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The Technology Behind Interactive Voice Response (IVR)


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There will always be a need for a live agent in the call center. But call centers that ignore IVR systems are missing out on an opportunity to save money and deliver more effi cient customer service. Call centers with especially high volume of calls see the most benefi t to the IVR system because it lightens the load on agents. And where every call has a cost, bringing IVR to the table helps to reduce that figure. Read how an IVR system can help your business.

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The Technology Behind Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

  2. 2. THE TECHNOLOGY BEHIND INTERACTIVEVOICE RESPONSE InteractiveVoice Response (IVR) technology has roots back to the mid-1930s when Bell Labs began experimenting with a device called a voder.The voder basically gave a voice to a robot with two basic sounds:A tone derived from a radio valve and a gas discharge tube. Decades of improvements have brought the industry to where it is today:An IVR that uses dual-tone multi- frequency signaling to allow humans to interact with computers. IVR systems utilize computer-telephone integrations with a software program that is the brain of the operation.When using an IVR system with a telephone’s keypad, each number on the pad is assigned a different frequency unique to that number.There are actually two tones being emitted, which can be nearly 600 Hz apart.The computer will have a telephony card or board that can interpret these tones. Voice response systems that are more advanced use a regular public switched telephone network or a voice over Internet Protocol (IP) network.The system also requires a TCP/IP network, for instance a standard Internet network. In addition, the system requires aVXML server, which is the go-between for the phone network and the internet network, serving as an interpreter so the IVR software and the callers can connect. TheVXML server will also contain the software that will control DTMF, voice, and text-to-speech recognition.The IVR system also requires an application, like Connect First offers with its call tracking and IVR solution.The application resides on the server and is written inVXML. Finally, there is the database that contains all the valid information that can be accessed by the IVR applications.Whether it’s bank account information, order tracking or movie times, the database will host the information that gets called up by the applications. WHY IVR MATTERS FOR THE CALL CENTER There will always be a need for a live agent in the call center. But call centers that ignore IVR systems are missing out on an opportunity to save money and deliver more efficient customer service. Call centers with especially high volume of calls see the most benefit to the IVR system because it lightens the load on agents.And where every call has a cost, bringing IVR to the table helps to reduce that figure. Call centers that have deployed IVR have found that it also improves workplace morale because agents no longer have to focus on the more mundane calls that are handled easily by the IVR system.The IVR system also helps to cut the workload, which reduces stress among all agents. Less workload also mean less staffing hours, which allows call center administrators to see a quick return on investment (ROI). The call center IVR can include an auto-attendant.The auto-attendant will utilize voice or touch-tone software that directs the caller to the right person or department in the call center. COST COMPARISON: WITH IVRVS.WITHOUT By reducing the reliance on live agents, call centers can drastically reduce their costs by utilizing IVR. Call centers have also found that customers’ calling experiences can be enhanced through the use of IVR.When used in conjunction with an automated call distribution system or a call router, IVR is an effective way to quickly route calls without using live agents. Companies that have deployed an IVR system experience increased customer satisfaction due to the seamless and consistent nature of the IVR self-service technology.Agents become more productive, which means companies are getting more for their money. According to a study by Nuance, IVR systems operate at about 1/12th the cost of a live agent in the call center.Agents are some of the most expensive aspects of the call center environment; therefore they should be focused on high-value calls rather than the simple requests for information.Agents tend to be paid an average of $22,000 a year, and the tools these agents use cost the company about $3,000 a year. Payroll taxes and benefits average around $8,800.Throw in turnover and other overhead costs and costs quickly mount to about $36,000 per year per agent.A live agent takes about 28,000 calls in a year, at a cost per call of around $1.30.This cost will vary from call center to call center, but using this as a workable average, the live agent costs can add up over time.
  3. 3. Companies that take on an IVR solution might experience the following scenario.The cost of ownership over a four-year period for a 72-port IVR system runs about $950,000, which includes maintenance and the initial system install.The system in this case can handle about 32,000 calls per port per year.That means the system as a whole is taking 2.3 million calls in a year, which breaks down to about $3,300 per port.The average call per port is 10 cents, about 12 times less than what it costs for a live agent to take the same calls.This scenario alone is powerful enough to consider the IVR cost analysis within the call center environment. SIMPLE IVR TO COMPLEX: WHAT FITS? Companies who get the most out of their IVR solution have kept it fairly simple and consistent.When the setup is too complex, the caller reacts negatively. Some situations call for a bit more complexity, yet don’t quite