IVR Blog

How IVR’s Have Changed the Contact Center Industry

IVR’s Have Changed the Contact Center


IVR’s…love them or hate them, they are an almost ubiquitous part of the contact center industry and have been around for a very long time. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the first commercial IVR system was built to perform order entry and inventory control back in 1973, although the technology was certainly in its infancy, and considered expensive and difficult to implement.

Since then, the technology has come a long way, and is now pretty much considered a standard part of any contact center that has any scale to it. The technology has also grown and changed to use Standards based programming like Voice XML, and more recently the acceptance of speech recognition via Siri and Amazon Alexa, Google etc has meant that more and more systems provide for input to be gathered via speech recognition rather than DTMF (Dual Tone Multiple-Frequency, also called Touch Tone).

There is a common misconception that IVR’s are the same as ‘automated attendant’s’. While they might these days be built using the same technology, an IVR is an application that provides information, or is used to perform transactions, whereas an automated attendant is simply built to route calls to a specific area. So, while an IVR may have an automated attendant as a front-end application, it provides much more benefit than a call steering application. For example, an automated attendant would play a message like "welcome to ABC company, please press 1 for sales, or 2 for customer service. An IVR however would be set up to play a similar message, but perhaps with an additional option ‘or press 3 for self-service." Choosing this option would allow the system to begin a dialogue that collects information from callers, such as customer number and password, and then allows suitable transactions to take place. Examples of this are in a banking environment where the IVR is used to retrieve an account balance, transfer funds, or pay a bill etc.

"While they might these days be built using the same technology, an IVR is an application that provides information, or is used to perform transactions, whereas an automated attendant is simply built to route calls to a specific area."

The Benefit of using an IVR

The benefit of an IVR over an automated attendant is that the IVR enables simple tasks, that would normally be performed by an agent, to be automated.  As a result, the agent has more time to work on more complex tasks. An IVR can be used to run many hundreds of instances of the same application, therefore allowing large amounts of callers to be serviced automatically, at the same time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because they enable many more calls to be serviced quickly and at significantly less cost, you can see why contact center managers love them.

The Introduction of CTI

When IVR’s first became commercialized, if a customer failed to complete their transaction in the IVR, and the IVR allowed the customer to be transferred to an agent (not always possible within the application, and a common complaint about IVR’s), then the customer had to begin their query again from scratch, identifying themselves again and requesting whatever it was they were wanting to do in the IVR.   As a result, Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) was introduced in the early 1980’s by ROLM Corporation, a US PABX vendor.  CTI allowed information gathered by an IVR application, or an agent, to be transferred to the agent’s computer, along with the telephone call so that the agent’s computer could do something with that information. This is generally known as a ‘screen pop’ and allows the call to be completed much more quickly and with a better level of satisfaction for the caller as they do not have to provide the same information multiple times. The CTI information also allowed for more intelligent routing decisions to be made.

The other cool thing about this type of technology is that it is very similar to “chat bots” and other newer automation technologies. They can all use the same basic logic structure, providing similar functionality, and using the same integration points to access information using a different input / output mechanism – IVRs using speech and voice processing whereas a chat bot uses text.

"CTI allowed information gathered by an IVR application, or an agent, to be transferred to the agent’s computer, along with the telephone call so that the agent’s computer could do something with that information. This is generally known as a ‘screen pop’ and allows the call to be completed much more quickly and with a better level of satisfaction for the caller as they do not have to provide the same information multiple times."

Considerations for use

With all this technology comes the hard part of deciding what to do with it. I come from the school of thought that says, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should”. So, the first part is to decide what you want to achieve.  For example, is it to reduce agent head count and cost?  If so, automate every possible use case that you can. If, however it is to provide a better customer experience, then you should probably start by understanding what your customers want from an automated system. If the goal is somewhere between these two extremes, then you should be looking to automate as much as possible, while still making the experience for the customer as painless and simple as possible. To maximize take up rates on the IVR, ideally offer the customer something they can’t get any other way, such as 24 x 7 service; a shorter waiting time for an agent if they have tried and failed the self-service, or something else that is of value to your customers.

