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Improving the IVR Experience with Personalization

Improving the IVR Experience with Personalization

Personalisation has been a hot topic in IVR Customer experience (CX) circles over the last couple of years. Done well, personalised experiences have the potential to improve CX, increase loyalty, and reduce cost to serve.

In an April 2017 report, Pivot To Person-First Personalization, Forrester reports that more than two-thirds of brands today consider ‘personalisation’ as a top priority. In that report, Forrester define a personalised experience as:

An experience that uses customer data and understanding to frame, guide, extend, and enhance interactions based on that person’s history, preferences, context, and intent.

In that report, Forrester outline three key benefits of personalised experiences:

  • Measurable business benefit by increasing loyalty and revenue and in reducing costs.
  • Positive customer behaviour change since personalisation ‘guides customers to more desired and profitable customer journeys’.
  • Evoke positive emotions in customers with personalisation contributing to ‘feelings of value, appreciation and confidence in customers’.

IVR traditionally has a bad reputation for providing bad experiences, and that’s not surprising given the number of badly designed IVRs out there. But designed well, and based on a thorough understanding of user needs and expectations, IVR experiences can provide great caller experiences.

At VoxGen, we’ve seen that offering proactive, personalised IVR experiences raises the bar when it comes to IVR interaction and caller.

Read now: Customer Experience Checklist

The benefits of IVR personalization

In usability research studies conducted at VoxGen, we often see that providing proactive reason for call within the IVR results in higher indicative CSAT (customer satisfaction) scores, reduced caller effort and more favourable comments overall than the same task where personalisation isn’t offered.

In one study, we compared directed speech with proactive reason for call:

  • Directed speech – where callers are offered guided options to select their reason for call e.g. ‘Now, you can say refill a prescription, speak to a pharmacist or help me with something else’
  • Proactive reason for call – using data, the IVR predicts the reason for call e.g. ‘I see you have a refill due. Is that what you’re calling about?’

Participants reported that they perceived the proactive, personalised approach to be quicker, more convenient, more secure and innovative than the directed speech approach.

Interestingly, that same study also included a natural language version of the task where the IVR offered an open reason for call prompt e.g. ‘What can I help you with today?’. In terms of CSAT, the natural language prompt received higher CSAT scores than the non-personalised directed speech due to perceived caller effort and call length (see figure 1).

Figure 1 - Improving the IVR Experience with Personalisation.jpg

Figure 1: Comparison of dialog types based on a 5-point CSAT scale (CSAT rated on a 5-point scale, where 5 was the most positive.)

We saw a slight reduction in CSAT for natural language compared to the proactive reason for call since participants felt that there was more effort on them to work out how they should respond to the open question. 

“I was a little hesitant at the start…how much do I have to say? Not quite as solid. The first one [proactive reason for call] was more solid, specific…” (Participant 10)

In the Forrester report cited above, one of the cited benefits of IVR personalization is evoking positive emotions in customers. In usability studies where we have evaluated personalised IVR experiences, that has certainly been evident. When questioned at the start of usability research, participants are typically skeptical about IVRs based on their poor experiences in the past. So, on experiencing a well-designed, personalised IVR, the experience often evokes surprise and words such as ‘wow’ and ‘awesome’ – not words that are normally associated with IVR!

“This would be awesome! It anticipated what I needed and I didn’t even need to ask it!”

(Participant 6)

Designing personalised IVR experiences

Based on our reviews of IVRs, it’s clear that while many companies are talking about offering personalised experiences, not many are putting that into practice, particularly when it comes to IVR. In a previous VoxGen blog post, Using Data to Personalize the IVR Experience, we talk about ways that you can use small data to implement simple strategies for offering personalization, for example:

  • Recognizing the customer has an overdue bill to pay and giving them that option first
  • Knowing the caller’s order has been delayed, and giving them the option upfront to report an overdue delivery
  • Seeing that the caller is calling from a place where there’s a known problem or outage, and playing them an appropriate message
  • Knowing the caller has called before, welcoming them back, and providing appropriate options given it’s not their first call

These kinds of personalised experiences don’t require massive, costly data integration work but they do rely on an understanding of key reasons for calls and user needs. And that’s where research is critical.

“Many personalization attempts rely on limited data points like name, current location, or last purchase to trigger or tailor an experience without considering insights derived from well-designed research.”

(Pivot To Person-First Personalization, Forrester, April 2017)

To optimise personalised experiences, Forrester recommend implementing a Person-Centric Personalization Program (Figure 2):

  1. Reframe your personalization program to be person-first. Flip your personalization objectives to drive customer benefits first, then business outcomes (Figure 1).
  2. Broaden your personalization toolkit. Activate the value of personalization to inform, simplify processes, advise, and care for your customer through a diverse set of design tools and tactics

Person-first personalization approach

Figure 2: Person-first personalization approach (Pivot To Person-First Personalization, Forrester, April 2017)

User-centered design for IVR personalisation

Implementing a ‘person-centric personalisation’ approach relies on user-centered design (UCD), incorporating research to understand user needs and expectations, iterative design and evaluation and ongoing UX measurement, analysis and optimization. That’s why at VoxGen we have a formal UCD approach to all IVR design projects:

VoxGen IVR UCD Process

Figure 3: VoxGen IVR UCD Process

Following this UCD approach for IVR, personalisation has resulted in an 18% reduction in calls reaching the contact centre during outages for one client by telling callers about broadband outages affecting them, based on the location implied in their number. For another client, offering personalised prescription details via the IVR resulted in three times higher use of IVR self-service, an increase in CSAT and a reduction of same-day callbacks by 12.5%.

Great user experiences don’t happen by accident, and that’s certainly true of personalised IVR experiences. Effective personalisation relies on having the processes in place to research, design, evaluate and monitor those experiences. But the benefits of offering well-designed and customer-focused personalised experiences are well worth the investment to your customers and to your brand.

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