Hate the Game, Not the Player: IVR vs. the Customer

Tripp Babbitt

The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference. So call me indifferent with regards to the IVR. Customers, on the other hand, ‘hate’ them.

Narcissistic companies believe they are saving money when they deploy these modern marvels. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything that separates a customer from getting an answer quickly and accurately is an annoyance. Furthermore, it adds to costs and loses customers.

One organization told me that IVR helps route to the right function to answer a customers question or problem. The real issue was that 72% of these calls WERE problems or failure demand (demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for a customer). Imagine the frustration of calling a service company with a problem and being met with an IVR to navigate. Been there, done that.

The IVR company had a simple solution, "let’s route problem calls to the right person," and off they went to add "press 7 for problems." Can you imagine the ignorance of this move? This company was accepting of failure demand and had to add to the IVR menu to prove it. Warning: sarcasm alert; since "problems" was their highest (failure) demand, shouldn’t it be #1 on the menu? How about this, let’s eliminate the failure demand.


In addition, this company accepted the functional design they were caught in and this is why they needed to route to the function. Funny thing is when we listened to calls 41% of the time they got misrouted or had to get transferred for other demands.

The problem here is that contact centers typically have q variety of demands, and IVR’s become entrapping technology that can’t absorb the variety customers bring. There is a better invention; it’s called the human being.

What if I told you that if you redesigned the workload so that a human being (known as an agent) could answer any demand - value or failure? And you could get rid of all but 7-8 percent of the failure demand. Impossible? No. In fact, it has been done, and IVR’s have been stripped out because we don’t need them.

Here is what you get:

  • No expensive cost creating technology – IVR’s
  • Happier more engaged employees that can answer almost any question a customer can throw at them
  • Reduced costs (from eliminating failure demand)
  • and (drum roll please) . . . customers that are ecstatic about the service your company provisions them, and, twitter about the tremendous service they receive to pull other customers in.

The technology of the future is the technology of the past. Humans. But to unleash the power of the human both the design and management of work must change. Let’s get to work!