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Amplifying Customer Satisfaction: The Evolution of Voice Channels in Modern Customer Service

Customer satisfaction is a key indicator of business success, but how can it be achieved in the modern era of customer service? The proliferation of digital channels in customer support, such as chatbots, email, and social media, may lead companies to question the necessity of their voice communication channel, seeing it as an outdated and costly option. However, this may be a mistake, as voice channels still play a vital role in customer care and can offer significant benefits for both customers and businesses. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of voice communication alongside digital channels and propose hybrid approaches that maximize customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. 

The Value and Challenges of Voice Communication in Customer Service 

It’s no surprise many customers prefer speaking to a live agent over the phone when encountering complex issues, often favoring this channel over chat, messaging, and email communication alternatives. Voice communication allows for a more personal and empathetic interaction, which can help resolve issues faster and build trust and loyalty. Voice communication also enables customers to express their emotions and nuances better than text-based channels, reducing frustration and misunderstanding. 

However, voice communication is not without its challenges. Many businesses find maintaining a large staff of trained agents to be time-consuming and expensive, especially during peak hours or seasons. Moreover, voice communication may not always be the best option for certain types of inquiries, such as simple transactions or information requests, which may be handled more efficiently by digital channels. 

In their drive to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, companies may view their contact centers as cost centers rather than revenue generators, leading them to prioritize cost-cutting measures in this area. However, rushing to make major changes to voice communication channels in the pursuit of cost savings may ultimately jeopardize customer satisfaction. Instead, businesses should consider hybrid approaches that leverage the strengths of both traditional voice channels and digital alternatives. By striking a balance between efficiency and customer experience, businesses can better meet the needs and preferences of their customers while optimizing operational costs. 

Enhancing Customer Service with Visual IVR 

One example of such a hybrid approach is Visual IVR, which allows customers to use their smartphone screens to interact with an IVR system, rather than relying solely on voice prompts. This can reduce call duration and improve customer satisfaction by providing more options and clarity. Visual IVR can also enable customers to switch between voice and digital channels as needed, depending on their preference and the nature of their inquiry. For instance, a customer can start a chat session with a bot and then request a callback from a live agent if the issue is not resolved. 

Transforming Customer Interactions with Conversational AI 

Another such hybrid approach is Conversational AI, which uses natural language processing and machine learning to understand and respond to customer queries in a human-like way. Conversational AI can handle both voice and text inputs and outputs, and it can provide personalized and contextual responses based on the customer’s profile, history, and preferences. Conversational AI can also escalate complex or sensitive issues to a live agent when necessary, ensuring a smooth handover and continuity of service. 

Optimizing Customer Service Operations with Cloud Contact Center Software 

Enlisting cloud contact center software is a third hybrid strategy, allowing businesses to manage their customer service operations from anywhere using any device. Cloud contact center software enables businesses to access various features and functionalities that can enhance their customer service quality and efficiency, such as call routing, recording, monitoring, analytics, reporting, automation, integration, and more. Cloud contact center software also allows businesses to scale up or down their customer service capacity as needed, without having to invest in expensive hardware or infrastructure. 

Unlocking Customer Satisfaction and Revenue Growth through Hybrid Communication Strategies 

Voice communication remains a cornerstone of modern customer service, but its true potential emerges when it’s redefined and seamlessly integrated with other communication channels. By adopting hybrid communication strategies, businesses can harness the strengths of both voice and digital channels while minimizing their respective drawbacks. This approach not only enhances customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention but also drives revenue growth by delivering exceptional experiences tailored to the evolving needs and expectations of today’s customers. 

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Voice Channels Remain Vital: Despite the rise of digital communication channels, voice communication continues to be crucial in modern customer service due to its personal touch and ability to convey emotions effectively. 
  1. Challenges and Opportunities: While voice communication presents challenges such as staffing and cost management, hybrid approaches combining voice and digital channels offer solutions to enhance efficiency and customer experience. 
  1. Hybrid Communication Strategies: Visual IVR, Conversational AI, and cloud contact center software are examples of hybrid approaches that leverage the strengths of both voice and digital channels to optimize customer service operations. 
  1. Maximizing Customer Satisfaction: Integrating voice communication seamlessly with digital channels not only enhances customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention but also drives revenue growth by delivering exceptional experiences tailored to customer preferences. 