"To maximize take up rates on the IVR, ideally offer the customer something they can’t get any other way, such as 24 x 7 service; a shorter waiting time for an agent if they have tried and failed the self-service, or something else that is of value to your customers."



What are the day-to-day benefits of an IVR?

So, what is in it for contact center agents and management? To put it simply, agents get the opportunity to spend more time doing more exciting work and less time doing the more mundane tasks. Given the cost of labor, management gets to increase throughput without increasing costs to the same extent. This level of engagement will create happier, more motivated agents, who will in turn, be better suited to serving customers. This motivation, unsurprisingly, will contribute to a more efficient contact center and increase customer satisfaction.

If you would like us to review your IVR configuration or know more about our IVR solutions contact us today.

Customer Experience

4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

Providing an excellent customer experience is hard work, but it's essential to your business's success. As the face of the customer service department, your contact center is an instrumental tool to address any problems with your customer's satisfaction. Improving the customer experience is a multi-step process and will often require some retooling along the way. Below, we have four ways to improve your customer experience.

Read more


How Contact Centers Can Leverage Gamificaton

Leverage Gamificaton

Contact centers are always looking for new ways to ensure employee engagement and productivity, especially now that many agents work, at least some of the time, from home. For remote agents especially, it can be more difficult to plug into the culture of the office and stay engaged with the brand without the face to face interaction they would usually have in the contact center. This is where gamification can help. Contact centers can introduce gaming elements to motivate and engage staff while helping upskill and cross skill staff. It is an invaluable approach to increasing productivity for your workforce, whether they are working from home or in a contact center.Read more


Making Your Contact Center Work Better

Contact Center

Contact center changes are never an easy venture, but it's crucial to embrace an opportunity for change. While the world is slowly returning to normal after a global pandemic, now is the time to identify how your contact center can be improved. For some organizations, there may be an influx of calls from customers asking about your services. Your team will need to be ready, so it's essential to streamline your operations to address the needs of your customers and provide the touchpoints that they are looking for in order for them to interact more effectively with you.

Providing a great customer experience

A multi-faceted and customizable customer support solution is vital during a crisis to provide a great customer experience. Customers often struggle to reach businesses at a time when they need them most. During the recent pandemic, some contact centers faced increasingly high volumes of calls, which caused longer hold times, reduced callback numbers and increased frustration for their customers. It’s important to learn from this and to make the necessary changes to provide better support in the future. With the right tools and processes in place, your contact center will be able to field the calls that are coming in better and continue to provide a great customer experience regardless of whether your staff are working from home or in the office.

How automation helps

Automation includes Interactive Voice Response, Chat Bots, and self-help applications (web browser or smartphone app-based). However, all automation needs integration to source systems to make it truly useful in providing benefit to a customer. With an IVR, customers can access business functions you choose to make available to them in order to take calls away from agents, and only send those calls to an agent when a customer needs more assistance than they can get from the IVR. Careful crafting of your customized menus and transactions gives your customers a choice to make their own decisions. Additionally, when needed, it can route your customers to specialized agents that can be ready to answer their questions without hesitation, based on the interaction that the customer has had within the IVR.

Proactive outreach for positive touchpoints

Depending on your industry, this crisis might be an excellent opportunity for your agents to proactively reach out to your customers to ensure them that your team is still available and standing by to assist them with whatever they need. Whether this is through an outbound dialer, email campaign, social media, or even a widespread text message, it's essential to establish that your company is still in operation and that your customer's needs come first.

Identify all touchpoints

Touchpoints are all the places online that your customers can interact with your brand. These touchpoints could range anywhere from adding a product to their online shopping cart, engaging with a post on one of your social media channels, opening an email, or interacting with the customer service chatbot on your website. Once you identify these touchpoints, you'll get some immediate insight into what the customer experience is. Are there too many? Maybe your company website is too complicated, requiring too many steps to get to a purchase or a download. If, on the other hand, you find that there are fewer touchpoints than you realized, it's time to create some new touchpoints on your website. It's all about balance and making sure that the right pieces are in the right place.

