ivrCommon consumer perception when calling a large company and being met with an IVR’s automated menu is that the company puts that IVR in place to do nothing more than keep their costs down and keep callers from reaching their expensive live agents. Where’s the balance between giving callers what they want, and at the same time reducing costs and increasing the ROI for the business?

That’s exactly the question that global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca sought to answer when they began consolidating the customer experiences of all their brands. While AstraZeneca strategically made an early move to cloud-based IVR technologies years ago, they weren’t realizing the full benefit of having a holistic view of multiple programs across their brands—instead, they were using multiple, disparate systems.

A couple of years ago, they decided to make a transformative move in the pharmaceutical industry and created a team devoted to customer experience that worked across brands to create a consistent and effective experience for all of their consumers. But they weren’t just looking for better technology and a positive ROI; AstraZeneca is deeply involved with their consumers and wanted to make sure the changes they were going to make did not negatively affect their brand perception in the marketplace. They were looking for a true “partner,” not just a vendor, to help them along this path.

Here are just some of the steps they took—ones you can also take—to bring all systems under one umbrella with the goal of increasing both ROI and customer satisfaction:

  1. Form the right team: Bring together all of the stakeholders and decision makers across departments and across brands. Then choose a select few who will represent the voice of the company when it comes to the customer experience. Involving too many people (which is easy to do in pharma) can instigate things getting out of hand and can lead you right back to a messy customer experience, as everyone wants to “just throw one more thing in.”
  2. Scrap your old stuff: And your old mindset. The concoction of systems you have in place is myriad of brand colors, which has likely been tie-dyed over the years as brand managers and regulatory bodies have simply “added” and “changed” stuff without taking an overarching look at how each change affects the phone experience. Not to mention, your company and your customers have changed over the years. Now is a great time to start from scratch and rethink your approach.
  3. Build the company voice shell: Much like you might do in building the overall branding structure of a website or printed collateral, the team needs to decide on the general structure of the key IVR solutions each brand would likely need. Individual brand customization comes later, but at this stage you need to think of things such as: a consistent corporate voice talent; standard legal and regulatory components; required company identifiers (i.e., corporate sounds such as the Intel chime, required mentions of the corporate name, and “this call may be recorded” type messaging); standard FAQs; and a consistent hand-off between the IVR and the call center. This step allows you to create a consistent experience across any phone number represented in the marketplace.
  4. Understand your callers: This is the first step in customizing the voice solution for each brand. The two most important aspects here are understanding the demographics for the brand and understanding your callers’ needs. It’s as simple as answering, who is calling and why? Are they older or younger? Are they comfortable with technology and automation or not? Are they calling to simply refill a prescription or to report an adverse event? Understanding who is calling and what they are trying to accomplish comes before deciding how your ROI will be built.
  5. Automate where it makes sense: And it makes sense more often than you might think, so don’t be afraid to automate. After understanding your callers, you can now determine what to automate, which is a key step in building a wildly successful ROI. Automation comes in a couple of forms: a) automating an entire process from start to finish with no live agent intervention (lead generation in the form of automated name and address capture falls into this category); and b) automating to streamline the agent interaction (prequalifying callers for a drug program and passing the data as a “screen-pop” to the agent applies here). Each of these methods can be highly successful, both in making the caller happy and giving the company an immediate ROI.
  6. Customize per brand: Now it’s time to take your thought-out approach to the voice shell and automation, layering in customizations for each brand. All brand managers want control over positioning within the marketplace. What you’ve done up to this point, though, is exercise your expertise in IVR and your customers to create a cohesive experience across the company; this approach needs to stick regardless of what the brand manager asks for. That being said, every IVR needs to be customized for the brand and for the brand callers, and much of the input for this comes from the brand manager. Allow the brand manager to lay out his/her needs and wants, most of which will make the cut. But the customer experience team needs to stay steadfast in their corporate approach to consistency.
  7. Deploy, monitor, and report: There’s a lot to do in this step but the goal here is not to just throw the new IVR solution out there and walk away. If you want to follow in AstraZeneca’s footsteps, you’ll want to do some A/B testing—route a percentage of call volume to the new solution to make sure callers are accomplishing what you planned in the way you planned it. Monitor traffic and report on the good and bad of the system so you can make changes before you route all traffic to the new system. Then repeat your steps when you deploy the system to all phone traffic.
  8. Iterate, report, then reiterate: I’m not suggesting you constantly replace parts in the engine, but tinkering and tuning the IVR system is a must. When reporting, look across all brands to see if a customization within one brand IVR is having a positive effect that could be translated to other brands. But even more important than looking for the positive effects, when you run reports, look for the red areas where people are having trouble. Callers will always let you know where they have trouble. You’re accustomed to hearing complaints in the call center when callers don’t like something. But if you have the right reporting set up, you can see where callers are “zeroing out” of the IVR, or where “no match” and “no input” levels are high (i.e., you asked a question and the caller’s response either wasn’t understood or the caller just didn’t respond.) Fix these trouble spots first, then collect more data, then fine tune again.

If done right, you’ll start seeing a positive ROI on your new IVR investment immediately, and it will only grow from there. But the goal here is not just a great ROI—it’s a better customer experience. AstraZeneca was managing a post-call survey before their new IVR implementation was deployed. They received higher customer satisfaction marks across the board after deploying the new system with increased automation.

To get more details on AstraZeneca’s success, download the AstraZeneca success story.