Customer retention is the prize, the battlefield? Contact points. Every business fights in a no-holds-barred competition to improve retention, increase sales and improve growth. It’s become clear that you have to focus on CX to win and keep customers. Having a great quality product is…well, great. But on its own just doesn’t quite cut it anymore. And with investments going into newer technologies like live chat, chatbots, and AI, the existing tech, like Interactive Voice Response, IVR, and other telephony systems, are left behind. Would it surprise you to know that only 14% of companies intend an IVR upgrade in the next 12 months (Contact babel 2019), even though the proportion of customer interaction over the phone has increased to 67% (Contact Babel 2019).
Customers love to talk. Whether it’s to each other or your business, ‘Customer Thermometer’, an online customer satisfaction statistical analysis website - has quoted Zendesk, stating that 95% of customers will tell others about a bad experience. You see this all the time, you hear about it, and you read about it – big and small companies alike, being slated on social media. This is part of why having a great customer experience is so important. Word of mouth is still such a big player in the business development game, and having a reputation for poor customer service can ruin any planned growth you have…or worse. So, while investment in new tech is excellent, you’re only as good as your worst service. Think of it like this…You’re re-modelling your house, you give it a great new kitchen, a fantastic bathroom, a whole new paint job, you make the stairs better, you make living room more comfortable…but, you leave the entrance hall and front door the same. They still work. They do alright. So when it comes to getting people in your brand new house, you show them pictures of the inside – ‘look at my flashy new kitchen’, they think it’s great. But when they visit – the front door turns them away, the shabby entrance hall puts them off, the great pics…just aren’t enough. IVR is still one of the primary contact points, and if you don’t take good care of it – no matter how great your new website great - it’ll let you down.
It’s commonly known that people hate IVR. Well sort of. Nancy Jamison, a principal analyst and author of the Executive Summary, produced by Frost & Sullivan, says, “People don’t hate IVR, they just hate bad IVR.” And this is so true; being stuck on the phone with a poorly constructed, convoluted and wordy IVR is the worst. It’s enough to put you off. No matter how great all your other channels are, your IVR will let you down. Unless you improve it, this will be an unavoidable fact, and while more and more people are using digital channels, at some point, they will call you. Research shows that 58% of calls result from poor service or failure on another contact channel. Generally, customers will go online first, if that fails they’ll use another form of self-service, if they’re an existing customer and aren’t able to find what they need through this channel, they’ll call. But if they’re a potential customer, then you’ve more than likely already lost new business. When they do call, it’ll be plagued with negative attitudes – if the IVR fails too, then you’ve potentially lost a customer (Contact babel 2019).
IVR is generally considered old school tech, it’s just not cool anymore. But the improvements in available tech are incredible. No more is it just simple touch-tone options. With the development of speech recognition, now you can have a fully interactive consumer experience…the IVR talks back! And dynamic responses allow you to create unique experiences for each customer; CRM’s know when a caller has gone online, they know when a caller has used live chat, when they’ve made an order or booking; “Innovation has changed old school to new school.” (Jamison, N 2015). The ability to manage, monitor and report on customer interaction is invaluable, and IVR plays a huge role in this. If you’re worried about huge costs…don’t be – cloud-based systems are out there, and they’re cheaper than you might think; they replace the old clunky in-office tech and connect straight through your existing internet connection – which means no more maintenance. Cloud-based solutions make it so much easier to report and monitor consumer interaction as well, which help create an awesome customer experience; “The bottom line: IVR must be integrated into the rest of the company’s channel offerings and provide a consistent, cohesive experience with other channels as well.” (Frost & Sullivan, 2014). With the focus primarily on alternative contact channels and improvement of IVR falling behind – this cohesive experience is lost.
What does a customer want, though? According to Microsoft, via Customer Thermometer, “Around the globe, 96% of consumers say customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty” (Customerthermometer.com – accessed Jan 2020). That’s a significant figure and shows that all consumers want is excellent customer service. And, when they receive it, your business will be rewarded. According to research conducted by Salesforce, “67% of customers say they’ll pay more for a great experience” (Salesforce 2020). This is the true impact of good service.
One of the biggest steps towards providing this is improving your IVR. Even if you don’t have the budget to upgrade your tech, there’s still an option – re-write and re-brand the IVR experience, fresh new recordings, brand matched voice and music, with scripting that’s clear, concise and suits your brand image. This gives the impression of a brand-new front door without the cost of a complete replacement.
So there you have it. IVR, despite popular belief, is still the biggest contact point for customers - and many members of the older demographic prefer it over self-service or online. But while generally, more and more people are using digital channels as their first point of contact, a lot of customer queries are more complex – they generally find it easier and quicker to get the answers they need over the phone. This means having a consistent on-brand voice channel is all the more important. And creating an omnichannel experience for your customers will only benefit your business, not only through data collection but in the brand image – remember that word of mouth part? Customers don’t just talk about the bad bits; if they’ve had a great experience…they’ll talk about that too.
So while you are remodelling your house, don’t forget the front door.