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.

Coach Agents

How to Coach Your Contact Center Agents

Contact Center Agents

If you want to facilitate an environment for your contact center agents to succeed, you need to start coaching. Coaching is a great way to encourage, enable, and empower your agents to not only want to be better at their jobs but perform better. Coaching is also a great opportunity for your agents to learn new skills, get feedback on the work they are doing, and resolve the problems they might be having with calls.

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

Why analyse performance in the back office?


With today's emphasis on customer interaction and experience, the back office is at risk of being overlooked.

Sure, your front line staff are the main touch point for customers engaging with your business, but you can't expect these employees to operate at peak efficiency if your back office isn't optimized. From forecasting workloads to running accounts, this is the team you'll rely on when customers demand answers to more complex queries.

This article will demonstrate why back office performance analysis should be a top priority for managers.

Performance analysis is a vital consideration to ensure a smooth customer experience.Delays in back office processing can have a large impact on the contact center

1. Find your weaknesses

If you want to improve the way that your back office staff are performing, you should start by identifying what isn't working as well as it could.

Setting clear Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your staff allows you to not only establish expected standards for work, but also to monitor trends. A good balanced scorecard provides you with the right performance metrics and allows you to identify and analyze individual points of weakness among your staff, and tailor ongoing training  to meet these exact needs.

Your staff are a key resource when it comes to actioning the results of this analysis. As well as drawing your own conclusions, group back office retrospectives give employees a chance to provide feedback on what's preventing them from reaching their goals, creating a cycle of improvement. A good performance program and action plan can not only dramatically improve your satisfaction results, but allow you to performance manage your employees 'up' and not 'out', resulting in a massive cost saving for any organization.

2. Improve customer experience

More than 50 percent of customers say that their experience of a brand will impact whether or not they invest in a service or product, according to Deloitte. Customer experience is, therefore, everyone's priority - not just that of front-line staff.

Integral to this is making every effort to resolve queries or complaints the first time they're raised. If this happens, you have the opportunity to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one, says a study from PwC.

Customer experience is everyone's priority, not just that of front-line staff.

To give your customer service staff the best chance of achieving first time resolution, it's important to ensure that you provide them with as much information as possible – that includes providing visibility to business performance and potential problems such as backlogs or processing errors in the back office.

3. Your staff want you to

The increasingly visible millennial workforce crave the regular feedback that accompanies performance analysis, suggests a separate PwC report. Professional development is important to this demographic, so opportunities to discover areas where they can grow through training are welcomed.

If you're a back office manager hoping to improve your processes and personnel operation, performance analysis is a vital step. Call Design's Performance Management Essentials Course is specifically designed to increase your knowledge in this area, and implement successful change. For more information, get in touch with our team today.

How good software can help with your staff management needs


A recent Deloitte survey highlighted the sheer number of priorities contact center leaders must address to run their business effectively. Staff management is just one of these priorities, and this alone includes considerations such as ensuring you have the right number of agents at all times, that they're performing well, and that there are high levels of job satisfaction.

In the 21st century, people are looking with increasing frequency to digital solutions to solve their problems. Indeed, all of the respondents to the Deloitte Contact Center Survey, some 450 executives, said they were planning to invest in technologies to support their work.

Let's take a look at one example of workforce management software, and how it can make your day-to-day easier.

Staff management software can help you take control of your contact centre.Staff management software can provide solutions to common leadership priorities.

Aspect Workforce Optimization

Aspect workforce optimization (WFO) is a cost-effective and multifaceted suite of software that is accessible from a variety of platforms.

Aspect WFO solutions increase productivity while enhancing the worklife of staff around the world every day, from real time coaching to providing the ability to manage their schedules from an app on their smartphones.

This staff management software provides a solution to many of the most common areas of concern for contact center team leaders:

1. Accurate forecasting

With 90 percent of customers being frustrated by long hold times, according to an Accenture survey, it's important that you're able to accurately predict expected workloads. Too few staff and you risk giving clients a bad experience of your company, while too many will lead to money being wasted on labor costs for agents you don't really need.

Aspect Workforce Management uses historic data patterns as well as 'what-if' scenarios to help you plan for times where business might spike or fall away, meaning you can adjust staffing numbers to meet these expectations.

2. Performance monitoring

Without exception, Deloitte's survey respondents said they will put money into programs to improve talent in their organizations. Within this sector of the survey, the use of analytics to both align staff and improve training finished first and second respectively as priority investments.

Performance monitoring is crucial for staff management. Aspect Performance Management allows you to pull key insights on agent productivity and performance, as well as set thresholds that allow you to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and therefore plan upskilling or reward strategies accordingly.