FAQs: 

Why is voice communication still relevant in modern customer service?  

Voice communication offers a personal and empathetic interaction that can help resolve issues faster and build trust and loyalty. It also allows customers to express emotions and nuances better than text-based channels, reducing frustration and misunderstanding. 

What are the challenges associated with voice communication in customer service?

Maintaining a large staff of trained agents can be time-consuming and expensive, especially during peak hours or seasons. Additionally, voice communication may not always be the best option for certain types of inquiries, such as simple transactions or information requests. 

How can companies overcome the challenges of voice communication?  

Adopting hybrid approaches that integrate voice communication with digital channels can help overcome challenges associated with voice communication. These approaches leverage the strengths of both traditional voice channels and digital alternatives to optimize operational costs while maximizing customer satisfaction. 

What are some examples of hybrid communication strategies?  

Examples of hybrid communication strategies include Visual IVR, Conversational AI, and cloud contact center software. These strategies combine voice and digital channels to enhance customer service quality and efficiency. 

How can businesses implement hybrid communication strategies?  

Businesses can implement hybrid communication strategies by investing in technologies that facilitate seamless integration between voice and digital channels. This may involve adopting specialized software solutions or partnering with service providers experienced in implementing such strategies. 

What are the benefits of hybrid communication strategies for businesses?  

Hybrid communication strategies can help businesses optimize customer service operations, improve customer satisfaction and retention, and drive revenue growth by delivering exceptional experiences tailored to the evolving needs and expectations of customers. 

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Unlocking the Full Potential of Your Phone System by Embracing the Cloud

Since the early 2000s, cloud-based phone systems, also known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions, started to gain traction in the business world, as the widespread adoption of high-speed internet and advancements in technology facilitated the shift from traditional on-premise landline systems to more dynamic, scalable, and cost-efficient cloud-based alternatives. 

Today, cloud-based VoIP platforms have become the norm, offering a host of advanced features and flexibility that traditional landline systems simply cannot match. While many companies have embraced this change, the question remains: Are they truly unlocking the full potential of this technology? 

The Untapped Potential of Cloud-Based Phone Systems 

Cloud-based solutions are more than just a replacement for traditional on-premise phone systems. They are a gateway to a whole new world of possibilities for enhancing your business communication. Whether you want to improve caller experience, increase customer satisfaction, or boost productivity, VoIP systems have the features you need to achieve your goals.  

Let’s explore some of the most powerful features that cloud-based phone systems offer, and how they will benefit your business. 

Auto Attendant:  

The auto attendant feature allows you to create a customized menu that greets callers with a professional voice and guides them to the right extension or department. You can also set up different menus for different times of the day, such as business hours, after hours, or holidays. This ensures that your callers always receive a professional and consistent welcome, and that they can reach their desired destination without any difficulty. 

Call Recording:  

This feature enables you to record and store any inbound or outbound calls for quality assurance, training, or compliance purposes. You can also access and manage your recordings from any device, anywhere, anytime. Call recording can help you monitor and improve your staff performance, resolve disputes, and comply with industry regulations. 

Call Analytics:  

The call analytics feature allows you to track and measure various aspects of your calls, such as volume, duration, origin, destination, and outcome. You can also generate reports and graphs that show trends and patterns over time. Call analytics can help you optimize your call flow, identify issues and opportunities, and make data-driven decisions. 

Voicemail-to-Email:  

Voicemail-to-Email enables you to receive your voicemail messages as email attachments, so you can listen to them on any device, at any time. You can also read the transcriptions of your messages if you prefer. This feature will help you stay connected and responsive to your callers, even when you are away from your phone. 

