• January 1, 2008
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

'Your Call Automation Sucks'

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I'm the editorial director of both CRM and Speech Technology magazines, so you can imagine my shock when I received an email with this column's headline in the subject line. At first I thought it was an email marauder attempting to sell me something. I clicked on it anyway, just in case it wasn't.

It wasn't.

The email was from an industry consultant who had responded to a Speech Technology reporter's call for an interview. According to the email, when using our interactive voice response (IVR) system he experienced "a long, rambling monologue that provided virtually no value." He added that it "even had the please listen carefully as our stuff has changed nonsense. Surprised that you didn't have...a couple of Your call is important to us [lines] included. When I pressed 0, the system said that wasn't valid and then turned around and told me to press 0 to reach an operator." Ouch!

To be fair, our extensions have recently changed. Information Today (the parent of both CRM and Speech Technology) recently moved its New York office to accommodate an expanded staff. With the new office, we also needed a new phone system. While we were able to port our old phone numbers to the new system, our IVR integrator told us that our extensions would change. No big deal -- we don't have large call volumes. However, many of our callers already know us and likely have our old extensions, so it seemed reasonable to warn them -- for a brief period, at least -- about the new ones.

We're writers and editors -- not IVR experts. During the implementation, I was comforted to know that an IVR integrator was handling our call automation system. However, based on what I've learned from editing Speech Technology (and common sense), I came to the conclusion that our IVR was bad -- actually, very bad. I suspect that many IVR integrators either don't know what a good call automation system is, or don't care to spend too much time on small accounts.

On top of having IVR woes, the speech technology consultant threatened to write about them in his industry newsletter. I could have ignored his threat. Instead, I wrote a column similar to this one (with the same headline) in the November/December 2007 issue of Speech Technology. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with most respondents (even the original attacker) expressing their appreciation for my honesty about our bad IVR and for letting them know we're fixing it.

We've since fixed many of our IVR problems -- I may describe how in a later column. In the meantime, learn how to tune up your own IVR system by reading our feature story "Listen Up!" by Speech Technology's Editorial Assistant Ryan Joe.

Incidentally, our recent IVR makeover and how we handled it can provide useful lessons as you adopt Web 2.0, CRM 2.0, and social networking strategies. Essentially, when bloggers attack, it's best to address the issues up front rather than hide from them.

Meanwhile, you may note we're revisiting these issues fairly soon after last month's thematic issue, "It's All Coming 2.0gether" -- it's that big of a deal and we're committed to covering it. In fact, our lead Insight story, by Editorial Assistant Jessica Tsai, is proof: Facebook attempted to learn more about -- and make money from -- consumer behavior, in an unconscionable way that angered many of its members. Some companies, however, have a better approach to behavioral targeting. See Jessica's cover story, "Oh, Behave!", for better ways to target customers. And keep reading subsequent issues of CRM, as we continue to cover Web 2.0, CRM 2.0, and the social networking phenomenon.

David Myron
Editorial Director


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