The Improving Image of IVR

Speech RecongnitionSince Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were first introduced as a customer service tool, there have been many detractors. However, a recent Forrester Consulting survey indicates that the tide has turned and customers have accepted IVR and, in some cases, even prefer it to live operators. Speech-enabled self-service IVRs have become so commonplace that many consumers report that they prefer to use such systems for simple tasks such as checking account balances, flight statuses or shipment tracking. The survey results show that more than 50% of participants reported a preference for speech-enabled IVR for most simple transactions.

The survey also suggests a positive consumer response to proactive IVR systems. Such systems are being used to place courtesy calls to customers as reminders of appointments or other important upcoming activities. Of course there is nothing new about the practice of proactive calling, but customer acceptance of the technology is improving along with the general trends in IVR acceptability. Despite all the positive marks for IVR systems, there is still room for improvement.

Although customers appreciate the ability to handle simple tasks themselves, they still want the option to easily bypass the IVR to speak to a live operator. Respondents also said that improving speech recognition and accuracy would greatly improve their calling experiences. IVR systems are still the best method for cost savings in a call center environment and are unlikely to be replaced by any other technology in the immediate future. However it is important for developers to regard negative feedback from consumers as constructive criticism and a means to improve service and performance. Overall the results of this survey are very positive but continual improvement and meeting customer expectations will result in increased business for everyone involved in the IVR industry.

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