The Problem With IVR: A Call Center Case Study

Paul Roemer

Editor's Note: This article was first run on Call Center IQ on 4/1/2009.

Call center representatives are trained to respond to only certain call types.

But when voice recognition technology, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), is thrown into the call center mix, problems arise. Voice recognition technology causes issues for both the customer and the call center representative.

This shouldn't come as a big surprise, but customers hate voice recognition technology, no matter how well-designed it is. And because of that hate-hate relationship, they often try to outwit the voice recognition technology.

Strategic Choreography of an Inbound Call Center Call

When phoning the call center, your customer doesn't want to be instructed to push button one if the reason for the call is a billing problem, or to push button two if the reason for the call is a technical problem. He or she wants to push whatever button gets him or her the quickest to a call center representative. But that destroys the strategic choreography going on behind the scenes of the call center.

The customer calling about billing problems experiences a substantial wait time because the billing specialists are answering technical calls. And the customer calling about technical problems does not receive an accurate or consistent answer and has to call repeatedly to get an answer to a simple question.

Voice Recognition Technology and Real-Life Call Center Problems

I recently performed a reengineering project for a large call center that had a single number for dialing. The number led customers to the voice recognition technology. This voice recognition technology was designed to route the calls to specific sets of call center representatives within the call center.

I had a chance to speak with the trained call center representatives during the reengineering project. The call center management had grandiose ideas as to what the capabilities were of the call center representatives. Unfortunately for the call center representatives, this was not possible to implement.

It was not the call center representative’s fault but rather the customer relationship management system.

A Toxic Call Center Customer Relationship Management System

The customer relationship management system the call center used was designed to handle a single product set, not multiple suites of products. Therefore, the customer relationship management system made it very difficult, if not impossible, for call center representatives to answer billing questions having to do with things like prorating.

Call center representatives collectively stated that they couldn't handle all billing questions, and that call center representatives frequently gave different answers to the same question. The call center technology did not keep pace with the changing business requirements.

And not one call center representative received any training after the initial call center training.

By trying to handicap the call center representatives by skill sets, we have inadvertently handicapped the call center by engineering away the call center representative’s ability to be excellent.

First published on Call Center IQ.