Interactive Voice Response (IVR):  

IVR is a pivotal feature in cloud-based phone systems, offering efficiency and versatility. Enabling callers to navigate prompts and menus for self-service, IVR streamlines call routing and reduces the workload on live agents. In the cloud environment, IVR becomes even more dynamic, allowing easy customization, scalability, and integration with other applications. It plays a central role in enhancing customer interactions, optimizing workflow efficiency, and contributing to a positive caller experience. 

Conference Calling:  

Conference calling allows you to host or join audio or video conferences with multiple participants from anywhere in the world. You can also share your screen, files, or presentations with your attendees. Conference calling can help you collaborate with your team members, partners, or clients more effectively and conveniently. 

Call Forwarding: 

Call forwarding allows you to redirect incoming calls to another phone number or device of your choice. You can also set up rules for when and how to forward calls based on various criteria such as caller ID, time of day, or availability. Call forwarding will help you never miss an important call again. 

Integration: 

Integration is a key strength of cloud-based phone systems, offering seamless compatibility with various business tools, most notably Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. By integrating with CRMs and other business tools, your cloud-based phone system enables a more efficient and streamlined workflow, empowering your teams and contributing to the overall success of your business operations. 

Hold Music and Messages:  

This feature allows you to play music and messages while your callers are on hold or in a queue. Your audio marketing provider can offer you a variety of musical genres to choose from and will handle every aspect of producing a Message-On-Hold program that strategically informs callers about your products, services, promotions, events, and more. This feature will help reduce caller frustration, increase retention, and generate sales. 

Softphones: 

Eliminating the need for traditional hardware phones, Softphones offer users the flexibility to make calls from computers or mobile devices. In the cloud environment, these software applications integrate voice, video, and chat functionalities, fostering unified communications and promoting collaboration. Softphones enhance productivity, support remote work, and provide cost-effective communication solutions, showcasing the adaptability and innovation of cloud-based phone systems in modern business communication. 

Embracing the Cloud with Professional Recordings 

Contemplating the array of features offered by cloud-based phone systems and determining how to best leverage them for your business can be an overwhelming process. Recognizing the importance of seamless communication, Holdcom is here to support you. Our professional recording services cater to business phone systems in any language, ensuring your brand’s identity and tone are accurately represented. Whether it’s recordings for your auto attendant, hold music for phone queues, Message-On-Hold, or any other audio feature you require, we’ll help you create a communication system that not only impresses your callers but also contributes to the growth of your business. Consider the possibilities, explore the potential, and enhance your communication experience as you embrace the benefits of VoIP technology. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Cloud-based VoIP solutions go beyond merely replacing traditional landline systems. They unlock a realm of possibilities for maximizing business communication with features to improve caller experience, increase customer satisfaction, and enhance efficiency. 
  • Key capabilities such as auto attendants and IVR, call recording, analytics, voicemail transcription, and conferencing can optimize workflows, boost productivity, and enhance the customer experience. 
  • Seamless integration with CRM software and other business tools creates unified systems that streamline operations. 
  • Flexible audio features like hold music, Message-On-Hold, and softphones further adapt cloud platforms to an organization’s specific needs and foster improved engagement. 
  • Professional voice recording services help ensure branding and tone are conveyed accurately across all aspects of the phone system. 
  • Cloud-based phone systems bring tremendous potential when tapped into fully. By utilizing everything modern VoIP platforms have to offer, companies can empower their staff with streamlined workflows, optimize how they interact with their customers, and significantly drive increased sales. 

FAQs 

Q1: How do cloud-based phone systems differ from traditional landline phone systems? 

A1: Cloud-based phone systems differ significantly from traditional landline systems by operating over the internet, utilizing remote servers in the cloud, and eliminating the reliance on physical infrastructure and copper wires. This shift allows for enhanced scalability, flexibility, and advanced features. Unlike landline systems limited to specific locations, cloud-based solutions empower users to make calls from anywhere with an internet connection. Additionally, the subscription-based model of cloud systems reduces upfront costs associated with hardware, making them a preferred choice for businesses seeking agility, affordability, and modern communication features. 