Tracking performance using staff management software lets you see where extra training is needed. Use staff management software to track agent performance.

3. Employee empowerment

In an industry where staff retention can prove tricky, taking steps to empower your employees and increase their job satisfaction is a vital consideration. This can take a range of forms, from giving agents greater control of their scheduling to opening up communication channels between workers and company leadership teams.

Aspect WFM, along with the Call Design ME app option, allows staff to view their shifts on their smartphone, swap shifts among themselves, and apply for time off. This not only gives them a heightened sense of responsibility but also takes the pressure off your workforce management department. In addition, the Performance Management application  presents employees with near-real-time insights into how their performance works towards fulfilling the business's needs, inspiring them to take ownership of their tasks.

4. Maximizing efficiency

For managers, time is always a limited commodity. The last thing you need is a series of complicated spreadsheets each requiring individual analysis in order to produce anything meaningful. Workforce optimization software such as Aspect WFM, Aspect Quality Management, and Aspect Performance Management is a real time saver in the way that it centralizes data, allowing you to readily compare information from across your organization and create actionable insights to actively improve internal standards.

While workforce optimization software clearly has benefits for staff and team leaders, putting WFO strategies into practice doesn't happen on a one-size-fits-all basis. Call Design will work with you to understand your pain points and provide recommendations for a solution that meets your needs. For more information, get in touch with our team today.

The benefits and importance of good performance management


Recent years have seen changes to the way companies track, assess and acknowledge employee performance, with great effect. In fact, 90 percent of companies that have restructured their performance see direct improvements in engagement, according to a survey by Deloitte. These are statistics that contact center managers can't afford to ignore.

Performance management is the process by which agents and managers collaborate to design, monitor and act upon employee objectives, and establish how they feed into the organization's overall direction. But why is good performance management so important?

1. It helps leaders set the right goals

Giving employees a clear vision of what's expected of them, and how this contributes to the overall success of the contact center, is one of the greatest benefits of good performance management.

It's important to learn how to set the right targets for your organization, as this doesn't just involve plucking a number out of thin air. Too high and staff will feel overwhelmed and may not even attempt to reach it, too low and the targets won't contribute to improving performance.

Contact centres should set targets that are achievable, but encourage improvement. There's an art to setting good targets for your workforce.

Performance management gives managers a good idea of each employee's contribution to the requirements of the contact center, and enables them to set targets to improve task execution in a productive, but healthy, manner. By aligning your agents with the aims of the contact cenere as a whole, they can take greater ownership of the business through their own goals.

A good performance target is attainable, but also requires improvement to be reached.

However, the job isn't finished when the targets are set. Managers should regularly review data and use it to make change where necessary. These actionable insights can be a red flag for managers if an employee, or department, is regularly missing their targets, or can prompt rewards for success.

We'll discuss the practical results of good performance management further below, but for now suffice to say that it's an important tool by which managers can gain a fuller understanding of what's working well in their contact center, as well as areas that need improvement.

2. It will improve workforce productivity

As well as empowering individual agents in their daily tasks, another knock-on effect of creating clear and cohesive goals is to increase the efficiency and productivity of the contact center. If your staff are all pushing in the same direction, and have an understanding of how their individual efforts impact the success of the business, you will soon see the benefits to productivity.

Shrinkage is one of the greatest challenges facing contact centers. By creating a culture of shared responsibility, you can minimize this wasted time, drive the engagement of your agents and focus your workforce on key business goals.

Productivity will increase if your goals are cohesive.By aligning the goals of your workforce with those of the company as a whole, you will see an increase in productivity.

3. It allows managers to link evaluation and development 

As mentioned earlier, good performance management creates important actionable insights that managers can use to improve the quality of agent-client interactions in their contact center. By tracking individual performances, you can reward success and notable contributions to the business's overarching goals.

Good performance management creates important actionable insights.

Attrition is high among contact centers - so recognizing opportunities to make staff know that their hard work is being noticed can be a great way to improve workplace morale, and increase retention rates. Happier and motivated staff are likely to be more loyal and productive. In fact, engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave a company, and 57 percent more effective in their roles, according to a survey by Deloitte.

As well as rewarding high achievers, consistent monitoring of staff performance has the important benefit of identifying where extra training will benefit other parts of the workforce.

You shouldn't assume that onboarding processes supply staff with all the information they will ever need, and being able to find knowledge gaps will lead to better results and happier customers.

Regular feedback is good for staff morale, and tracking objectives.Regular feedback shows staff you're invested in their professional development.

4. It permits communication between management and agents 

Managing performance well can also enhance the relationships between team leaders and agents, allowing for an ongoing cycle of improvement.

