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Why the phone is as an opportunity not an enemy

By Mike BanbrookJuly 26, 2021

Although it’s unlikely to be intentional, one of the most common pitfalls for call centres is deflecting callers who have legitimate reasons for making contact via phone. So, when designing your IVR, it’s important to be sure that what you’re creating isn’t going to act as a barrier to your callers.

An in-depth study into call centre operations by McKinsey & Company explains that efforts to “reduce call volumes and costs may not pay off if customer experience isn’t central to the effort.” With this in mind, you should always start designing your IVR by putting yourself in callers’ shoes – imagining the reasons why they call and what they are likely to have done before picking up the phone.

Poor experiences on the phone come at a cost

The truth is many of your callers will already be treating the phone as a last resort. Finding solutions using self-help alternatives such as your website or a chatbot will nearly always be more convenient and faster than making a call. It’s not hard, then, to understand how frustrating it might be for callers who experience further delays on the phone by listening to targeted banners which either direct them to resources they’ve already explored or tell them information they probably already know.

Poor experiences on the phone, such as callers feeling unwelcome or ‘blocked’ from speaking with an agent, can come at a high price for businesses, even if it does look like operations are running efficiently on paper. While they can be damaging to reputation and affect sales, causing frustration for callers means agents spend more time on the phone trying to calm the situation before they can begin discussing their query and working on a resolution.

The phone is your opportunity to build customer relationships

It’s crucial to design your IVR with the mindset that every call should be treated as an opportunity to extend your relationship with customers – whether it be by helping them to get the answers they need, make decisions, or alerting them to other products or services that may be of interest. Your system needs to steer clear of trying to reduce call volumes with broad-brush alternatives in favour of finding the absolute truth behind your callers’ intentions and getting calls to the best possible place. So, how can it be done?

While it might sound counter-productive operationally, treating the phone as an opportunity is about equipping your call centre with the capability to handle more calls. Most importantly, this doesn’t mean hiring more agents to handle increasing call volumes, but rather, using intelligent technologies which can offer a wider range of appropriate outcomes without agent intervention.

Extending the range of appropriate outcomes for callers

Today, it’s possible to incorporate artificially intelligent speech recognition into your IVR menu using easy-to-install cloud-based solutions. In practice, this means you have a system that can automatically greet callers and understand their precise reasons for calling using their natural verbal response.

With your new front line being the simple question “How can we help?”, it opens a multitude of call handling options which are not always reliant on agents but are most appropriate for the different types of calls you receive. These might include targeted banners specific to any number of common queries, switching callers to a digital channel to receive visual data, resources, or information, or offering an unlimited number of self-serve options.

By embracing the right technology, you can change the narrative of customers feeling deflected and unwanted by call centres without placing any additional pressure on your resources. When designing and implementing your IVR, your objective should always be to deliver more refined interactions which focus on helping customers reach their resolutions faster while instilling greater trust and confidence in your business.

Read more in our Case Study that explores how Big W utilized AI-powered technology and call routing solutions to improve call handling time and drive customer satisfaction up.

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