(New York, NY): Financial institutions are experimenting with artificial intelligence and other breakthrough technologies, but today’s contact centers rely on something decidedly less high-tech: the interactive voice response system, or IVR.
The technology has long been derided as clunky and frustrating, and it hasn’t changed much since the 1980s when many companies first rolled it out. But even in the age of chatbots and virtual assistants, customers still call their bank when they have an issue, and most of those calls begin in the IVR.
“While more customers are using digital servicing options, the IVR is still a critical touch point,” said Kathy Castle, Senior Director of Auriemma’s Customer Service Roundtables, a set of benchmarking groups for senior executives. “Many banks have actually experienced flat or increasing call volumes, proving that digital consumers still call into the contact center.”
And as customers have come to expect information and service in real time, it’s no surprise that satisfaction with the decades-old technology has eroded, falling to an all-time low of 69% in 2017, according to data from Auriemma Roundtables. The reason is simple: while widely used, IVR technology has failed to keep up with the rising expectations of digital customers.
Here are four things banks can do to improve the IVR experience in 2018:
1) Streamline the authentication process. Few things are more frustrating than being asked to key in an account number, only to be asked for it again seconds later by a live agent. In the era of facial recognition, it’s time for the IVR to catch up. With voice biometrics, banks can make the authentication process all but invisible. To enroll, customers record a one-time voice “print” by repeating a series of voice prompts (some companies are making it even easier, capturing the customer’s voice during the phone conversation using free speech). Then, on future calls, the customer’s voice is used for authentication. No need to fumble with account numbers or PINs. And the benefits of biometric authentication are clear: Enhanced security, shorter call handle times, and improved customer experience.
2) Better predict the customer’s call reason. The majority of banks use or plan to use predictive servicing in the IVR. Typically, this means using basic account data – recent payment, late fee, or billing dispute activity – to predict the customer’s reason for calling. Now, banks are taking predictive servicing to the next level using omni-channel data. Having a view of contextually relevant information – such as pages the customer recently visited on the bank’s website – can enable more personalized service delivery. The bank can use this information to intelligently route the call, reducing call transfers and improving the customer experience in the process.
3) Give customers more self-service options. Certain IVR capabilities have become table stakes: Customers expect to be able to activate a card, make a payment, and review recent transactions in the IVR. Now, banks are upping the ante with more self-service options, allowing customers to order a replacement card, update account information, or request a credit line increase – all without leaving the IVR.
4) Think before naming your IVR. In the age of Alexa and Siri, it can be tempting to give technology a more human touch. But while naming your IVR can give the system personality, there are important considerations to weigh before doing so. Amazon and Apple have set a high bar for usability, so functionality and ease of use need to be top priorities before a name is attached to the underlying technology. And while a name can humanize the system, it won’t improve CSAT by itself. In fact, naming the IVR is likely to draw even more attention to any existing usability issues. The interface must be slick, upgraded, and thoroughly tested to align with the expectations of tech-savvy users.
“Customer demand for seamless, high-speed service won’t slow down,” Castle said. “Companies that continue to invest in the IVR in tandem with mobile and online capabilities will be far ahead of the competitive curve.”
About Auriemma’s Customer Service Roundtables
Auriemma runs a series of information sharing and benchmarking groups designed for executives and managers in contact center management and customer servicing. Spanning credit card, consumer banking, and auto lending, Auriemma Customer Service Roundtables combine executive meetings, industry-leading operational benchmarking, and peer group surveys to help participants identify tools, technologies, and strategies to offer best-in-class customer service at all touch points.