If managers are seen to take a direct involvement in the professional development of agents, and of the team as a whole, it creates a culture of honesty and openness within the business. By providing regular feedback on performance objectives, staff have the opportunity to feed into this process and assist in creating future goals. This staff input not only contributes to employee empowerment, but will likely result more realistic and practical objectives.

Call Design has nearly 20 years' experience implementing tailored strategies to help contact centers improve workforce optimization. To find out more about how our performance management tools and training courses can benefit you, reach out to us today.

Key objectives and processes behind performance management


Performance management is hailed by many business leaders as a way to inspire learning and development within a company, and to create a culture of target-hitting and self-improvement. Adopting performance management goals within your organization could be a very empowering change, leading to better results from staff and, as a result, better experiences for customers.

In this article, we're covering the basics of performance management so you understand where and how to start. We'll cover:

  1. The definition of performance management.
  2. The processes behind performance management.
  3. Key objectives of performance management.
A key objective of performance management is building better team cohesion and communication.Performance management builds a culture of teamwork, open communication and personal improvement.

1. What is performance management?

Performance management is the process of connecting team leaders and employees in a manner that inspires better communication, the achieving of key strategic goals and a continuing commitment to professional development. The practice also encourages greater team cohesion and a culture of recognition and reward.

The term 'performance management' is quite wide-reaching, and covers a variety of individual steps. While we'll cover these in more detail shortly, they include activities such as aligning team members to an individual vision, setting clear goals, holding performance reviews, and more.

2. What is the performance management process?

Performance management is a continuous loop of improvement - not a set-and-forget strategy.

This is not a process you simply set up and then walk away from. The performance management process is designed to integrate with your company's culture and remain in place forever. It creates a loop of setting targets, improving yourself and your team to meet those targets, then reviewing the outcomes to create actionable next steps, so that new targets can be established.

Let's examine some of the specific steps in this loop so you get a feel for what to expect:

Setting objectives

Teams of people can't achieve a vision unless they're all working towards the same goal. Therefore, all performance management processes begin with aligning staff to the company's wider vision and then finding specific objectives for teams and individuals to help them reach this vision. This can be done through techniques such as SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) KPIs. At this stage, business leaders will also be identifying the metrics with which progress will be measured.

Coaching and development

Once goals are set, next come the improvements necessary to reach them. This happens in two parts:

First, a culture of learning is created. This must not only include the necessary training infrastructure and tools to teach staff new skills, but also better communication channels, opportunities for challenges and other staff empowerment measures.

Second comes the actual development. Here coaches work with their teams to monitor progress, provide feedback and maintain engagement.

Improving staff performance through personal coaching is a key component of performance management.Staff coaching is a great way to foster development and, thus, staff performance.


KPIs are, of course, designed to be achieved. Therefore, as we look to close the loop in the performance management cycle, team leaders will be reflecting on the progress of their staff, measuring the results, and producing next steps.

58 percent of employees say recognition is how leaders can improve staff engagement.

Rewards and recognition

As an addition to the assessment phase, rewards and recognition are vital tools to keep staff engagement levels high. In fact, when asked how business leaders could improve staff engagement, 58 percent of respondents to a Psychometrics study said "give recognition and praise".

3. Examples of good performance management objectives

Right, so we know that performance management is an ongoing loop of communication and development, and we know that our performance management goals will be achieved through target setting, progress assessment and rewards/recognition. So the next thing we need to cover is fleshing out that first step - setting targets. What specific objectives can you as a team or business leader set for your company?

  1. Create superior work performance and increase motivation: Performance and engagement are intrinsically linked, so these two fit within the same objective. If your staff are underperforming as a unit, or you feel that improvements could be made in either performance or engagement, this is a logical first objective for you.
  2. Upskill employees and foster personal development: According to research from Tilburg University, employees consider personal development the most important part of human resource development, of which performance management is a component. In other words, staff crave self-improvement and relish it when provided. Businesses that want to invest in their individual staff members should consider this as a key performance management objective.
  3. Establish better communication between teams: Communication can make change an exciting new prospect, or sink the ship before it sails. Performance management relies on good communication and as such can be used to promote good two-way channels between leaders and employees. This fits in with all other areas of the cycle, including personal development. It can also be used to improve accountability in your organisation, as staff will feel more comfortable about being open and honest.
  4. Create a better work culture: Finally, rewards and recognition are excellent tools for encouraging a positive work culture, where people openly compliment and congratulate each other on their work (whether that's managers to staff, or staff to each other). Recognition can be used to tell employees what's valued in your organisation - if that's hard work, respectfulness, inclusiveness and so on, you're building the foundations for a workplace people can truly love.

