Ask Yourself These Questions Before Shopping for an IVR
Recently, we researched more than 35 IVR providers. After noticing some common themes, we decided to pull them together with some suggestions to help you in your search for an IVR.
If you are beginning the search for an IVR, whether it be for cost reduction, inbound calls, outbound marketing, or contact center solutions, be prepared to be bored to tears. For the most part, IVR companies are all selling the same thing and have been for many years. And I’ll prove it. There are three selling points that every IVR provider will offer to you as a potential buyer.
- Cost savings: A major pitch for IVRs, which can intercept questions and save agents time, is the long-term reduced cost. Improving efficiency and saving money are two of a manager’s favorite phrases.
- Better communication: Obviously, IVR is a form of communication and every company thinks they have perfected it. No matter the type of service or specific technology (text-to-speech, speech recognition, etc.), they all say they can help you communicate better with your customers.
- Improved customer experience: Most IVRs are put in place either to respond to or reach out to customers, and every company will tell you that that your customers’ experience will be better with their IVR.
In our research these were the three primary selling points represented in some way on every company’s website. It is kind of crazy to see the same three pitches more than 35 times. But it makes sense for two important reasons.
First, it shows that these three factors are really significant. They are important for running a successful customer service operation and are important to managers of customer-facing departments and businesses. The second reason is begotten of the first: it would likely raise a red flag if an IVR company was not mentioning one or more of these factors. Though they may seem obvious and repetitive, companies have no choice but to insist that they are proficient in these offerings.
Reading Between the Lines
With all of this repetition, how are managers supposed to find the IVR system, if any, that will best fit their needs? The best companies generally differentiate themselves from the rest, and IVR providers are no different. Differentiation can come in various forms; some companies specialize in specific industries, like healthcare or banking, while others span many industries but dedicate themselves to a seamless integration process. Additionally, keep in mind that technology is changing, being updated, and improving at an unbelievable rate, while the IVR industry is mostly stagnant. In fact, in December 2014, ASR News found that over 60% of companies still use DTMF technology for their voice automation (ASR News, Vol. 25.12). If an IVR firm’s technology seems outdated now, it probably is – you do not want to be playing catch-up to a trend with exponential growth.
Try to look beyond the hype; there are a number of more complicated factors to consider besides communication, customer experience, and cost savings. When beginning to research IVR vendors, we recommend asking yourself these questions:
- What are your business priorities and how will they be enhanced by your IVR? If you are looking to improve your customer experience, then it probably makes sense to seek out advanced solutions that include options like natural language, CTI, and intelligent queue management. If you are looking to enhance security, then it’s good to look for criteria like PCI certification, redundancy, and issue escalation procedures.
- Where will your business be in five years? How does an IVR fit into that forecast? Will your provider and their technology advance or thwart your business growth? Many IVR providers continue to sell outdated technology despite huge advances in the industry. Be wary of vendors using technology like VoiceXML (VXML) which has limitations, and has not been updated in years. In fact, a “Sneak Preview: VoiceXML 3.0,” the next iteration of VXML, was published in August 2006 at SpeechTek and no significant updates have been made since then.
- What sorts of customizable features do you need? How often will changes need to be made to keep up with your business? Tuning and updating are integral to IVR maintenance, versatility, and efficacy.
A Different Approach
At SmartAction, we differentiate ourselves by using artificial intelligence to deliver an IVR that pushes the boundaries of technological innovation. We were born out of AI research and AI continues to drive our product development as we strive to deliver a modern experience for callers. Customers do not want to deal with a typical, frustrating, outdated IVR and neither do we.
About the Author: Charlie Schrier
Charlie is a Content Marketing Associate at SmartAction and an MBA student at Loyola Marymount University. He graduates with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship in May and hopes to work in strategy management. When he’s not blogging, Charlie watches, coaches, and plays a lot of basketball.