Discover how IVR testing and monitoring removes the guesswork from call center optimization.
It’s easy to understand the potential benefits of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Using an IVR funnels calls through an automated process and frees up agents to solve complex problems instead of wasting time answering simple questions. But IVR still has plenty of room for improvement, and that’s where IVR monitoring and testing comes in.
IVR monitoring and testing refer to the automation or outsourcing of specific IVR maintenance tasks, call tracking, and recording. Systems vary, but at minimum, most systems generate alerts when the IVR goes down, allowing those who maintain the systems to be notified and respond quickly.
Monitoring can be simple — a simulated call is delivered to ensure the system is active and answering calls — or it can be more complex, offering data gathering that reflects on an IVR’s performance according to a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that tell just how well an IVR is working. It can also be done at set intervals in order to test the system over a longer period of time and ensure the system is working at peak performance.
Automated IVR testing and monitoring gives IT professionals real-time status alerts, which enables faster troubleshooting and response times, leading to less downtime overall.
It also proactively contributes to greater reliability through load testing. This step can be incredibly important when a surge in call volume is expected, especially for industries like finance or healthcare which are subject to strict regulatory requirements.
IVR monitoring also provides smarter recording and response features that can be used to enhance customer service, improve contact center operations, meet compliance requirements, and generate valuable data.
Although IVR monitoring tools and services enable IT teams to work much more efficiently and effectively, procurement departments or other stakeholders may need help understanding the benefits of investing in an IVR maintenance and optimization tool when there is already an in-house IT department.
In these cases, all parties should consider how the performance of a call center has ripple effects on the entire organization. When there is less time spent on reactive maintenance, there is more time to spend on optimization.
Improving Customer Service Standards
If the IVR isn’t working, customer calls go unanswered. This sets up a stumbling block to establishing an omnichannel environment that provides on-demand services, as today’s customers have come to expect.
Preventing Customers from Jumping Ship
When a customer can’t get a question answered from one company, the usual response is to proceed to that company’s competitors and get answers there. Suddenly call loss escalates to potential business loss, which means profit loss. IVR monitoring helps prevent this by shedding light on the questions that customers need answered.
Improving Current Operations
Your IVR system may be running, but that doesn’t mean it’s running as well as it could be. Monitoring your system can improve operations and prevent revenue loss.
Even though there is a natural ebb and flow to customer contact, excessive stress is a very real possibility for many IVRs. Proper load/stress testing will help you determine how your IVR handles calls during peak times, so you can enter key time periods with full confidence that you’re ready to handle any surge.
What happens when the IVR is overly stressed and routing calls elsewhere? If it’s routing calls back to agents, you could be paying agents to solve the simplest problems. You want those trained professionals to be solving serious problems. Proper monitoring can ensure your resources are allocated in a cost-effective way.
Conduct a Survey
Check in with your customers after you begin using IVR to handle their calls. Find out what their perception was of its efficiency, effectiveness, and whether they’ll use this method to contact your company again. Be proactive about communicating with customers about the survey results. If you receive some negative feedback, address the concerns and let customers know you will be using the results to improve their experience with your contact center.
Create a Clear Menu
Make sure customers are offered their options in clear language that’s presented consistently. For instance, determine whether you’ll use a phrase that includes a verb, such as “To make a payment, press one. To speak to someone in sales, press two,” versus using a simple badge-style designation, such as “For Billing, press one. For sales, press two.”
Streamline Call Paths
Test your system extensively to see where customers will end up, and how many buttons it requires to get there. Make sure someone wanting to make a payment through your IVR isn’t working through four or five different menus to arrive at accounts receivable.
Present the Most Commonly Chosen Option First
If 75% of your calls are for placing orders, then make sure “to place an order” is assigned to “press one.” This seems simple, but because it will impact your metrics for call-resolution time, you’ll want to ensure callers quickly arrive at their destination.
Intelligently Allow Callers Access to Agents
Your IVR should always improve the customer experience by giving callers a parachute. As you get further into the interaction, you might have a prompt for them to choose to speak to a representative. Don’t worry that this will eliminate the need for your IVR because if your IVR is effective, they’ll generally prefer to stick with the automated system.
It is helpful for even experienced call center and IVR professionals to revisit the subject of IVR load testing to understand how it can – and can’t – be leveraged to optimize operations.
IVR load testing is the process of testing an IVR system and its accompanying infrastructure by sending a large volume of traffic through it to see how much of that traffic the system can handle. IVR load testing is designed to measure the overall environment during various levels of usage. It’s not specifically out to break the system, but it can tell when the system approaches breakdown by monitoring the system while it’s testing, checking for things like CPU use, memory consumption, and similar system measurements to ensure a better outcome.
Load testing is most valuable when the IVR meets the following criteria:
The failover point is unknown. The point of IVR testing is to find the failover point, so if no one knows what it is already, then testing can serve its purpose.
The system can handle a high call volume. If your system is already failing after 10 simultaneous calls, then IVR testing won’t be helpful. You already know where the failover point is, but you also know it’s very low. So even if you didn’t know if the failure point came precisely at call nine or call 11, you would find that IVR testing would overwhelm the system before it got even close to its full range. In this scenario, load testing typically does not justify the resources.
The IVR has up-to-date, quality documentation. Many IVR systems were added after the fact, which means that the documentation of how the system is built is less than sound. Without solid documentation, it becomes very difficult to write the necessary test scripts or set up the IVR map that’s a large part of IVR testing.
There are several industry-agnostic benefits associated with monitoring and improved IVR outcomes. For example:
However, it’s important to also consider the value of IVR monitoring within sector-specific settings. From healthcare to retail sales and public services, IVR monitoring both gathers and distributes information, enriching the end-user experience and equipping the organization’s leaders with the insight they need to further improve policies and practices.
Over the years, the core concepts of IVR success and optimization have revolved around two prevailing goals:
Getting customers on their way to a solution by providing necessary information and tools.
Getting out of the way of customers who can quickly and conveniently self-serve.
While these underlying principles remain the same, the technology available to achieve them is constantly progressing, all while customer expectations continuously evolve. It’s important to continually refine your IVR practices to remove friction and reduce contact effort according to your customer’s changing needs and preferences.
To this end, understanding what’s ahead for IVR technology can help you put into place future-friendly monitoring and testing services that can help you stay agile and responsive at a real-world business pace. There are several great things ahead:
Machine learning (ML) will continue to improve in recognizing patterns, gaining more data, and crawling that data to find customer records.
Chatbots will become more intuitive, recognizing more speech and predicting more accurately when a customer needs a specific solution versus another.
Automation will make it easier for chatbots to know when a caller needs to be transferred to a live agent.
The callback tool gives customers the have the option to receive a call back from the system when an agent is available, rather than waiting on hold. This feature cuts down on the number of calls that are abandoned, and it’s no surprise that it boosts customer satisfaction.
Speech analytics will continue to give agents greater insight into how to engage the customer when answering a service call and achieve the level of satisfaction the enterprise hopes to deliver to a customer.
As far as preparing for new IVR technology, it’s important to determine whether your provider is looking ahead to more advances.
How are they using chatbots and ML to help contact centers enhance the customer experience across channels?
What is their update frequency? How will they support your contact center with new training and features?
IVR benefits will vary between organizations and how they apply the available features, but an optimized IVR system has advantages for any business that desires improved customer service.
Take advantage of IVR monitoring to fast-track your way to a downtime-free call center. TelcoAlert’s truly flexible, accessible IVR-monitoring and load-testing solutions will help you rest easy knowing your phone system is at peak performance. Contact us today to get started.