Q2: Are cloud phone systems and VoIP the same thing? 

A2: While the terms “cloud-based” and “VoIP” are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. VoIP is a broader technology that enables voice communication over the internet, and it can be implemented both on-premise and in the cloud. On the other hand, cloud phone systems specifically operate in a cloud environment, utilizing remote servers managed by third-party providers. While VoIP encompasses various methods of transmitting voice data over the internet, including on-premise solutions, cloud phone systems exclusively rely on cloud infrastructure, offering enhanced flexibility, scalability, and often additional advanced features. In summary, all cloud phone systems are VoIP, but not all VoIP systems operate in the cloud; they represent different points on the spectrum of internet-based voice communication technologies. 

Q3: What are some signs my business could benefit from upgrading to a cloud-based platform? 

A3: Indicators include communication bottlenecks, decreasing customer satisfaction, limited remote work capabilities, and lack of actionable insights from call data. Scalability limitations and rising maintenance costs for outdated on-premise systems also show a need for change. 

Q4: How can businesses take full advantage of their cloud-based phone system features? 

A4: To tap into the immense potential of your cloud phone system, approach implementation with a strategic eye – audit your workflows, identify pain points in communications and operations, survey customer experience challenges, and evaluate growth goals. Match advanced features like auto attendants and IVR, call monitoring, conferencing, Message-On-Hold, and CRM integration to address these specific problems and opportunities. Continually optimize call routing, menus, and audio messaging while leveraging reporting to track impact. Keep exploring possibilities as new needs arise, taking advantage of the system’s scalability. With concerted effort, maximizing platform capabilities for your unique business will provide transformative results. 

Q5: What security measures are in place for cloud-based phone systems? 

A5: Security is a paramount concern for cloud-based phone systems. Providers implement encryption protocols to safeguard call data and employ secure data centers with strict access controls. Regular security audits, updates, and compliance with industry standards ensure a robust defense against potential threats. Additionally, user authentication features and role-based access controls contribute to overall system security, providing businesses with a secure communication environment. 

Q6: Can I customize the auto attendant and hold messages on my cloud-based system to align with my brand’s tone? 

A6: Absolutely. Cloud-based phone systems offer the flexibility to customize auto attendant and hold messages to align with your brand’s identity and tone. Your audio marketing provider will assist you in choosing a professional voice and craft personalized scripts for various menus and hold queues. This customization ensures that your callers receive a consistent and branded experience, contributing to a positive impression of your business. 

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The Evolution of Phone Dialing: Keeping Pace with Changes in Technology and Semantics 

In our world of ever-evolving communication technology, the way we connect with one another has experienced remarkable transformations. From the days of rotary dial phones to the modern era of voice-activated commands, the journey of phone dialing is an interesting exploration of technological progress. In this blog post, we delve into the details of this evolution, exploring the methods of initiating and navigating phone calls, as well as the impact this has had on our language. 

Dialing: The Rotary Phone Era 

The word “dial” has become synonymous with making a phone call, and its origins can be traced back to the rotary phone era. These phones, introduced in the early 1900s and commonly used until the 1960s, required users to physically rotate a circular finger-wheel mechanism to dial the desired number. While the distinctive click-clack sound and the anticipation of the dial returning to its original position may be nostalgically etched in the memories of those who experienced it, the rotary dialing process itself may seem completely foreign and archaic to those who haven’t. Although rotary phones have long since faded from common use, the term “dial” persists in our vocabulary when referring to the act of making calls, underscoring the sometimes-slow pace at which language evolves compared to technology.  

Touch-Tone Keypads: A Faster and More Efficient Alternative 

In the early 1960s, a monumental shift occurred in the world of phone dialing with the introduction of touch-tone keypads. No longer did one need to rotate a dial but instead simply “press” a button corresponding to the desired digit. This new system allowed for quicker and more accurate dialing, eliminating the tedious process of waiting for a rotary dial to return to its original position before moving on to the next digit.  

