Call center IVR and Web-enabled IVR buying tips

Call center IVR and Web-enabled IVR buying tips

Wingard, Carol

When evaluating IVR solutions, whether basic, Web-enabled or within a fully integrated inbound/outbound call center – and when choosing an IVR supplier buyers need to focus on these key criteria:

Maximizing customer use of the system (effective call flow and userfriendliness are key to the effectiveness of an IVR system), and;

Simplifying and making life easier for call center managers and the organization’s telecom and IS departments.

For the above to occur, the following must be provided by an IVR supplier:

A broad choice of host database, legacy systems and device connectivity options. Connectivity between the IVR solution and every other element between it and your customers’ access device is critical. Look for a supplier that has already written the interfaces to your legacy systems and whatever access device you plan to enable your customers to use. Time and other valuable resources will be saved.

Industry-specific partnerships. If your organization plans to integrate the IVR solution with industry-specific application packages, determine whether or not the supplier has an existing relationship with the applications provider. If so, chances are the interface between the IVR solution and the application has already been written. This will streamline the implementation and deployment process while significantly raising the probability of success.

A comprehensive graphical user interface (GUI)-based applications development tool. Whether your organization plans to develop, test and deploy its IVR applications in-house or outsource the project to the IVR supplier or a third party, the development tool is a critical element. A graphical approach to building call flows can save significant time throughout the entire development, test, review and approval, and subsequent modification process. Look for a solution that has been evaluated by at least one of the major industry publications.

Applications expertise. The application is the key to a successful IVR implementation when success is defined by the level of customer utilization. Your customers are more likely to choose to use your IVR system when the call flow logic is sound, the length of menu choices is short, and the explanations are clear. The more complex the application – or applications – the more likely the possibility that your organization will need assistance from the IVR supplier for application development and/or subsequent modification. Here again, experience is key. Ask your IVR suppliers how many applications they’ve deployed, the industries they represent and number of people involved in their applications area.

A broad range of speech recognition capabilities fully integrated in the system. Adding the right speech recognition technology, or combination of technologies, can significantly increase customer use of your IVR services, resulting in a greater number of calls processed, improved customer service levels and reduced overall call center operational cost. Since the type of speech recognition required will be dictated by the nature of your planned application(s), make certain your IVR supplier can demonstrate a proven track record with today’s most advanced technologies.

Availability of enabling technologies, such as text-to-speech, fax, etc., as well computer-telephony integration (CTI) and outbound dialing capabilities. Other enabling technologies further automate tasks which, without them, would require CSR invention to complete. With today’s costs of training and retaining skilled CSRs, the economic incentive to automate is compelling. Beyond a well-outfitted IVR is a solution that exploits the advantages of CTI, giving agents a plethora of customer information to further accelerate and improve the customer service function. Finally, consider the possibility of growing your IVR solution to include outbound campaigns, further improv-, ing agent productivity. Unless you are resigned to inbound call automation only, look to suppliers that offer the ability to grow their IVR system to a CTI-enabled and blended inbound/outbound call processing solution.

Applications and technical support. Regardless of whether your organization intends to develop and maintain applications and the technical aspects of the system over the years to come, assistance from the IVR solution provider will invariably be required. Ideally, you should expect your IVR vendor to offer a number of service levels, from help desk to full, around-the-clock availability.

If your organization plans to be around in the long run, go with a solutions provider that has demonstrated its staying power with a proven track record.

Carol Wingard is vice president of marketing for Dallas-based InterVoice, Inc., where she is responsible for developing the marketing strategy for the company’s call center and networkbased enhanced service solutions. InterVoice, Inc. is an ISO 9001 certified company and a leading global supplier of automated call processing systems.

Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Mar 1999

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