Improve your Workforce Planning capabilities

Making sure you have the right staff, in the right place, with the right skills, at the right time is an essential part of optimizing the customer experience.  Unfortunately, it is something that is often not done well. Investing in the success of your workforce planning team is critical to achieving success.  When looking at ways to improve your contact center, review both your Workforce Planning software functionality and the team’s skills in both best practice WFM and using the tool.

How Call Design Can Help

Call Design is the ideal solutions partner for elevating the operations and processes of your contact center. Our consulting and technology solutions empower your staff to improve the customer experience, giving your company the competitive edge you need. By improving your operations and giving your customers options, you are improving their experience with your brand. Contact Call Design today to learn how we can help you.

Terminology 101: Customer service vs customer experience


Customer service and customer experience are two terms that are thrown around and often used interchangeably. This shouldn't be the case.

While there are similarities and areas of overlap, it's vital that contact center managers understand where these two ideas differ if they're to implement effective improvement to either.

This article will explain the practical distinctions between customer service and customer experience in contact centers, and how both are crucial to customer satisfaction.

The differences between customer service and customer experience are important to process improvement.Managers need to be aware of the differences between customer service and customer experience.

1. The time period

The first difference between customer service and customer experience is to do with when they take place. At a fundamental level this can be described as follows:

  • Customer service: This usually refers to a one-off interaction. Usually the customer will engage with your business to ask a question, purchase a service or product, or register their feedback.
  • Customer experience: Here we're talking about an ongoing phenomenon which follows the customer's journey across all company touchpoints. As we'll see a little later, this can include a range of platforms and a variety of different circumstances.

Customer experience can also be thought of as the sum of all the dealings a customer has with your teams, with each separate snapshot contributing to their overall perception of your company. As a result, customer service is one element of the larger customer experience.

2. The goals

Ultimately, with customer service and customer experience, you want to create positive outcomes for your customers, as both are essential to your overall success.

In fact, a staggering 88 percent of respondents to Deloitte's 2017 Global Contact Center survey said that customer experience was the main driver for growth in their organization. Given that we've already established that customer service is integral to customer experience, you need to ensure that staff can deliver consistent quality in both areas.

However, when we drill down deeper, there are some important differences in setting goals for customer service and customer experience. When it comes to customer service, your approach should be resolutions oriented - this means establishing the pain point for the customer, and providing an effective and efficient response. This is reflected in the data from the Deloitte survey which suggested that the most important contact centre attribute from a customer perspective was the accuracy and quality of the information given, with first contact resolutions also ranking highly.

While these objectives also translate to customer experience, the latter is more proactive than reactive. In other words, your customer experience should aim to promote good feelings about your brand at a holistic level, which means learning who your customers are, and devising a strategy that will best connect with them.

Customer experience needs to be omni-channel.Customer experience includes all interactions a client has with your business.

3. Who is responsible?

Traditionally, customer service provision involves a specific department of trained human operators dealing directly with customer needs. Customer experience is much more of an omnichannel situation, and this is becoming increasingly apparent in today's market.

A separate Deloitte survey shows that over 60 percent of customers use more than one platform to engage with companies. Increasingly, of course, this is through social media, but automated website chats and FAQs are also important and, crucially, these often don't involve person-to-person interaction. The challenge from a management perspective is to ensure that the customer encounters high quality, and consistent, systems no matter where they look.

It's only through fully understanding the theory behind these two terms that managers can hope to improve their provision from a customer perspective. However, when it's your teams, you can often be too immersed to identify precisely what needs work.

This is where Call Design comes in. Our training and solutions in areas such as performance and quality management can help you identify weaknesses in your delivery, and work to improve them. For more information, get in touch with our team today.

What is a Net Promoter Score© and how do you improve it?


Net Promoter Score (NPS©): A metric used to measure customer experience and predict business growth. This proven metric provides the core measurement for customer experience management programs the world over.

Net Promoter Scores© are an important metric for understanding customer experience. When you have visibility over your NPS©, you can keep a close eye on how your audience is feeling about your brand. When you pair these scores with other core indicators you can create actionable and holistic views of your company performance and derive key improvement points.