The adoption of touch-tone keypads brought about a significant change in the language associated with dialing. Phrases like “press 1” and “enter your party’s 3-digit extension” became common in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, reflecting the shift to a more intuitive and electronic mode of interaction. Revolutionizing the speed and efficiency of making phone calls, this advancement forever changed the way we interacted with our communication devices. It marked a departure from the mechanical nature of rotary dialing and paved the way for the electronic interfaces we are familiar with today. 

Mobile Phones: Touchscreens  

With the advent of mobile phones and their touchscreen interfaces, a new way of initiating and navigating calls emerged – the simple act of “touching” the screen. This departure from the physicality of traditional dialing methods marked another significant evolution in phone interaction. Mobile phones introduced a level of convenience and ease of use previously unseen in phone dialing, with touch-sensitive screens eliminating the need for physical buttons or a tactile rotating dial, simplifying the process of initiating a call to a straightforward gesture.  

By touching the screen, users could effortlessly access their contact lists, enter phone numbers, and make calls with just a few taps. But just as the term “dial” continued to linger in the era of touch-tone keypads, so has “press” and “enter” in our current age of mobile phones. While these days it’s not uncommon to hear an IVR system instruct you to “touch 1 for Sales,” many businesses prefer prompting their callers with the more traditional “press 1 for Sales.” And when directing callers to input multiple digits, “enter” often remains the term of choice over “touch” or “press” in many contexts. For example, “If you know your party’s 3-digit extension, enter it now.” 

However, as we continue into the next stage of phone dialing’s evolution, we’ll see how the terms “dial,” “press,” “enter,” and “touch” could all be on the cusp of becoming obsolete thanks to artificial intelligence and natural language processing advancements in the realm of IVR.  

Voice Commands: Just SAY It 

As our devices continued to evolve and incorporate advanced technologies, voice commands entered the scene, adding another layer of convenience to the dialing process. With the rise of virtual assistants that respond to vocal prompts, IVR systems using Speech Recognition began telling us to “say” our desired destination.  

By simply speaking commands, users can now initiate calls and navigate IVR systems without even touching their phone’s touchscreen, allowing us to communicate with our devices in a more natural and efficient manner, freeing hands for other tasks while still enabling communication on the go. 

Moreover, the advancements in voice recognition and machine learning have allowed virtual assistants to understand and interpret complex commands, making the act of initiating and navigating a call as effortless as having a conversation. These voice-enabled technologies can recognize names from the user’s contact list, understand spoken digits, and even discern instructions to call a specific business, service, department, and more. 

The Semantics of IVR: Best Practices 

Effective communication lies at the heart of every successful business, and aligning communication strategies with technological advancements is vital. As a leader in providing professional recordings for business phone systems, Holdcom understands this significance. Here are our best practices for optimizing the language of your IVR voice prompts. 

Consistency:  

When developing your IVR menus, be consistent in your usage of action words. A menu that instructs callers to “press 1 for Sales; enter 2 for Service; touch 3 for Accounts Payable; or select 9 to repeat these options” may come across as convoluted. Pick the action word your callers will be most comfortable with and maintain its continuity throughout your phone menus.  

Keep action words to a minimum: 

In most IVR contexts, it’s not necessary to repeat the action word – 

be it “press,” “enter,” or “touch” – for each department option. Callers greatly appreciate brevity and efficiency during IVR navigation. Using the aforementioned example, the menu would be ideally written as: “For sales, press 1. Service, 2. Accounts Payable, 3. To repeat these options, press 9.” Note how the action word “press” appears in only the first and last option, effectively. 

Speech Recognition functionality: 

If you’re planning to instruct callers to verbalize their commands with options such as “For Sales, touch 1 or say ‘sales’,” be sure your IVR system has the proper Speech Recognition and/or Natural Language capabilities. While speech recognition is a popular IVR feature these days, it’s not universally included with all systems. Functionality varies across providers and implementations based on budget and technical factors. Always consult with your phone vendor before incorporating “say” commands into your IVR menus. 

