Using IVR to Make Savings from Self Service

IVR can provide significant benefits to customers by offering services around the clock, even on Bank Holidays. It can also provide new services that could never have been cost justified if using real people. For example, the Parcel Tracking service offered by Parcel Carriers, is a key service differentiator as well as a significant benefit to customers, and so is offered for free; however it also has the side benefit of removing the need for customers to phone call centre agents and ask when their parcel can be expected, thus providing a double benefit for the business.

Apart from benefiting customers, self service IVR benefits a business by avoiding the cost of agents spending minutes serving customers in person during the day, or manning the phones 24 hours a day to serve only a few calls overnight and at weekends.

A key benefit of self service IVR is to remove and automate the simple repetitive calls, allowing agents to handle the more interesting, varied and complex calls i.e. those requiring skills beyond the capability of a computer. Very often some of the simplest calls are also some of the most frequent and can take up a large portion of the agent’s time over the day.

In order to determine the benefits an IVR can bring to a Call Centre, you should:

  1. Create a list of each type of call handled by the agents.
  2. Count the number of calls of each type.
  3. Measure the average call duration of each type.
  4. Calculate the total call handling cost of each type of call.
  5. Calculate the total amount of profit associated with each type of call.
  6. Consider the customer impact of automating each service.
  7. Consider what additional services could improve the customer experience.

This analysis should give you a good idea of which calls should be considered for possible automation.

As an example let’s take a holiday company which primarily sells ski holidays.

Snow reports could be added as a menu option in order to add value to the product and increase customer loyalty, as well as sell advertising ancillary products.

The menu might be something like:

  • “To book a new holiday, please press 1”
  • “To talk about an existing booking, please press 2”
  • “To buy Travellers Cheques or Travel Insurance, please press 3”
  • “For snow reports, please press 4”

If the caller keys “4” and the CLID has been recognised they are then routed to an announcement giving snow reports for their booking. If the CLID has not been recognised the caller can be asked to input their booking reference, or if they do not have this to hand they might be given an alternative where the customer can spell the first six letters of the resort using their telephone keypads.

In all cases, each time the caller phones in for a free snow report they hear a menu reminding them about, and providing opportunities to buy, Travellers Cheques or Travel Insurance.

An alternative type of IVR interaction is where an automated process delays the need for a live call, when the agents are better utilised on other (high value) calls which should not be delayed.

An example could be that a request for insurance is taken by the IVR in the form of a “Voice Form”, where the IVR asks a series of questions, listening and waiting for the answer before asking the next question in the series. At a suitable time when the call centre is quiet, the agent can see the data entered into the Voice Form, can listen to any audio messages left in the Voice Form, and can type all the details into a CRM system before phoning the customer to complete the transaction, where they may for example ask for the customer’s credit card number to pay for the insurance.

Using IVR to take credit card payments can massively reduce the cost to a company of becoming PCI DSS compliant. Visa, Amex and the other 40 member of the Payment Card Industry (PCI) have announced that all companies wishing to continue taking payment via their credit cards will need to become compliant with their tough new data security standard (PCI DSS) or face increased charges and risks of fines. Using a PCI DSS compliant IVR from NewVoiceMedia not only avoids that cost but also avoids any need for call centre agents to know the credit card numbers of customers, thus avoiding all of the various temptations for fraud which otherwise occur. One of our customers believes they have saved over £1m per annum by using our IVR to make them PCI compliant.

IVR can route and prioritise calls for humans, it can collect data such as customer satisfaction questionnaires. It can provide information which is static or variable per customer, and provide services which might have been otherwise uneconomic to provide. It can advertise profitable services and it can delay calls to reduce peaks in live traffic and create filler work. It can avoid the cost of becoming PCI compliant and it can avoid the risk of credit card fraud in the Call Centre. It can provide an excellent 24 hour sub set of services as an alternative to keeping the call centre open over night.

It can also provide an excellent back up of unlimited resource for finite enquiries during periods of unexpectedly high demand on the human call centre agents, such as a disaster. It can also provide a triage service during periods of low agent staffing or extreme calling patterns, helping decide which calls get answered and in which order.

Richard Pickering
Richard Pickering

Richard co-founded NewVoiceMedia with Ashley in 2000. Previously to that he was part of the Genesys Labs start-up that was sold to Alcatel for $1.5bn. Richard has over 30 years exprience working in call centre technology markets, including 24 years at BT where he designed many of thier internal call centres. Richard has considerable experience applying call centre technology to solve business problems and plans to share his thoughts on these and other issues through his blog.

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