Adding On More Features Interactive Voice Response

IVR rarely stands by itself — it’s the perfect integration technology for a whole host of voice and data applications. Add-on features like speech recognition, text-to-speech and fax-on-demand are becoming popular. It’s important to choose a system with open integration so you can always add these features.
Add a note hereIn narrowing your search down to the best vendor, look at the application you need, the services the company provides for support, and the image and reputation of the company.
Add a note hereAdding speech recognition is a time saver — especially when you have several prompts. A caller who knows what he wants to do can just say “claims department” and be connected. And as the Internet takes on a stronger role as a call center front-end, more and more companies will be offering access through all kinds of call center/computer telephony products. Some IVR vendors have already started.
Add a note herePerhaps recognizing that the speech front-end is going to be at least as important as the touch tone interface in years to come, speech and IVR vendors are making hasty arrangements to work together, at least in presenting their products in an integrated fashion to potential customers.
Add a note hereIntervoice-Brite is acting as VAR for Nuance’s speech recognition engine, for example. Nuance’s speech rec is good, and is used in some notable high-traffic applications. Brite sells into some of the same markets, with large-scale IVR systems for government, financial services and telecom companies.
Add a note hereCombining with Nuance allows them to offer the base platform for front-ending the call center without having to develop speech rec on their own. It gives their customers the ability to choose speech rec as one option in front of the center, among others, that can include telephony input, Web and other CTI-enabled connections.
Add a note hereIVR companies tend to be very good at connecting with other companies for complementary product offerings — recall that several years ago they were among the first call center vendors to start building Web and email hooks into their systems, at the application generator level. Not so that they could start selling Web apps, mind you, but so that their customers could build them for themselves, or connect third-party service systems to the end user.
Quick Tips
1.     Know Your Callers. To develop the best caller interface, look at the most common questions, comments and information your callers request. This should guide you in determining the types of inquiries you should let your IVR system handle. Getting a good handle on who your customers are and the reasons why they call can lead you toward an IVR system with applications specific to your needs.
2.     Use IVR as a way to handle an especially large volume of calls for special applications. If Monday morning is your busiest time, rather than adding staff, use IVR to handle the extra calls. Or, instead of staffing up for special promotions and offers that you know will heat up the phone lines, consider ways you can use IVR to handle the callers who don’t need to speak to a live agent.
3.     You should not overuse IVR or overprogram voice prompts. Think of the application as a tree with branches. Too many prompts at once will confuse callers, or by the time they get to “press 6 for X” they will have forgotten what one, two and three announced. Three or four prompts is enough. After callers press a corresponding number you can have another three or four menu prompts lead to more options based on their first selection.
4.     Always make sure that during business hours callers can press 0 to reach a live operator. They are, mostly, not stupid. They will try 0, and *, and #, and even pretend to have a rotary phone to avoid standing in the queue. Don’t treat them like they are a mass of cattle to be herded towards your destination. The call costs you next to nothing, until an agent gets involved. Give them something to do, some knowledge of what they have access to, and what they’ll need to provide when they finally do get to talk to someone.
5.     Don’t tell them to enter their account number or other information through the keypad unless you really, really intend to use it. Nothing makes people angrier, and makes you look more incompetent, than to have your agent ask them for something they just entered.

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