On top of that, NPS© provides a metric that everyone in your workforce can trust. Net Promoter Scores© provide your team with an uncomplicated and understandable view of customer experience - enabling them to become more engaged with improving the experience.

NPS provide you with a strong metric to understand customer experience. NPS© provide you with a strong metric to understand customer experience.

How does NPS© work?

Your NPS© is measured by asking one critical question: How likely is it that you would recommend [brand] to a friend or colleague? Using a 0 to 10 scale, respondent scores will help you make the necessary calculations.

Respondents are grouped into one of three categories:

  • Promoters: Those who give a score between 9-10. They're loyal customers with a high lifetime value who will also refer prospects to help the company grow.
  • Passives: Those who give a score between 7-8. They're relatively satisfied customers who may stay or move on to a competitor if the offer is right. They wouldn't go out of their way to refer prospects.
  • Detractors: Those who give a score between 0-6. They're dissatisfied customers who may damage your brand reputation by spreading negativity.

Once you've received your responses you can calculate your NPS© by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. These scores can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter).

Technically speaking, if you receive a score above zero it's considered good because it means you have more promoters than detractors. However, most businesses tend to regard 50 and above as an excellent score, and 70 and above as the best of the best.

NPS© provides a metric that everyone in your workforce can trust.

4 tips to help improve your NPS©

Clearly Net Promoter Scores© are an important metric so what do you do when your NPS© is lower than you'd like?

1. Initiate regular communication with your detractors

Detractors can either be the your biggest problem or your best source of solutions. These are the people who feel strongly about what your brand is doing wrong and, because of this, often have great insights into how you can improve your current offerings.

Even better, by working with detractors to create better solutions you can turn them into adamant promoters. The key to true success with detractors is figuring out who is criticizing for the sake of it, and who would use your business if you fixed their issues. Once you determine who's who then sparking up regular communication with the proactive kinds of detractors can do your business (and you Net Promoter Score©) wonders.

2. Make it simple for customers to promote your brand

Customers will share their positive experiences with your brand if you make it easy for them to do so. Businesses need to have simple systems in place to encourage their audiences to share the good stuff. One of the easiest ways to do this is by engaging them with fun contests, questions or interactions.

All of these efforts work towards your relationship with your customers and the more your audience feels like you care, the more likely they will be to share the good things and ultimately become some of your biggest promoters.

Make it easy for your customers to promote your brand. Make it easy for your customers to promote your brand.

3. Be consistent in your communication with promoters

One of the biggest mistakes businesses can make is neglecting their happiest customers to tend to their least happy ones. You need to ensure you're still providing your promoters with the same fantastic experience that got them to promote you in the first place. This doesn't mean you have to focus all your energy on your best customers, just that you can't drop the ball on them for the sake of saving those on the other end.

4. Make sure you have the right number of staff to answer contacts efficiently

Don't annoy your customers by being understaffed and providing poor service. Upskill your workforce planning team and provide them with the right skills to do their job so they don't have to continually cancel staff training or one-on-ones when there aren't enough people to take the calls.

How can Call Design help?

Whether you're looking to improve your customer experience or invest in WFM essentials to revamp your call center management, Call Design has you covered.

Reach out to us today to learn more.

4 practical ways to improve customer experience


Why is customer experience such a buzzword today? It's simple: because it matters to a company's bottom line. In fact, 73 percent of consumers say that their decision to invest in a product or service is impacted by their overall experience with a business, according to survey by PwC.

But what is customer experience, and how can you as a manager ensure that people interacting with your business have only good things to say?

Let's explore.

Customer service is a journey across all company touch points.Customer experience is an ongoing process of interactions with your brand.

Important definitions

Before delving into some crucial ways to provide a better customer experience for your clients, we need to nail down some definitions. There are a few closely related, and easily confused, terms:

  • Customer care: How well taken care of customers feel when engaging with a company.
  • Customer service: The help or assistance given to customers by a company.
  • Customer experience: The complete customer journey, from finding the product in the first place, through to purchase and aftercare. This includes every interaction and touch point customers have with your company, and is a measurement of how they feel about your products and services.

