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IVR Featured Article

IVR: Prioritizing Customer Contacts by Media Channel and Lifetime Customer Value

May 21, 2012

How many ways can customers engage with you via your center? While the telephone, of course, is still the favorite method, there are so many others like your website via Interactive Voice Response (IVR), e-mail and chat, social media, telephone self-service, SMS and possibly video chat. It's great for customers, who expect to be given the same high quality of customer service regardless of which channel they choose. It is also nice for a company to be able to offer so many options, but a multichannel contact center platform can help you gain and keep customers is an enormous challenge.

While once you had to focus on only one or two customer media, now you've got customer contacts flying in from all directions, and you are expected to manage them as a cohesive whole...different elements of the same customer relationship. Nobody said it's easy running a call center these days.

To avoid dropping one of these balls call centers are expected to juggle, according to a Technewsworld.com article, companies must architect customer service channels according to the benefits for which they're best suited. They then need to direct customers to channels that may be the best fit, given their situation and what they're trying to accomplish. In other words, the channels can't simply exist, they must be proactively managed. As some channels are better suited for certain customer interactions than others, helping herd customers to the right channels based on their needs can help enormously.

So what kind of factors will come into play when it comes to directing certain customers toward certain channels? Truly urgent matters, of course – a stolen credit card, for example, or a high-priced item that arrives damaged – should be handled by “live” channels such as telephone or Web chat. More traditional or older customers may be easier to serve via familiar methods such as telephone, wrote CRM Buyer's Jeff Zabin in the article.

And then there's self-service: once considered to be for the lowest-value customers, self-service technologies have developed to the point where it's not longer punishment for customers to use them. In fact, many customers prefer self-service: it's quicker and there's no need to courtesies and small talk with a live agent. Herding the right customers – younger, more tech-savvy ones – into self-service can save enormous amounts of money. Zabin wrote that costs for more high-touch live channels such as the phone can be reduced by more than 95 percent using viable self-service alternatives and by more than 60 percent using e-mail, studies suggest. The cost-per-interaction of a CSR (News - Alert) can average $6 or more, while IVR touch screen response and automated speech response tend to average about 25 cents.

The trick becomes understanding your customers better so you can know which channels and which processes are right for them. If you handle too many contacts at a very high level, your costs will spiral and your agents will burn out. Drive too many customers into cheaper channels and your customer service will suffer. One way to accomplish this kind of best-case channeling of customer contacts is to funnel all customer contacts into a single queue, regardless of contact type, and apply robust skills-based routing to the contacts. Prioritizing customers based on their lifetime customer value is another way to optimize your cross-channel customer service strategy.

In the long run, it's a way to make your call center more “intelligent.” Chances are your customers will thank you.

Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli


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