To dial or not to dial: 

For all intents and purposes, avoid using the word “dial” when prompting callers to enter extensions. Although it’s a term that has stubbornly lingered on many IVR systems despite technological advancements, it’s clearly outdated and could make your business seem out-of-sync with today’s modern world. Even the common phrase “If this is an emergency, dial 9-1-1” would be better communicated as “If this is an emergency, call 9-1-1.” 

Navigation within Message-On-Hold: 

Remember, Message-On-Hold and IVR are two distinct aspects of your phone system that typically don’t interact seamlessly. Most Message-On-Hold platforms aren’t able to accommodate tactile nor voice commands as IVR systems do. So, if your Message-On-Hold program instructs callers to “press,” “enter,” “touch,” or “say” certain digits to reach a destination, most likely the MOH platform will not register the command and instead continue playback until a live agent answers the call. This, of course, could be quite confusing and frustrating for callers anticipating self-transfer when the MOH prompted such. Consult with your phone vendor to confirm the exact capabilities of your MOH platform and how it works in junction with your IVR system. 

In Summary 

As we reflect on the evolution of how we interact with our phones, it’s important to appreciate the past and prepare for the future. The progression of phone dialing mirrors the broader technological changes impacting businesses across all industries. Just as the rotary dial gave way to touch-tone keypads and then to voice-activated commands, businesses must adapt their telephony communication strategies to remain relevant and competitive. By staying ahead of the curve and embracing new communication technologies, businesses can position themselves to thrive in our rapidly changing world.  

Key Takeaways 
  • Phone dialing terminology and technology have coevolved over time. As rotary dials gave way to touch-tone inputs and now voice commands, both the physical way we connect calls and the language used to describe it has been reinvented. 
  • With each new advancement in how users interact with phones, from touch-tone keypads to mobile touchscreens, both the technology and terminology for “dialing” also needed to evolve. Yet language often lags behind technology, as seen in the persistence of certain terms. 
  • As artificial intelligence continues to power more intuitive voice recognition and natural language IVR capabilities, the semantics around “dial,” “press,” “enter,” etc. may fade entirely in favor of more conversational phrasing. 
  • Businesses should align IVR language with their system’s actual capabilities, while also keeping prompts clear, consistent, and concise for callers. Outdated terminology like “dial your party’s extension” should give way to more accurate modern phrasing. 
  • Telephony has dramatically evolved; business communication strategy must follow suit. Updating communication infrastructure to leverage cutting-edge technologies is key for companies to deliver excellent customer service and remain competitive. 

FAQs 

Q1: Why do we still use the term “dial” when referring to making phone calls? 

A1: When technology evolves, language surrounding that technology often changes more slowly. The word “dial” is a holdover from the rotary phone era, when users physically rotated a dial mechanism to select a desired number. Despite the fact that touch-tone keypads, mobile touchscreens, and now voice commands have superseded rotary phones, the word “dial” has become synonymous with making phone calls and persisted in our vocabulary. 

Q2: If the word “dial” is in my current IVR recordings, should I update them? 

A2: It’s advisable to update IVR recordings that include the term “dial.” The term is outdated and may create a perception of being out-of-touch with modern communication norms. To maintain clarity and relevance, consider replacing “dial” with contemporary alternatives. Have your audio marketing provider evaluate your current IVR content to provide enhancements. Ensuring your IVR prompts align with current language trends optimizes the overall user experience and reflects your commitment to staying technologically current. 

Q3: Why is consistency in action words important in IVR menus? 

A3: Consistency in action words, such as “press,” “enter,” or “touch,” enhances user comfort and comprehension. Clear and uniform language in IVR menus improves the overall user experience, making navigation more straightforward. 

Q4: How often should businesses update their IVR recordings to keep them current? 

A4: The frequency of updating IVR recordings depends on various factors, including changes in services, promotions, or contact information. As a general guideline, businesses should review and update IVR recordings at least annually. However, more frequent updates may be necessary if there are significant changes to your business, such as a rebranding, altered menu options, or modified contact details. Regularly refreshing your IVR content ensures that customers receive accurate and relevant information, contributing to a positive caller experience. 

Q5: Should businesses invest in speech recognition and natural language capabilities for their IVR if they aren’t already? 

A5: Yes, investing in speech recognition and natural language capabilities for your IVR is recommended. These technologies enhance user interaction, making it more intuitive and efficient. Users can speak naturally, giving commands and receiving information seamlessly. This not only improves the caller experience but also aligns your business with modern communication trends, showcasing a commitment to technological advancements. 

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7 Ways to Bring Your IVR into the Future (or out of the past)

Not all companies and contact centers are the same size or have the same budgets.  This list has been compiled from industry trends and over 30 years of working with brands in all types of industries.  Whether you’re managing a handful of seats or hundreds of agents, choose the items on this list that will have the most impact based on your current situation.

Get to know your customer

This is probably the most underrated and underutilized tactic for most companies.  Understanding your customer and what/how they want to interact with your brand will make all your initiatives much more effective.  Take the time to speak with frontline agents to understand not only your clients’ demographics – but also their preferences.  Use this data to fine-tune your IVR and other self-service tools to optimize client engagement with the brand.

Localization & Customization

Hop on this trend and look to customize every contact as much as you can.  Leverage the data your agents are tracking in the CRM to improve the customer experience.  Meet your customers when, how, and where they want to be met, on whichever device or platform they prefer.  And do it in their language or dialect.  Nothing builds more trust than being greeted in your native language.

Automation & Conversational IVR  

If you’re still using traditional IVR, look to migrate to a conversational platform.  You must be looking at a ‘Mobile First’ approach.  Callers trying to navigate a keypad on the go are not ideal.  Provide your callers with the option to use voice commands, and this will speed up caller intent and provide a much better experience.  It will also allow for more built-in automation, which the IVR can handle and keep the call from going to an agent unnecessarily.

Branding

The IVR is the front door to your business.  Make sure it provides the best first impression possible.  Often overlooked, branding plays a key role in caller confidence.  Having the right voice that fits your brand and can serve as a “spokesman” builds callers’ trust, as they consistently hear and recognize that familiar voice while engaging with the brand.  Having clear, concise messaging increases caller comprehension and reduces miscues in the IVR.

Omni-Channel Consistency

Whenever possible, provide your contacts with a brand-appropriate experience, no matter which channel they are engaging with.  This includes the words and tone you use – from your agents to your chatbots to your IVR.  Too often brands aren’t consistent in their messaging, and your contacts can feel like they’ve called the wrong company.  Just because Marketing thought the new chatbot should sound hip or cool doesn’t mean it’s on-brand.  Find a sound that fits your brand and tweak it accordingly, depending on the technology and platform.

Regular Auditing & Tuning

How many times have you called a brand to hear three or more different voices when interacting with the IVR?  Make it a routine to call and listen to your IVR and ensure it’s being updated as you update other areas of the contact center.  The IVR can sometimes be treated like the middle child and appear forgotten as you move quickly to upgrade or implement new tools.  At least once a quarter, ensure your IVR is still providing the most comprehensible and efficient options and that it’s been updated to leverage other channels.

Visual IVR

Visual IVR unlocks the IVR from the voice channel and expands its use to all other developed channels.  Many companies are now embracing a visual IVR and realizing they should have done it sooner.  This simple technology can help to revolutionize your interactions with contacts, increasing C-SAT and reducing customer and agent effort. 

How are you maintaining your IVR? Let us know in the comments what we missed or suggestions you would recommend.