Let's take the example of a contact center, as this is an obvious hotspot of business-to-client interaction, and examine some ways you can improve your customers' experiences.

1. Ingrain customer experience into your culture 

Providing a great customer experience doesn't happen by accident - you need a strategy to ensure quality client interactions across your whole business.

If your workforce is aware of how customer experience forms part of the business's overarching goals, there will be greater employee buy-in to your strategy, as well as more sense of ownership and responsibility when it comes providing exceptional customer experience.

Providing a great customer experience doesn't happen by accident, you need a company- wide strategy.

  • Example: In our contact centre example, one practical way of boosting agent engagement with a customer experience strategy is to provide ongoing training sessions and workshops as part of quality management. Here our contact centre keeps its staff updated on changes to policies as well as reaffirming the importance of the service they provide to customers.

2. Listen to your employees

Another benefit that comes from regular management-staff interactions is that you have the opportunity to listen.

Feedback from your employees is one of your most valuable assets when improving customer experience. After all, they're the people directly involved in the processes through which the public forms opinions of your brand. Use their expertise as frontline operators to guide strategy.

  • Example: In our contact center, agents will know the most frequent customer queries or problems. This information can be put to good use by managers when implementing a company-wide customer experience strategy. For example, setting up an FAQ section on the company's website using recurring customer issues agents come across.

However, listening to staff goes further than simply taking their knowledge to inform your strategy. To deliver top-drawer customer experience, your employees need to be satisfied with their work and their environment. The old adage remains true: happy staff means happy customers. Good personnel management is key here - so keep an eye on your team members, and provide an open and honest environment in which problems can be shared.

Listen to your employees about their experiences with customers.Employee feedback can help you direct your future customer experience strategy.

 3. Take a multichannel approach

Over 60 percent of customers use more than one channel to interact with brands, according to a survey by Deloitte. And they expect results.

This means that companies hoping to provide truly outstanding customer experiences need to adopt a multichannel approach. Here are a few useful tips to doing this effectively in relation to customer experience:

  • Know your customer base: With so many different platforms out there, it's important to know where to focus your efforts. This is especially true when it comes to social media. Know which channels your customers frequent and meet them there.
  • Go beyond being reactive: Don't wait for your customers to come to you with problems or queries. If you've listened to frontline staff you should know common customer pain points, so look to save time for both them and you by posting solutions on your social media channels, or your website.
  • Be human: People like to interact with people, hence the survival of contact centers in the digital age, so make all your customer touch points as human as possible. Your customer knowledge will inform the tone you take, but a bit of humor and personality can go a long way in the appropriate setting.
Customers expect businesses to operate across more than one channel.A multichannel approach gives your more ways to interact with your customers.

Over 60 pecent of customers use more than one channel to interact with brands, according to a survey by Deloitte.

4. Review and amend

All strategies should leave space for review and improvement. This is especially true when it comes to customer experience, as this tracks individual buyer journeys across a period of time. You need to know if your strategy is improving customer loyalty, as well as gaining new leads, or if there's an area of weakness that's letting you down.

Having the capacity to gather the right data, and collate it in a way that creates actionable insights, can improve customer experience strategies going forward.

All the main social media platforms offer in-built analytics that can be used to gauge the efficacy of your multichannel approach. These insights can tell you who is engaging with your output, when, and the types of interactions they're having. This can help you better target these channels and dictate the ways you use them as a facet of your customer experience strategy.

  • Example: Customer experience management (CEM) software is an important part of quality management in the workforce. In our contact centre setting it allows managers to monitor and analyze the quality of the interactions their agents have with customers to be sure that standards remain high.

Each business is different in terms of its customers base and the services they offer. That's why Call Design offers tailored training and solutions to improve your quality management to ensure that customers always have a great experience when interacting with your brand. For more information, reach out to the team at Call Design today.

What are the 2 golden rules of customer experience?


Did you know that customers are willing to pay more for a good customer experience? And that exceptional service is a better indicator of customer retention than product pricing? Just take a look at a few of the numbers from the Aspect Customer Experience Index:

  • 54 percent of consumers stopped doing business with companies because of poor customer service.
  • 68 percent of consumers and 78 percent of millennials did more business in 2017 with companies because of good customer experiences.
  • 52 percent of those consumers said they'd pay more for good customer service.

