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Tips for Maintaining Your IVR

February 13, 2012
By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

There’s a tendency for businesses to put a lot of effort into identifying a need for updated technology, determining what to buy, getting things set up, and then adopting an attitude of “set it and forget it.” Especially with complex communications systems, though, inattention inevitably leads to lackluster results.

Interactive voice response (IVR), for example, is a complex system used by many businesses and organizations to provide efficient customer service and support sales while keeping costs low.

A robust IVR solution might involve a variety of technologies pulled together into a sophisticated communications system: speech recognition algorithms, text-to-speech software, on-premises and off-site hardware, automatic call distribution, scripts, call flows, and XML-driven applications.

All of these components need initial setup, of course, but also monitoring to ensure they continue to function as intended and are adjusted when needed in response to changing conditions.

In a blog post on the topic, Madelyn Gengelbach, Senior Solutions Manager at inContact, compared IVRs to gardens, because both need regular tending to bear fruit. It’s not just a matter of watering, but keeping an eye out for pests and doing whatever is needed to increase productivity.

As with gardening, Gengelbach points out, a lot of energy is put into the initial IVR investment: envisioning what the system should look like and how it will function, setting goals for what you hope the technology will accomplish, choosing which solutions to buy, evaluating and implementing the most appropriate deployment options. But of course, it doesn’t end there—or at least, it shouldn’t.

Unfortunately, Gengelbach notes, IVR maintenance usually isn’t very thoughtful, focused or deliberate. Once the system is up and running, the job is perceived to be done.

“Often, the consequences of avoiding IVR maintenance are subtle,” Gengelbach says in the blog post, a factor that contributes to complacency. But, over time, those consequences do become more visible.

Some signs that your IVR needs maintenance include:

Agents are reading more and more standard messages to customers

Agents comment that they are frequently answering routine questions

There’s a gradual increase in transfers between queues

Fortunately, it doesn’t take a ton of effort to make adjustments to clear up these and other issues. Gengelbach recommends creating a routine for IVR maintenance involving three main tasks:

1. Review System Generated IVR Reports

This should be done every quarter so appropriate adjustments can be made based on call mix changes, where customers frequently drop out of the system, and other fluctuations. ‘

2. Call Into the IVR to Check Effectiveness

This should also be done once a quarter. Set a timer for 15 minutes, call the system and make every possible selection combination before the time runs out.

3. Make IVR Maintenance a Regular Staff Meeting Topic

During routine periodic planning or seasonal change-focused meetings, ask: Can we change anything in our IVR that will help customers and our business?

Gengelbach recommends delegating most aspects of routine IVR maintenance to high potential agents; it’s a way to make sure the tasks get done and empower staff at the same time.

Mae Kowalke is a TMCnet contributor. She is Manager of Stories at Neundorfer, Inc., a cleantech company in Northeast Ohio. She has more than 10 years experience in journalism, marketing and communications, and has a passion for new tech gadgets. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Chris DiMarco

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