impossible, but it’s true. With ITR, businesses can:
- Increase cost savings. Since they’re automated, ITRs bring the same cost savings as IVRs, plus the additional value your business can quantify the increase in customer satisfaction. Talking with a live agent on the phone costs $15, while text chatting with an agent over a web interface costs only $2-5. Where the real savings come in is in the cost of the text channel vs. the voice channel, because some that percentage of calls still require a live agent.
- Faster time to market. With today’s tools, you can easily create, and iterate on customer ITR solutions, without expensive budgets or timelines. Save your IT and project resources for other projects – today you can easily make changes to your ITR or IVR solutions without their help.
- Gather more actionable data. By its nature, spoken word is harder to record than written word, which is why it can be harder to obtain good data and reporting for your IVR. With ITRs, however, you can gather all the data, easily: what words customers used, what flow they engaged in. The context and content of the conversation are recorded and reported back to you. Text messaging is highly reportable, and today’s tools make it easy to capture and report on all of your customer’s live or automated interactions via text message.
- Help customers faster. Customers want service, and they want it fast. Automation delivers that—since the responses are already programmed into the system, customers get responses in record time. In addition, ITR can also eliminate wait times because customers can start a conversation immediately. A study conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by OneReach found that 44% of customers would rather text an agent immediately than wait on hold.
- Engage customers on a channel they want to use. The same study mentioned above found that 64% of customers would prefer to use texting over voice for customer service. Research by Frost & Sullivan also found that automated text is preferred over IVR (including speech-based solutions) amongst Millennials and Gen-Yers. If your market is primarily young people (or most of America), texting is the way to go.
- Provide a flexible solution that works anywhere, anytime. When customers use the IVR, they might be in sound sensitive environment that makes it hard to hear prompts or exchange sensitive details, leading to them having to call back at another time. When they do get the chance to talk, they’re stuck on on hold. With ITR, your customers can use a solution that works where they are, when they want. Remember, background noise isn’t a factor with text, and neither is hold times: customers can solve their problems in any environment when it’s convenient for them. (ITR also comes with the added benefit of exchanging sensitive information without saying it out loud).
- Adapt to customers’ needs. One of the biggest complaints about IVR is that it doesn’t put customers in contact with live agents easily. But, as mentioned above, over 40% customers would rather text an agent immediately than wait on hold. With ITR, if customers want to immediately talk to an agent, they can easily switch from automation to a live agent with the push of a button. Plus, customer data is available across channels, so if they do need to switch from one channel to another, the context is still there.
There are quite a few companies out there doing a great job of using ITR (although they might not call it that). Pay By Phone is improving everyday experiences by making it easy to pay by text, and although the it’s not a very dynamic experience, OpenTable texts customers when their table is ready – which has increased customer satisfaction and decreased no-shows. In addition, Text4Baby, a non-profit organization, texts pregnant mothers tips about taking care of themselves and their babies during pregnancy.
All of these examples are either not interactive, or are interactive in a very limited way – but it’s a start!
In the past, businesses have used automation to cut costs and (inadvertently) wreck the customer experience. But that’s the past, and this is the present. It’s time for a more intelligent automated system, and it’s here with ITR.
After all, it’s really easy to create, iterate and get reporting for ITR. With systems like OneReach, you can get your ITR up and running in under 24 hours, with reporting packaged into it.
This Valentines Day, show your customers some love with ITR.
To learn more about your customers’ preference for texting, download the 2014 Harris Report here.
Photo from Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography.