Are your customers getting through?

IVR – interactive voice response – you know, “Press one for this, two for that”, is on the increase, but why? It is certainly not because customers like it; all the research I have read shows that many customers dislike it intensely. I’ll let you into a secret. IVR is on the increase because managers think it will reduce costs. In simple terms, IVR passes some of the costs of the transaction to the customer – yes you are paying to do your own service work.

Managers are simple folk. They believe the choice is between having a computer or operator pick up your call, and ‘obviously’ (they think) the computer is cheaper. But managers don’t question whether cheaper is better. Rather, they believe cheaper is always better. As we shall see, this is not true. Managing costs can cause costs.

When confronted with an IVR, customers sometimes route themselves to the wrong department – silly people! It illustrates one of the fundamental problems. If you can’t predict why the customers are going to call in, and do this from the customer’s point of view, in other words the way customers talk about their needs, then mis-routed calls will be inevitable. When a customer arrives in the ‘wrong’ place, they have to be routed to the ‘right’ place and this means going to the back of this next queue. Great for customer service.

Worse, when confronted by an IVR, many customers give up, they ‘abandon’ their call to use the jargon of the call centre industry.

If your organisation has IVR, just measure these two things. How many customers mis-route and how many abandon their calls. Find out whether these measures are stable (predictable) or not. Whenever I do this I find an abundance of lost opportunity – customers who get so fed up they won’t do business with you. Worse, they will complain about you to others. I also find an abundance of waste – people (and customers) having to ‘re-work’ or otherwise do things that have no bearing on the customer’s need, wasting time and resources.

While managers believe IVR reduces costs, in practice it can increase costs. Sometimes the most important costs are not the ones that are being measured. Are your customers getting through to you?


The new Vanguard web site

We are about two weeks away from announcing a new Vanguard web site. Building a site that is educational was one challenge. However, getting the bank to do their part in establishing e-commerce facilities was the greater challenge. If we had not been prepared to manage the bank, we would not have got the work done – a lesson in service design, no doubt. How many e-commerce fledglings (like us) are in the market-place? How easy would it be for someone with a better service design to rob the banks of this business? I think you know the answer.


A visitor from Japan

In April we are hosting a visitor from Japan. He is interested in learning what UK companies are doing with ISO 9000. He is motivated to do this because he has witnessed ISO 9000 ‘destroying world class quality’ in Japan. He will visit six SMEs and will meet with ISO 9000 commentators.

A summary of his findings will be published in this newsletter.