Visual IVR for Amazon Connect extends omnichannel IVR to Amazon Connect service
October 23, 2017 – USAN, a provider of cloud-based omnichannel customer engagement solutions, today announced the availability of Visual IVR for Amazon Connect on AWS Marketplace. Visual IVR is a customer self-service solution that seamlessly integrates with Amazon Connect, a cloud contact center platform. With Visual IVR, companies can offer customers another choice in the way they interact with their business.
USAN customers today demand service that is fast and easy. Often, that means using self-service options. Unfortunately, some interactions are perceived to be too difficult to handle through an IVR and end up with a live agent, resulting in higher costs and longer call times.
Visual IVR for Amazon Connect makes service easier for customers and lifts the load from contact center staff by recreating the IVR experience as an optical, mobile application. It augments IVR menus, prompts, flows, and rules in a graphical format. Companies can use voice prompts to guide customers through the graphical process, as well as mobile web and SMS options to collect and present complex data.
With Visual IVR for Amazon Connect, many of the interactions that were considered too hard for IVR become easier. Rich interaction capabilities and improved usability make self-service a viable option for more complex issues. USAN customers therefore “zero out” to agents less frequently, improving IVR containment rates. And with Visual IVR’s Amazon Connect integration, companies using the cloud-based contact center service can take advantage of this enterprise-grade functionality.
Since its release in March, Amazon Connect has made it easier for any business to deliver better customer service at a lower cost. Setting up a cloud-based contact center is as simple as a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, and agents can begin taking calls within minutes.
“Amazon Connect makes it easy for companies to set up and start using a cloud-based contact center,” said Steve Walton, President and CEO of USAN. “By leveraging Amazon Connect, USAN customers gain access to enterprise-scale features while honoring the agility and open integration tenants of Amazon Web Services. Availability on AWS Marketplace enables USAN to be a value-added provider to the most exciting new contact center solution introduction in a decade.”
Visual IVR’s seamless integration with Amazon Connect helps customers:
Improve the customer experience
Increase call containment
Reduce costs associated with live agents
Easily deploy enterprise-grade IVR functionality using AWS standard tools
Visual IVR is powered by Metaphor Engage, USAN’s omnichannel customer engagement platform. Metaphor Engage integrates communication and backend channels to enable companies to deliver a seamless customer experience across all channels. A built-in integration framework, workflow manager, and adapters connect almost any existing technology and database to unify data and enable companies to consistently deliver personal and relevant service. Metaphor Engage eliminates silos, centralizes business processes, and synchronizes them to work together according to specific business requirements.
USAN helps companies profitably engage customers and deliver amazing omnichannel experiences with an industry-leading cloud and hybrid customer engagement solution. From traditional telephone interactions to web-based communications including chat, email, and social, USAN’s portfolio of contact center applications gives businesses infinite flexibility in the way they engage customers across channels.
As the original self-service tool, IVR technology has long been a cost savings mechanism. Unfortunately, many organizations today don’t realize that their antiquated IVR solution is actually driving up contact center costs because the options are so limited and the containment rate is so low. So, what can a new IVR do for you? Plenty. Here are just a handful of the many cost saving opportunities that can be realized when you replace your IVR.
IVR technology hasn’t stood still. Advanced features and capabilities address rising customer expectations. Conveniently, they also reduce your costs. Take, for example, a capability that isn’t exactly brand new, but has evaded widespread adoption, virtual queuing and call back functionality. Giving customers the option to be called back rather than waiting on hold addresses one of the top complaints customers have about customer service queues: it wastes their time. And by calling customers back, the contact center reduces toll-free costs since virtual queuing doesn’t incur telephone charges.
Conversational IVR is another example of advanced IVR functionality. Handling simple queries and transactions via speech recognition software helps you resolve these tasks faster (and for the customer, more naturally) than through a touchtone IVR menu. While older voice-based applications can cause customer frustration, today’s speech recognition capabilities have advanced by leaps and bounds. In addition, the rise of speech recognition software on smartphones has increased customers’ comfort with the technology.
Contact centers have to walk a narrow line between streamlining IVR menus and offering enough options to prevent customers from zeroing-out to request a customer service agent. Visual IVR helps address this problem.
ContactBabel reports, “Because it is far quicker to read text than to listen to text being spoken – some studies show that a caller can navigate a visual IVR menu between four and five times quicker than a DTMF IVR menu – the customer experience is improved without sacrificing any functionality or options.” As a result, visual IVR can reduce your costs “through improved call avoidance and more accurate routing, improving first contact resolution and decreasing call transfer rates.”
Contact centers can also offset costs by increasing revenue through upselling or cross-selling. For instance, if you know that a customer is eligible for an increase in a line of credit or that a major life event is coming up, you can use hold times to present related offers to customers. These revenue-generating opportunities are possible with a modern IVR that leverages a context store. The context store is a data repository that holds information pertaining to your customers’ interactions. You can configure the IVR to query the context store after a customer is authenticated, and then generate an applicable offer.
The context store also enables you to personalize your customer’s IVR experience by proactively identifying the customer’s need. If the customer’s last interaction was to make a deposit, you might conclude that the customer is calling to confirm whether the check cleared and offer that information automatically, once again reducing call times.
The role of the IVR in the contact center has always been to reduce costs, and advances in IVR technology enable it to continue to do so. If your contact center costs are increasing or your IVR is lacking these features and capabilities, it may be time to declare your current IVR dead and look for its replacement. Would you like to learn more? Contact us today.
Some folks in the contact center industry would have you believe that IVR technology is dead. Perhaps you agree, based on your own high opt-out rates and low customer satisfaction scores. In reality, the saying couldn’t be further from the truth. Advancements in IVR are ensuring the technology’s role in the modern contact center.
The customer service industry has evolved rapidly over the last ten years or so, and much of the industry’s attention has been on the shiny and new: omnichannel, personalization, web self-service and most recently, Artificial Intelligence. But this same innovation applies to IVR. Providers have evolved their offerings, delivering new features and capabilities that help address current customer service trends. Here are some of the recent advancements in IVR technology that could benefit your contact center – and your customers.
Central context store
Now you can put all that customer data you collect to good use. Modern IVRs allow you to execute sophisticated rules against a context store to determine how to handle specific calls. The context store is a central data repository that stores recent customer interaction steps/actions from multiple channels. These steps/actions are granular in time and detail and allow you to make just in time decisions based on the customer’s past interactions and behavior.
New ways to interact with the IVR
Say goodbye to numeric menu options. Customers today can engage with the IVR in a more intuitive and natural way. Speech recognition has advanced to the extent that conversational IVR is a viable option, and visual IVR allows customers to engage through a graphical interface on their mobile device.
Fraud prevention capabilities
Telephony-based fraud remains a real risk for contact centers, but call detail records hold valuable clues that can help prevent fraud – if you can find them. A modern IVR can analyze call detail records based on rules and flag details that are indicative of suspicious or fraudulent activity.
The ability to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) like call abandonment and IVR containment are key to improving customer satisfaction scores. After all, how do you know what to fix if you don’t know what’s broken? Today’s IVR solutions not only provide analytics pertaining to IVR utilization, they also enable you to drill down into specific IVR interactions to perform root cause analysis and improve upon those KPIs.
Contact centers today have more options for their IVR than ever before. Advanced integration capabilities mean that you no longer have to use your ACD provider’s IVR offering. Instead, you can use (and integrate) any IVR that best fits your needs. You also have additional deployment options that can help reduce costs. Secure cloud hosting eliminates the capital expense of running an IVR on-premises while reducing operational expenses associated with ongoing management of the technology.
With these advancements in IVR, the question that remains isn’t whether IVR is dead – but whether your IVR is dead. If your IVR technology is missing any of these features or capabilities, it may be time to replace. Would you like to learn more? Contact us today.
Let’s face it, there are other technologies in the contact center that are more exciting than your IVR. But despite the rise of other communication channels, telephony remains “by far the largest inbound interaction channel,” according to ContactBabel. That being the case, it’s worth asking, “Is it time to upgrade the IVR?” Here are five signs that it might be time to upgrade your IVR – and the benefits of doing so.
You have no visibility into breaking points within the IVR. You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken. If you don’t know where customers are “zeroing out” so that they can speak to a customer service rep, then you don’t know how to improve your IVR containment rate. Modern IVRs provide that visibility as well as IVR utilization analytics so that you can see where containment suffers and even listen to snippets of the IVR interaction to identify the root cause.
Benefit: Visibility into IVR utilization enables you to improve containment rates and the return on your investment.
Customers hate your IVR. Customers generally don’t care whether their problem is handled by an agent or through an IVR – so long as it’s handled quickly and easily. If your IVR’s operations are based on ten years of rules, confusing menus and logic trees, and paths that go nowhere, then your customers will hate it. But they don’t have to. Modern IVRs enable you to simplify IVR menus and predict why customers are calling.
Benefit: Making self-service quick and easy via the IVR improves containment rates and customer satisfaction scores while reducing contact center costs.
You bought your IVR at the same time you bought your ACD. There was a time when using a third-party IVR was simply unheard of. Today that’s no longer the case. Integration capabilities have come a long way, and any IVR can easily integrate with any ACD as well as external databases.
Benefit: Contact centers aren’t locked into a specific IVR but instead can choose a best-of-breed solution.
Your IVR lacks advanced features and capabilities. Modern IVRs offer a variety of features and capabilities that enable contact centers to improve the quality of service they deliver. For instance, machine learning capabilities enable you to predict why a customer is calling. A context store enables you to personalize calls and deliver a true omnichannel experience because you have the entire interaction history at your fingertips. Analytic capabilities enable you to identify and reduce telephony-based fraud by detecting anomalies and patterns in the IVR call detail record. These are just a few examples.
Benefit: A modern IVR enables you to more effectively meet your customer service and business goals.
Your IVR is running on-premises. The benefits of procuring cloud-based IVR services far outweigh any benefits you gain from running a system on-premises. In addition to reducing expenses, a cloud-based IVR reduces the support and operations burden placed on your IT organization while giving the contact center access to advanced features and capabilities as they become available.
Benefit: A cloud-based IVR eliminates capital expenses and reduces operational expenses while delivering the tools organizations need to deliver superior customer service in the 21st Century.
Finally – a bonus sign. If your IVR makes you yawn, if you’re not truly excited about the possibilities that are open to you through your IVR, then it’s time to contact us. IVR technology has come a long way, and we’re excited about what it can do for you.
You’ve begun the process of replacing your call center software solution. After conducting a self-assessment, you have a good idea of your technology and business needs. Now you’re ready to create a request for proposal (RFP).
An RFP is a standard part of any procurement process. By soliciting bids from multiple providers based on the same set of requirements, companies can compare and contrast solutions. This process is particularly helpful when determining a provider’s ability to deliver on your call center technology needs.
Call center software solutions can comprise of several components, including interactive voice response (IVR), automatic call distributor (ACD), outbound campaign management and workforce management. Your needs for each of these components can be as varied as the solutions themselves. The RFP template below will help ensure that you consider all the various aspects of call center technology solutions and the relevant questions for each component.
Customer journey mapping can be a useful tool for organizations as they implement an omnichannel approach to customer engagement. However, like the customer journeys themselves, mapping is a complex endeavor that involves data integration, data analytics, and data visualization—capabilities that can be found in an omnichannel customer engagement platform like USAN’s Metaphor Engage.
A customer journey map traces your customers’ “footsteps” from channel to channel as they attempt to solve a specific problem. Different customers take different paths for different issues. What’s more, these paths are likely to cross departmental lines. For example, a journey map for a billing dispute may show that customers first email the contact center, and then they call customer service where they are forwarded to the finance department.
The challenges of customer journey mapping
To retrace your customers’ paths, you need data—a lot of data. Fortunately, with the evolution of the contact center as a customer experience hub, data is more plentiful than ever. For example, if you record your customer service calls, then you have data on why customers call you. The challenge is getting that data, integrating it with other data that sits in silos across the enterprise, and transforming it so that it can be analyzed.
The data you need is stored in many places, in many formats. You need to pull data from the systems that support various customer-facing channels, such as email, chat, social forums, and the IVR. But you also need to pull data from your internal, departmental systems such as the CRM solution, ERP systems, billing, etc. If any data silo is left out, you risk missing that step in your customers’ journeys.
Once data is integrated, it must be transformed into a standardized format so that it can be analyzed. The analytics system maps the interactions and weaves them into a journey, which is then visualized as a customer journey map. Analysis uncovers key information such as the issues customers have, the channels customers use and in what order, how long customers engage with a specific channel, the reason for switching channels, etc. This is the information you need to improve and optimize the customer journey.
Customer journey mapping made easy
An omnichannel customer engagement platform like Metaphor Engage is engineered to deliver these capabilities to enable you to optimize customer journeys and deliver a seamless customer experience. Metaphor Engage connects various systems, integrates and transforms the data, and centralizes and synchronizes business processes to work together according to your business requirements.
Metaphor Engage features a flexible integration layer that can connect all of your systems and channels. Adapters for every common data API ensure that Metaphor Engage can integrate with and become aware of your critical business systems and data. Customer data is then unified in a single customer view and where it can be analyzed to improve business intelligence and decision making.
Metaphor Engage also allows you to centralize and manage business processes related to all channels from a single decisioning engine. This way, you can influence which channels customers use and share customer data between various channels for true omnichannel customer engagement. The ability to build business logic in self-contained, reusable chunks also ensures consistent service delivery.
Whereas customer journey mapping brings visibility to your customer interactions, Metaphor Engage brings visibility to the data needed to create your customer journey maps. What’s more, Metaphor Engage has the orchestration and automation tools needed to implement the improvements your customer journey maps bring to light.
Many companies today acknowledge that the customer experience is the business differentiator in their industry. As a result, contact center directors are focused on improving the customer experience by adopting omnichannel and increasing digital self-service options. At the same time, however, the customer service landscape is growing increasingly complex, making it difficult to achieve these goals. Customer journey mapping can help.
According to Ventana Research, customers use on average eight different communication channels when engaging with a company. These include traditional channels like phone and mail, as well as digital channels like social media, chat and mobile apps. To further complicate matters, customer interactions are not limited to the contact center. Every business group engages with customers in one form or another. Furthermore, the channels and groups are disconnected. As a result, customers must repeat information, they can’t use their preferred channel, and the responses they receive are often inconsistent.
This is where a customer journey map can be of particular value. The concept of customer journey mapping is well known in sales circles, as they are often used to guide customer acquisition efforts. When applied to customer service, a customer journey map depicts how a customer engages with your company to accomplish specific tasks. It can tell you which channels a customer used and which departments they engaged with, and in what order.
The key to using customer journey maps to achieve omnichannel customer engagement is to look at micro journeys, rather than macro journeys. For example, you might look at the path customers take for billing inquiries or when filing a complaint. Once visualized, the micro journey can be analyzed to determine the root cause of service issues. You can also determine how information must be shared between the channels to ensure a consistent customer experience during that journey.
Customer journey mapping can also help reduce operating costs by giving you the insights needed to optimize and influence customer journeys. For instance, you can reduce the number of channels customers must use to complete a task. If customers primarily go first to self-service tools to update their contact information, but they end up completing the task via a call center agent, you can reduce those calls by giving customers the tools to update their contact information online.
Similarly, you can use the insights gathered from customer journey mapping to influence which channels customers use. Perhaps you inform callers via the IVR that they can update their contact information easier and faster by going online and using the self-service tools rather than speaking with a customer service agent.
Customer journey mapping can also help you reduce customer interactions altogether by enabling you to identify the reason they contact you in the first place. For example, you can identify whether a certain product is faulty or if the installation instructions are unclear. You can then act on these root causes to reduce the need for customers to contact you about them.
Customer journeys will only grow increasingly complex as engagement channels continue to proliferate. Customer journey mapping can help you adopt an omnichannel approach to customer engagement, as well as fine tune the journey so that you can differentiate the customer experience and reduce costs. And isn’t that what every contact center strives for?
Download the Ventana Research eBook, “Overcoming Customer Engagement Obstacles” to learn more about customer journey maps.
In the last post, I talked about the Big Buckets. One bucket holds transactional (self-service) events. One contains interactional (live-agent) events. And the third is home to the hybrids: events that are both transactional and interactional.
That third bucket—let’s call it the blended bucket—could soon be the biggest bucket as more and more companies adopt an omnichannel approach to customer service, and interactions commonly move from self to assisted service, and even back again.. Today, contact center leaders still have a tendency to create rules that mandate a different customer experience based on whether the interaction was self-service or involved a live agent. But the blended bucket should contain events, mixing both into single interactions, with access to the same knowledge base and contextual information.
Live agent contact is going to diminish, but it’s never going away. It’s time to start thinking about how to integrate self-service with live agent assistance so that the customer experience is seamless across all channels.
The Enduring Need for Live Agents
There are three primary reasons why live agents will always be a necessity.
Sometimes the customer need is too involved or requires special knowledge and skill, to be handled without live help. I might, for instance, be able to buy a laptop on my own, but I may not understand how to diversify my stock portfolio (though investment management companies have made great strides in self-service apps too). Sometimes the inquiry inherently has complications—explaining why an insurance claim was denied can involve answering a series of very specific and unstructured questions; here, knowledge bases can’t stand alone.
There are cases where law or policy prohibits a customer from doing something without agent participation. That may even mean that you must handle some matters in person (as is the case for many government agencies such as state DMVs and Social Security). Banks are another example. You can open an account, online or via mobile, without live agent participation, but many institutions require that you work with a representative when closing an account because of “hidden” fees or complicated processes.
Procedures are simplified. Regulations shift and relax. But customers are constants—their need for the assurance, confidence, and comfort of live agent support will never go away. They may want the certainty that comes from a live agent telling them their flight status or helping them track down a check amount—or a range of actions that some customers just don’t want to do on their own.
Technology Today Supports the Blended Bucket
Here are three things that will make the blended bucket easy to fill and to fulfill.
Focus your investment
As you continue to improve your contact center technology across the board, focus your investments on those areas where your industry and your own experience tell you where customers want to solve problems themselves and where live agent assistance is almost always required. Then adopt technology that provides an abstraction layer across these channels so that interactions are handled consistently and seamlessly from self-service to assisted service. Modern contact center solutions allow you to purchase and deploy the precise feature set that fits your customers’ blended service profiles.
Move to the Cloud
One of the key reasons this type of blended approach is possible is because of the Cloud. With contact center applications and infrastructure moving more and more toward the service model, the ability to quickly deploy new functionality and features is an advantage of a Cloud-based offering.
Embrace an Omnichannel Approach
That’s what will tie everything together—agent, customer and communication channels. Omnichannel technologies let you reach the customer across whichever channel—live or self-serve—is most appropriate for the task at hand. Someone buying a new insurance policy, for instance, can fill out the forms online, then connect through chat or telephone with an agent for verification and validation, and then move to a mobile app to make the payment. Omnichannel provides this fluidity, as well as the context and history, as customers move across and between self-service and live agent interactions.
As you’ll read in ContactBabel’s Inner Circle Guide to Self-Service, the blended bucket is an increasingly important part of contact center architectures and processes. Today, Cloud-based omnichannel solutions are helping contact centers focus their investment dollars, integrating self and assisted service in a way that drives customer satisfaction and positively impacts the bottom line.
The First Step in Planning Your Self-Service Investment
Planning your self-service investments means making decisions across multiple disciplines. USAN, in association with ContactBabel, has just published a nearly 200-page report on that topic—50 charts deep, covering all the critical topics that make up today’s self-service investment strategy. Those topics include transitioning to self-service, evaluating ROI, defining the costs and complexities of creating a self-service knowledge base—and more.
The report has a very straightforward starting point.
It divides all customer events into two buckets:
Any contact event where a dialog between people doesn’t have to take place is transactional. It’s where your customer wants to do something that involves one of your backend systems—make a payment, update account information, initiate a return. These are all actions that can be conducted directly between customer and database, with a front-end interface to guide the transaction. In cases like these, your live agent does little more than substitute for that front-end—a GUI with opposable thumbs. (Often, agent and customer are using the same system—they have exactly the same capability and authority to complete all the tasks.)
Here are some of the core identifying characteristics of transactional events:
Involves accessing and modifying structured data.
Cost of self-service is lower than person-to-person.
Faster and easier for customers to do it themselves.
One clear example of this kind of transactional event is password resets. Help desks report that 70% of their calls focus on password issues: the vast majority of those calls can be handled successfully with self-service.
Here, person-to-person dialog is required—because of circumstances, regulations, or the customer demands it. The task may be complex but it’s not just cost and complexity that fuels the investment; it’s customer satisfaction as well. No matter the cost, failing to provide the customer the assurance and peace of mind that only comes from talking to another person can damage your brand.
Here are some of the core identifying characteristics of interactional events:
Handling complex and/or unstructured issues.
Cost of personal contact is lower than self-service.
Faster and easier for agents to handle it for the customers.
The IRS comes to mind as an example. The cost of creating the secure, compliant self-service infrastructure to handle those complex events far exceeds the cost of having a live agent handle it.
So: two buckets. Easy, right? Simply put the transactional events in one bucket and the interactional events in a second bucket and you’ve nailed the first step.
Wrong. There’s a third bucket where all those customer events that don’t fall neatly into either of the other two land—and it often fills up fastest of all. It includes customer events that are sometimes transactional, sometimes interactional and sometimes almost both at once. This bucket customer events where the self-service investment and the live agent investment are both in play.
Two of the most critical issues companies deal with when deciding on the right omnichannel solution are what it costs and how it’s controlled.
The cost of installing and maintaining a sophisticated omnichannel operation is as low as it’s ever been, for three reasons:
The cost of all the pieces of compute-network-store infrastructure becomes cheaper and simpler in the Cloud.
The hidden costs—administration, update and upgrade, bug fixing and so on—that are part of on-premises systems are absent from Cloud systems.
In the case of Metaphor Engage, there’s only modest effort needed to get started. Metaphor Engage is not a disruptive bolt-on product. It’s integrated into the entire Metaphor solution suite, ready to be provisioned, configured and activated.
But it’s the other issue—control—that’s often overlooked.
Multiple channels sharing connections, data and events in real-time are a lot to control and manage. That challenge usually requires serious technology skills: programmers’ work. You’re not just making a single channel do something. You’re dealing with all the issues of multiple servers, networking, data sharing and repositories—and more—that are the basis of any omnichannel platform.
Metaphor Engage eliminates the need for programming. A simple, intuitive interface allows for flexible data access (XML, JSON, etc.) across any platform, simplifying the exchange and use of information. The rules and workflow engine allows unprecedented control over every aspect of customer interactions, from responding to customer requests to proactively engaging them across your omnichannel landscape.
When I say it’s simple, I don’t mean anyone can do it. It takes skill, knowledge, and experience. But they’re the skills of a business analyst, not a programmer. Those analysts track and understand customer behavior, preferences, and trends—and keep the business ahead of customer satisfaction curves. They use Metaphor Engage to connect customers in new ways and across new channels.
And they do it on the fly—often just to test and evaluate different scenarios and different strategies. To play “what if.” The basic construction of any program is “IF THEN ELSE.” With Metaphor Engage it’s also “WHAT IF – WHAT THEN – WHAT ELSE.” Working in test, design and sandbox environments, analysts work through ideas, try out new ways to reach and serve customers, and expose those ideas to their colleagues and partners before going live in the production environment. And because the omnichannel platform is in the Cloud, those analysts can access the platform anytime they want, from wherever want.
Cost and control are critical issues to any company considering implementing a new or upgraded omnichannel solution. Why not take a minute and ask us how we can create the perfect balance of omnichannel cost and control for you.
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