meet the standard for live agent interaction. In this situation it is best to keep the call flow simple by offering menu options that are limited to five choices. Call centers know what their most frequent request for information is, so they can make this common request the first choice on the menu. Careful consideration must be taken to make wise wording choices. Companies that have used specialized language that is borderline “legalese” have gotten negative reactions from callers.Another avenue to avoid frustration is to only use voice recognition when it is absolutely necessary. If the information needed to resolve an issue can’t be typed in on the keypad, the call center should opt for the more complex setup of voice recognition. Not everyone speaks with the same dialect, and sometimes the recognition engine doesn’t pick up what the caller is saying, whether it’s due to the connection or the caller’s tone. WHEN IVR ISN’T THE RIGHT CHANNEL CHOICE Customers who have encountered the IVR “black hole” have stumbled onto a IVR system that has been inadequately set up and don’t have the necessary content to guide a positive experience.That company might have considered going toward a different channel, such as web self-service, email or web chat. But it is also possible that the customer had an issue that simply could not be resolved using IVR because the issue was too complex. According to a survey by Corporate Executive Board (CEB), about 30 percent of customers said their issues were too complex to be solved by an IVR.About 70 percent are using IVR as a routing tool only, meaning they are using the menu to get to the party with whom they need to connect. Given this information, it would seem that most people interact with IVR to get to an agent/department with whom they can converse about their issue to come to a resolution. CEB also reports that when it comes to customer service, companies offer an average of three to four channels, including phone,Web, email, and IVR. CEB said the number of contacts it takes to resolve an issue using email is 40 percent higher than using phone.And it’s not always the way the channel is set up that makes it a less effective channel choice – sometimes it’s just a poor fit for the customer for that particular issue. The reasons companies are using IVR for customer surveys are similar to email and Web-based surveys: IVRs are quick and flexible. But IVR might be a poor channel choice if the survey is too complex and takes a long time to complete.As a rule, surveys longer than four questions should consider a different channel. CONNECT FIRST IVR: COMPLEX IVR Customers using Connect First IVR are able to provide advanced self-service and improve customer service through these enhanced services.They’re also lowering their costs by having more calls completed using the IVR. Using Connect First’s call tracking and IVR, companies can drill down on vital statistics and metrics that are of great importance to tracking call center performance.Through flexible routing and scheduling, inbound call flow is enhanced to a much more efficient end. Connect First also has a team of engineers that can help companies achieve low-cost IVR solutions through customized configuration and support.
  4. 4. The call routing and IVR solution from Connect First offers a number of powerful features: • Geographic call routing, which routes calls based on location; • Call recording, which helps supervisors to monitor calls for quality assurance; • Custom audio/ring tones that offer pre-recorded messages or ring tones; • Real-time reverse match for agents to get an idea of who they will be addressing before the line is picked up; • Real-time SOAP/Web service data transfers; • Integrated voicemail; • Real-time notifications for those times when agents miss a call or an email, an alert will be sent to them. CONCLUSION Companies continue to learn how to best use their IVR system to its full advantage.They’ve found out that a badly implemented IVR system can actually be counterproductive. Careful planning and best practice guidelines are a must.While some consumers have frustrating experiences with a poorly conducted IVR systems, a larger percentage are getting quick and easy service that results in them becoming return customers.The return on investment for the company is twofold – they are saving money on every call while increasing sales through more efficient customer service practices. Another consideration in choosing IVR is in regard to tough laws being handed down on call centers.Very soon, companies that have relied on call centers to make them profitable are going to have to find a way to stay on top despite FCC regulations regarding the way they do business. Companies can be fined thousands of dollars for contacting potential customers, even if they’ve previously done business with that person. But using IVR, if a person calls the toll free number associated with it, a company can call that person back without violating the law. IVR is not only essential in giving the customer what they want, maximizing revenues and giving live agents peace of mind, it’s also opening a window of opportunity to expand call lists and secure new customers. ABOUT CONNECT FIRST Connect First is an award-winning SaaS telecommunications and cloud contact center software provider that focuses on customer satisfaction and elegant hosted solutions. Connect First offers a robust platform, designed and supported by a team of highly experienced engineers, designers and business analysts, and backed with personalized in-house customer care. Solutions include Cloud Routing, Inbound ACD, Outbound Dialing, Call Tracking, InteractiveVoice Response (IVR),Voice Broadcast, Disaster Recovery, Predictive Dialer, Real-Time Telemetry, CDR Reporting, Live Agent Chat and more.Through a consultative approach with each customer interaction, Connect First builds customized solutions to meet the needs of a discerning customer base.