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Posted on October 30, 2013 by West Corporation 


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Is Your IVR Like a Traffic Jam?

Have you ever seen the movie Office Space? Perhaps a better question is who hasn’t seen Office Space? I have seen the movie well over a dozen times, and each time I watch it I laugh because many of the scenes depicted resonate in my professional life. In fact, the very first scene inspired me to write this article. You know what I am talking about. That’s right, it’s the scene where Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston) is on his way to work and he is stuck in traffic. He tries to anticipate traffic lights and driver behavior by changing lanes only to fall farther behind in traffic. Just as he switches lanes because he thinks traffic is moving, it slows down and the other lane picks up. He soon realizes that the elderly man walking with the help of a walker is gaining ground on him.

So, it’s a typical Monday and I am on my way to work mentally preparing for the workweek ahead, faced with the recurring frustrations of my typical commute. Traffic is as usual moving at a snail’s pace, and I am just waiting for that elderly man with a walker to appear. It would be easy to blame the traffic jams and accidents on drivers, but it is a combination of the people behind the wheel and traffic (business) rules that cause this early morning headache day in and day out.

In today’s nonintelligent customer world we have traffic lights that are on a timer and programmed to respond based on the other traffic lights. There is no intelligence built in. If there was, then the traffic light at 120th and Military would not turn red and make me stop when there is in fact no traffic coming from either direction. Instead, it would sense there is no traffic and keep the light green until there was traffic from the east or west. Better yet, the lights at that intersection would store the history of traffic for that time frame and for that day. Over time, the traffic light intelligence would build and make traffic much more smooth, leaving drivers with minimal stress and increased speed to their destinations. The same thought process holds true for the way an IVR routes calls for some companies. Routing calls in a linear fashion does nothing for the customer.

So, let’s tie this traffic reference to today’s IVR transactions. Today, as a loyal ABC banking customer of 18 years, I complete 80 percent of my transactions online, 15 percent via mobile and 5 percent via voice self-service (IVR). For some reason the Web cannot help me with the transaction I need to complete, due to business rules, so I am forced to call in to the IVR. I am greeted by the typical, “Press 1 for English,” “2 for Spanish,” etc., and so the proverbial traffic jam begins.

I quickly say “One,” for English (which I’ve done hundreds of times before, yet nothing changes) where I am then asked to enter my account number, PIN, blood type and every other answer known to man. After doing all of this and wasting two minutes and 15 seconds of my life, the system cannot perform the transaction I am requesting and routes me to a contact center representative, where I spend even more precious time waiting in queue. It is at this point where my mind wanders and I can see that elderly man in the walker gaining ground on me — funny when watching the movie, not so funny in this scenario. I finally get to a representative, and I am again asked to repeat all of the security questions I was asked in the IVR. No intelligence whatsoever.

If we embrace the concept of intelligent customer interactions and use the data to do the heavy lifting for us, we can perform all transactions in any channel we desire, leverage the context of those transactions when abandoning one channel and entering another, and spend less time in the IVR (or in traffic, if you will), we are left feeling much more satisfied and have more time to be productive, going about our day. The future technology is here and we must embrace it now. Once we do, everyone will have access to the carpool lane, minimize traffic congestion and get to their destinations on time with reduced effort and stress, and ultimately saved time. And, in case you were wondering, the elderly gentleman making his way down the street gets to his destination unscathed and ready for that 69-cent cup of coffee he has been craving.



West Corporation

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