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call center IVR phone menu prompts scriptwriting tips

15 Voice Prompt Blunders To Avoid in Your IVR System

When writing voice prompts for IVR or ACD systems, clear concise communication is key. The thing about a well structured call-processing system with properly recorded voice prompts is that you just don’t notice it. What you do notice, however, is a system that is riddled with problems and errors.To ensure you’re creating a great caller experience, be sure to avoid these 15 common blunders in your voice prompt scripts:

  1. Using the Word “dial.” True story: I have never “dialed” a phone. For my whole life, I’ve pressed buttons. Now, I press “buttons” on my touch-screen phone. Think about it–when was the last time you actually dialed a phone? If you are instructing callers to dial an extension, you should switch to the term “press,” otherwise you might seem outdated.
  2. Too many menu items. As a general rule, 3-5 items should be sufficient for each level of your menu. If you have more than that, callers may become confused, unengaged, and frustrated, making work harder for your reps.
  3. Not enough menu items. Too few menu options is also a problem. If you don’t give users enough options, they may not be sure which department is the right choice for them. 
  4. Putting the extension number before the name of the person/department. A good prompt will say, “For Sales, Press 1” not “Press 1 for Sales.” Why? Callers are listening for their destination first, then how to get there. If you play the extension first, they’re not likely to associate the number with the department.
  5. Forgetting to tell callers they can enter a known extension at any time. Many repeat callers will know which extension they need to use before hearing any of the options. They might have even looked it up on your website or seen it in your email signature. Make sure you remind these callers that they can enter an extension without listening to the prompts.
  6. Neglecting an exit option. You should let callers know that number they can use to immediately leave the system and speak to a live human (during business hours, of course). This works in two ways–first, callers immediately know that there is a “real human” who can talk to them. Second, if callers know they can leave the phone tree, they’ll be more receptive to listening to your prompts.
  7. Having a long greeting before prompts begin. Time spent with an IVR system isn’t the same as hold time.
  8. Using an unprofessional-sounding voice. Professional Voice Over Talents exist for a reason: people like to hear them.Your automated answering system might be the first impression callers have of your business. Why would you use staticy, improperly recorded announcements?
  9. Not having an “after hours” variation of your prompts. When your office is closed, you should have a prompt that lets people know this and encourages them to leave a message (with appropriate menu option) or call back during normal business hours (and give hours). An after hours greeting can also include emergency contact number or direct clients to a self-service option on your website.
  10. Repeating the word “please” in every prompt. In business, proper manners are essential. On your phone system, saying “please” with every prompt is redundant and irritating. Say “please” in the first prompt, then keep your options more streamlined for easy listening. Remember–you’re writing for the ear.
  11. Using long phrasing for each prompt. It’s a prompt, not a message. Keep it short and to the point so you don’t lose caller’s attention. Think of each prompt as a call to action. 
  12. Stating extension numbers as one number. If you’re saying “Two hundred three” instead of “Two Zero Three,” you’re making a grave error and potentially going to have a lot of confused callers. It’s not that people will be looking for the button “two hundred three” on their phone, it’s that they might here two and three and ignore the zero. Plus, doesn’t it sound weird to tell callers to “Press Two Hundred Three”?
  13. Including Jargon. Jargon got its name because people don’t understand it. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid jargon in your voice prompts to make the caller experience as painless as possible.
  14. Putting frequently requested options at the end of the menu. It just makes sense to put the most frequently requested options first. If you already know what people are looking for, you should aim to deliver it as quickly as possible and move them efficiently through the rest of your call processing.
  15. Lacking Consistency. If you use inconsistent phrasing for your prompts, you’re likely to confuse callers. By changing your word choice, the caller won’t be able to follow a predictable pattern. For example, you shouldn’t say, “For sales, press 1; To reach customer service, press 2; Press 3 for reservations.” It just doesn’t make sense. 

What do you think? Have you heard any voice prompts that have made you cringe? Would you add anything else to this list?

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call center holiday tips

Holiday Call Center — 5 Best Practices

Holidays are the busiest time of the year. Not only for personal reasons, but many industries see increased traffic and sales due to “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Most businesses cannot afford to lose sales during the holidays, making every interaction vital to a companies’ success. In the U.S. a poor customer service experience can cost you $41 billion per year! (Source) If you own, work, or operate a call center we cannot stress enough how important preparing for the holidays can be. Let’s take a look at 5 best practices for successfully operating a call center in the holiday season.