Interactive Text Response is the New IVR

With technological advances flooding the market everyday, interactive voice response (IVR) is looking more and more like a thing of the past.

Modern speech technology dates as far back as the 1930s, but IVRs didn’t really come into their own until the late ‘90s. In theory, customers would be empowered to solve their own problems while agents would be able to handle more pressing calls with IVR. In actuality, this new system caused companies to value speed over service, stressing out agents while creating more and more dissatisfied customers.

For businesses, it’s been a lot cheaper to use IVR over a live agent. A call handled by IVR costs an average of 15 cents, while a call handled by a live agent costs an average of $15—a hundred times more expensive than IVR. Using IVR also manages calls more efficiently than a live agent, allowing calls at any time and automatically connecting customers to the solution for their problem.

Unfortunately for customers, IVRs have often created more problems than they solve, like an unsatisfactory experience. Despite its relatively straightforward design, customers are frustrated by the soulless auto attendant and endless rerouting. Only 15% of consumers think IVR use benefits them, while 34% think they benefit the company.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Luckily there’s a solution that benefits everybody—interactive text response, or ITR. Building off of its IVR predecessor, ITR introduces us to a world where businesses get what they want (more business!) while increasing customer satisfaction. Companies can personalize texts and notify customers about orders, prescriptions, you name it, and they can automate messages to save time and money. They also have the benefit of switching to live text chat if a customer wants more information, and are able to handle multiple conversations at once.

Companies can also eliminate one of the customers’ main frustrations (long hold times) with ITR. Customers get their questions answered in real-time without having to sit through the phone tree; in fact, over 80% of customers hate doing that. Texting is also a lot more convenient than phone calls—it’s quieter in a loud location, and customers don’t have to be tied to their phones while waiting for a response. If they do text chat with a live agent, they’re still able to have a two-way conversation without switching to another device.

ITR In Action

Organizations ranging from restaurants to schools to banks have already started using texting to contact their customers. Or, in the case of Bowling Green State University, their students. Newly admitted students at BGSU can text chat current students with any questions or concerns they have; over 90% of students choose to opt-in to the program. Students can also receive text enrollment updates and deadline notification in the weeks leading up to classes. Students like using text because it’s their channel of choice and they ask questions they normally wouldn’t over voice. The school likes it too since because they get more responses than they could with just voice.

The important thing to remember about ITR is that it’s interactive—it’s not just one-way communication (even though that’s how it’s been used up until now). Customers hate phone trees because they’re not having an actual dialogue; they’re just pressing buttons. ITR engages the customers in a conversation, automated or live. Having that two-way text communication will end up separating the inactive from the innovators.

Photo by Flickr user Kris Krüg.

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Elias Parker

Elias Parker is a Managing Partner at OneReach where he is focused on enabling companies to offer effective, meaningful customer support over text message. With over eight years of experience working with a user experience agency that pioneered the user experience (UX) space, Elias is skilled in ethnography, user experience research, workshop facilitation and crafting highly specialized product research, design and development teams. Elias’ work spans multiple industries and his client portfolio includes Fortune 500 companies such as FedEx, Boeing, Fidelity and Conde Nast to name a few. Elias has a Masters Degree in Ethno-Political Conflict Analysis & Management from Royal Roads University in British Columbia, Canada.

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