Organizations need to have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of a positive customer experience. It is critical to incorporate this understanding into contact center agent training so that you can ensure high quality customer service every time.

So what are the two most fundamental things customers want from their experiences with your contact center?

Did you know that customers are willing to pay more for a good customer experience?

1. Consistent, seamless experiences

Contact centers need to provide customers with omnichannel options that offer the same quality of service across the board. According to Salesforce's State of the Connected Customer report, three-quarters of consumers demand consistent experiences across platforms.

What's more? Over 70 per cent of respondents said they would switch brands if a business doesn't offer multichannel, seamless experiences. And more than 60 per cent of Australian consumers say they won't go back to a company once they've left, according to research from Accenture.

You need to provide your customer base with options for contacting your team and ensure they are receiving consistent care across the board. If you don't, you risk losing their business permanently.

2. Authentic interactions

Sure, digital mediums have taken the world by storm, but that doesn't mean they've replaced the value of a human touch. Customers expect to be treated like a person, not a number.

Salesforce found that 70 percent of customers claim a business' understanding of their personal needs directly influences their brand loyalty. In fact, over 65 percent of consumers stated they were very likely to switch over to a competitor if they felt a business wasn't treating them like an individual.

It's important for your agents to remember this. Every person in the queue deserves an equal level of personalized attention and care. These authentic interactions are the difference between a loyal customer and lost business.

Keen to learn more? Reach out to us today!

Monitoring your team's approach to customer experience is a critical aspect of quality management. When you can accomplish a consistently high quality experience for consumers, success is inevitable.

If you're interested in more information on how to manage quality across your department, Call Design has the course for you. Our Quality Management Essentials training course gives you the tools you need to set goals for your agents, align your service approaches and assess core metrics.

Contact the Call Design team for more information.

3 contact centre strategies to adopt for Generation Z customers

Not concerned with Generation Z customers? You should be. Born between 1998 and 2016 (note that sources differ somewhat on the range,) they make up 26% of the US population, says Neilsen, and now that many of them are entering adulthood, the chances of your agents encountering Gen Z customers is high.

So how should a contact centre improve itself to accommodate this 21st century generation? These strategies will help:

1. Focus on immediacy

Gen Z is famously known for its short attention span, so immediacy should be a component of your new contact centre strategy. Agents must be able to deliver fast results if they are to keep these young people engaged, focusing on efficiency and trying to avoid elongated chit-chat, transferring between departments or anything that might delay the conversation.

Immediacy also extends beyond your agents and how they handle customers. Omnichannel communication is more important than ever for tech-savvy young people. McCrindle explains that Gen Z are the most technologically saturated generation ever. To keep up, your centre must embrace social media channels, live chat and other instant avenues of communication.

Young people are not as forgiving of ignorance as older generations.

2. Invest in agent-facing information

Young people are not as forgiving of ignorance as older generations. This is from a study commissioned by eGain that found key pain points of Gen Z to be contact centre agents not knowing the answer to a question, or providing a different answer to another agent.

"The only viable solution to this challenge is smarter knowledge that can guide [agents] quickly and accurately to answers and through processes," said eGain's CEO, Ashu Roy.

Consider investing in workforce optimisation in the new year. By streamlining your processes with the right call centre management software, you'll be providing your agents with the real-time information they need, quickly and efficiently.

Young people value immediacy and efficiency, and tolerate delays less than older generations.Young people value immediacy and efficiency, and tolerate delays less than older generations.

3. Build loyalty, don't ask for it

It's proving much harder to gain the loyalty of Generation Z than generations that came before. EY studied Gen Z and reported that they appreciate relationships built on mutual respect - where agents develop trust, rather than ask for it. Young people also want to be a part of the solution, making it important that each contact centre agent focuses on giving their customers a personalised experience over a scripted one.

If all of this sounds hard, it's because it is. But you're not alone. Call Design is a leading contact centre WFO consultancies, and can help shape your business for Generation Z and whatever else the future holds. To learn more, get in touch with us today.