IVR man phone I’m a reader of Search Engine Watch and I recently came across the article by Tim Ash titled “Roles vs. Personas vs. Cognitive Styles“.  Being written for a web design/optimization audience it was obviously aimed at explaining the various visitors who may visit a website and how to design/optimize the website for these unique visitors.  What struck me is that most companies put a lot of time, energy and money into building and tweaking the company website to optimize it for the best possible customer experience.  But many companies don’t realize that the other main public face of the company, their phone number, needs the same love and attention and should be given just as much “optimizational care” as their website. Who calls a company’s toll-free number?  The same people who visit the company’s website!  Let’s take a look at the web visitor “Roles” that Tim outlines:

Roles correspond to specific classes of visitors interacting with your site. They are defined by their relationship to your Web site and call to action. The role breakdown can be basic, or it may need to be slightly more nuanced depending on your circumstances.  Here are some representative examples of possible roles:

  • Consumer e-tail company: New visitors (who haven’t visited your site before), returning visitors (who have visited but haven’t bought yet), first-time buyers (trying to complete their first purchase), repeat buyers (who already have their information stored in your system), e-mail list members (who have signed up to hear about future special offers).
  • Plumbing supply company: Retail customers (looking to buy an individual replacement part), plumbing contractors (need an array of parts for a specific customer job), wholesale buyers and real estate developers (need large volume price breaks and extended payment terms).
  • Dating service: Prospective member (hasn’t signed up yet), new member (has paid but hasn’t set up a complete personal profile), experienced member (has done multiple searches and contacted other members).
  • Educational-saving-plan provider: Future recipients (children under age 18), parents of recipients (who typically establish the plan), relatives and friends (who may contribute money to the plan).

If you think about it, each one of these is someone who could/would also call the company phone number.  Just as the website needs to be set up to handle each of these visitors, so does the main phone number of the company.  Whether the main phone number goes directly to an agent, or especially if there is an IVR solution in place, designing the phone-based customer experience is critical to the public face/brand of the company.  Let’s look at a couple of these Roles and how the IVR could handle each: Consumer e-tail company:

  • New Visitors (who haven’t called your company before): This is your chance to establish/re-establish your brand.  We’re going for brand consistency here.  These callers likely have come into contact with your brand before through your website, print ad, tv ad, etc.   If you have a “voice of the brand” for a tv spot, use that same voice in the greeting and prompts of the IVR solution.  If you have been trying to project the message “we’re easy to do business with”, don’t send callers through an endless maze of options.  If you’re targeting a young, hip audience, use music and language appropriate to that audience.
  • Repeat Buyers (who already have their information stored in your system): This one is a no-brainer and can certainly be one area where a streamlined IVR solution can not only increase customer satisfaction, but also affect the company’s bottom line.  Integrate your phone system with your backend database or CRM system.  Your phone system can be set up to recognize the caller ID, and greet the caller by name, then give them automated information quickly such as their order status, last payment or gift card balance.  Then give them other options after you’ve already given them the info they’re likely seeking.  This makes the customer’s interaction quick, easy and pleasing, and takes some of the burden off your agents.

Plumbing supply company:

  • Plumbing Contractors or Wholesale Buyers: Completely different audience than a mainstream consumer brand.  These callers know you and have used you many times before.  Don’t set up a phone system that is generic — the IVR should cater to these established customers and make them want to keep coming back.  Personalize the flow by recognizing their repeat caller ID.  Keep the greeting brief since these callers typically know exactly what they need and they want it fast.  Give them touchtone options that they can memorize to get where they need to go within the IVR.  Allow for “barge-in” so they don’t have to listen to the entire prompt before selecting the option.  Again, keeping these customers happy can be crucial to their ongoing business with you.

Educational-savings-plan provider:

  • Relatives and friends (who may contribute money to the savings plan): Just like anyone can pay/donate money online, so can they over the phone.  An IVR for something like this should be instilled with the same “feel-goodness” that you find in the pictures of happy children that would likely be placed on a website for an educational savings plan.  Record the greeting and prompts with a warm, feel-good voice talent.  Use happy language throughout, and language that lets the caller know that this transaction is secure.  Make the donation process of putting in credit card information quick and painless; and, after the donation process is done, reinforce the security message and automate the process of getting a receipt to the caller.  A pleasant caller experience leads to more donations, which makes everyone happy.

As you can see, these descriptions of what you can do with the IVR systems of various companies has a common theme of “make things better for the caller and good things happen.”  Well, our mantra is “putting the customer first,” but doesn’t it just make sense?  A lot of time and energy is put into streamlining the web process.  Making information easier to find on a website makes the people looking for it happy.  Streamlining a form on a website landing page typically means more people will fill it out, which makes businesses happy. The company website is not the only public face of the company.  In fact, the phone is often the biggest touch point between business and customer.  Everyone should think of their company phone number like their company website.  Make the phone interaction better and you make your callers and customers happy.  Happy customers makes businesses happy. Learn more on how to streamline your IVR customer experience by reading, Gartner Marketscope for IVR Systems and Enterprise Voice Portals.