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IVR Optimization Business Benefits

IVR Optimization Business Benefits

Watermark Consulting took Forrester’s annual customer experience Index and compared the return over five years of investing in the top 10 versus the bottom 10 ranked companies for customer experience. The results were staggering. in the five-year period 2007 – 2011 the leaders outperformed the broader stock market by 27% over the S&P 500 and 128% over the companies considered customer experience laggards


“…technical skills alone don’t secure victory anymore. And if all the competitors are good, the one with the best reputation wins.” Wally Olins ‘ On Brand’ 2003

Zero Sum

In a world of competing brands, each tries to best the other in a constantly escalating race of features and pricing. This war is impossible to win because it only superficially engages the customer. They remain on the outside observing the slug-fest in bemused silence, awaiting the best “offer” and churning to and fro because “value” is defined by price alone.

For example at Telco, it’s all about competing on price, network speed and handsets. Until there’s nowhere to go except ‘round and ‘round in an ever escalating circle of undifferentiated offerings.

And what about your customer? Every one with different needs as far as they’re concerned. Their expectation is to be treated as an individual and they take it seriously when they don’t get high touch, personalised service. They don’t know or care about segmentation or CRM. They just see your brand for better or worse through every touchpoint. And now they talk about you on Facebook and Twitter: seriously messing with your reputation.

Does customer experience become the next place to differentiate and compete? And how do you excel and what will it mean for the business?

First some customer service history:


One-to-one service: The shopkeeper

A little story. When I was a kid growing up in New York, my dad would pass the same newsstand on 14th street on his way to work each morning.

The proprietor Mr. Kaufman, would say the same thing everyday.

“Here you go Mr. Brill.

Your coffee, your Lucky’s and your paper.”

Mr. Kaufman was a marketing genius at least 60 years ahead of his time. Why? Because in 1953, he was practising “Intent Targeting”.

Not only did he know WHAT my Dad would want:

  • Coffee with 2 sugars
  • A pack of unfiltered Lucky Strike Cigarettes
  • A copy of The New York Herald Tribune

But he knew WHEN my Dad, who was a creature of habit, would pass the newsstand on his way to work so he had everything ready for him just as he arrived.

Now that’s REALLY using CRM.

And my Dad remained a loyal customer for years and years.

Fantastic customer experience… but hard to scale.

Anonymous: The call centre

But as businesses did scale, they needed to handle massive numbers of contacts. The solution: The call centre. But the call-centre itself became unmanageable. Cost to serve went up, hold times increased, and customers were dissatisfied.

Automation seemed to be the answer and soon everyone was installing IVRs for call routing and even, (gasp) self-service.

Frustrating Automation: Designed for robots

One size does not fit all.

When we first designed automated customer service systems we believed that one size would fit all. It was all that the technology would allow at the time. DTMF menus (phone trees) and even speech recognition systems were the same for everyone and were viewed by customers, unsurprisingly, as a barrier to good service.

Multi-channel Automation: Centered around the user’s needs.

But times have changed and now we have intelligent tools to dynamically treat the customer as they want. We can tailor services both inbound and outbound to their needs and moreover their channels of choice, preparing us for the next step.

Building The Two Way Relationship

So how do we combine customer experience and commerce to build loyalty, reduce churn and improve revenue?


We need to be building a relationship with the customer that’s a step change beyond what they can get elsewhere. That requires an understanding of who your customer is, what they have in terms of products and services, what channels they prefer and how they use them.

We then want to use those channels to reach out and give them information that is both timely and directly relevant to them. Are they running out of inclusive minutes on their plan? If they keep using their phone will they get “bill shock” when they receive the next bill? Is there a different plan that would save them money. Are they roaming and using expensive data when they could have a bolt on roaming data package? This is really not rocket science but we’re constantly surprised how rare this kind of conscious use of data is employed proactively.


Next we must give the customer the power to materially participate in a two way dialog. If they want to take up an offer, whether it appears on the WEB, on Smartphone, through SMS or Facebook, they should be able to respond and self provision instantly. Only then does the relevance and timeliness of the information and the offer pay off for both the customer and the telco.

Remember Mr. Kaufman’s newsstand? If he offered my Dad the coffee but made him wait while he prepared it, the immediacy would have been gone as would the convenience.

ON TIME to be relevant, ACTIONABLE to be of value and CONVENIENT to build the relationship.

Commercialise And Monitor:

Data, data, data! The ability to monitor the customer and understand their responses in real time is priceless. It lets us know what is working for them and what campaigns and products are working for us. Realtime data allows us to test market propositions and A/B them to determine what will be most successful.

It’s not that easy. Data needs to be clean and accessible. Systems need to be taught to work together. The whole thing needs to be managed and coordinated so that changes to propositions are reflected across all channels. It’s no small feat but…

The result: An improved, personalised and intelligent two way relationship with the customer will mean higher NPS, reduced churn, increased revenue and more value for the consumer and the business alike.

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