Choose Call Design today

Ready to take the next step on your performance management journey? Call Design's team of consultants are experts in performance management and can walk you through all the necessary steps to crafting this culture in your organisation.

To find out more about our performance management tools and training courses, contact us today.

5 ways to implement a performance management program


Are you looking to enhance productivity and ensure your organization's goals are met? A workplace performance management program will provide you with a clear pathway to achieving your corporate goals.

A workplace performance management program will get you on the right path.A performance management program will provide you with a clear pathway to achieving your business objectives.

What is performance management?

Effective performance management monitors the progress being made towards achieving corporate objectives. Targeted performance management software can be used to uncover actionable insights, which enable leaders to optimise the performance of their staff.

How can I implement a successful Performance Management Program?

1. Identify your business objectives and align your KPIs

You may already have a performance management program in place, however, it's important to reevaluate this periodically as your business grows or your goals change. To update or implement a performance management program, you'll need to identify the objectives of your organization and set effective staff KPIs to align with the overall business objectives. The ACES acronym can help define your workplace goals:

Achieve - What do you hope to achieve?

Conserve - What do you want to maintain?

Eliminate - What is no longer providing benefit to your business?

Steer clear - What do you want to avoid?

2. Analyze your current situation

Do you currently have a performance management program in place? Why is it not providing you with the data you need to improve productivity? Are certain KPIs driving the wrong behaviors?

Performance management programs can be used to set personal targets.A performance management program can be used to monitor strategic goals.

3. Enrol in a performance management course

Make sure your managers have the skills they need to implement and maintain a robust performance management program. Call Design's Performance Management Essentials course enables you to implement a successful performance management program by teaching managers and team leaders the ACTIV8 methodology:

  • Align
  • Connect
  • Teach
  • Influence
  • Validate

4. Educate your staff

Once your managers have completed the two-day Performance Management Essentials course, they'll be able to educate staff. Team leaders can initiate dialogue with staff about how a new performance management program can be used to set and monitor strategic goals and to help them achieve their personal targets.

5. Learn about performance management software

Aspect's Performance Management software is a great tool when it comes to generating and monitoring data. Dashboards, scorecards and reports are used to collect, collate and display information specifically targeted to all roles in your organization. The data generated is clear and easy to read, and it enables leaders and staff to optimize their performance.

For more information on implementing a successful performance management program, get in touch with the experts at Call Design.

Top tips for running a successful performance management system


Performance management systems are an invaluable tool for contact centers. With customer experience expectations increasing all the time, it's vital that you are keeping track of overall staff performance and monitoring where improvement is needed. But how can you ensure that the performance management system you implement is a success? Here are our top tips:

1. Make positivity your focus

Successful performance management is a positive force for your staff and the office atmosphere as a whole. Faced with so much data about your employees work it can be tempting to jump on the areas that need improvement. But this approach is not only demoralizing for staff, it also misses skill sets and achievements that should be nurtured and celebrated. So how can you found your system on positivity?

  • Share positive feedback with the whole office.
  • Give praise sincerely and often.
  • Develop an incentives/rewards system that celebrates exceptional performance.
How to implement a successful performance management system: embrace positivity.A positive approach is key to implementing a successful performance management system.

2. Communicate with your team

Rapid changes to working practices and expectations can understandably be unsettling and disengaging for your employees. To tackle this and get your staff on board with performance management, it's important that you keep staff well informed. This helps everyone to feel comfortable with the new processes they will be working with. How can you do this?

  • Be open and honest with your team about the new system and what it means for them from the outset.
  • Share the exact details of what you will be measuring and how.
  • Be open to staff feedback. This is important during initial implementation but also continually as the system gets up and running.

3. See it as an opportunity to upskill staff

Performance management systems are excellent at aggregating employee data and highlighting areas that need to be improved. This is a fantastic opportunity to get to know the individuals in your team, which areas they prefer and which they need more training on.

A successful performance management system upskills employees. Targeted training and upskilling your employees raises overall performance and is engaging for staff.

So what can you do to help upskill your team?

  • Identify areas for employee improvement and provide coaching and personal development.
  • Introduce further training and upskilling to staff career paths
  • Don't be too hasty in letting poor performing employees go - take time to understand the exact reasons for their results, there may be a simple solution!

4. Train your managers

At the end of the day the better managers understand the system they are working with the more likely it is to succeed. Thorough training from experts on how to run and implement a performance management system and integrate it into existing routines can help pave the way.

If you're looking to implement a performance management system into your contact center and want to make it a success, get in contact with the experts at Call Design today.