Friday, June 16, 2017

Part of the growing pains of business expansion is deciding where to invest company resources and where to pull back. And these subtle push and pull movements can largely impact the growth trajectory of small businesses, either positively or negatively.

One such important decision affecting small businesses is when to use interactive voice response (IVR) vs. live agents. Unfortunately, this is not as easy as answering “yes” or “no.” And because it relates to customer happiness, a factor paramount to business growth, it requires a close assessment of several factors. 

Customer happiness is an important factor to consider when choosing between IVR and live agents.

Cost Savings

One of the primary reasons why companies use interactive voice response is to reduce costs. It can cost 100 times more to handle a live-agent call vs. an IVR inquiry. Also, scaling a customer service department involves hiring more personnel and adding new salaries to the budget.

But, saving money by using IVR shouldn’t come at the expense of poorly satisfied customers who aren’t getting their needs met. Your customers’ satisfaction is your top priority, so choose a solution based on what would meet their needs and keep them happy.

Here are some tips to help you decide when interactive voice response makes more sense and when paying for a live agent is worth the money.

When To Use IVR

Use interactive voice response when customers are asking routine inquiries. Some examples of these inquiries would be requests for bank account balances, business hours, store directions, recent payments, etc. These inquiries require no customer interaction, nor complex data collection. If customers are looking for a quick response, side with IVR so they can get rapid answers with fewer key presses.  

When To Use A Live Agent 

If a transaction is more complex and requires more customer input (sensitive data, proprietary information), use a live agent. If you know that a level of human intelligence is required to fulfill the customer’s request, forgo using interactive voice response and use a live agent instead.

Is Your Customer Experiencing Emotion?

Another factor to consider is the level of emotion customers could be experiencing when calling. Are they calling about fraud? A problem with a product? An issue with an employee? Any time there is an increased propensity for high emotions, route the call to a live agent who can calm the customer down and handle the situation appropriately. 

There is no substitute for friendly, calm live agents who can turn a negative situation into a positive experience for customers.

Another good practice is to make it easy for customers to transfer to a live agent automatically. Each customer will be different, and they may assess the severity of the call different than you. Providing access to a live agent with each call can eliminate potential customer frustration.

Pulling It All Together

To get this process started, begin with diving into your current customer inquiries. Research the reasons your customers call you and pull out the most common problems and questions, as these will be most important to your customers. Then, assess each scenario based on its complexity and level of customer emotion, as discussed. Continue to monitor the calls over time and adjust your approach, as needed, to ensure your customers remain taken care of.

Best of Both Worlds?

Combine IVR and live agents to save costs. For complex calls, use IVR for the first step of verification so customers can enter their details which will be sent to the live voice agent. This cuts down the employee’s time and creates a more efficient process.

Want to try our interactive voice response solutions? Check out our plans and pricing here. We offer a wide range of plans, starting with a free account, to suit your unique business needs.