• January 3, 2011
  • By Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Separating Fact From Fiction

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MYTH 1: End users with touch-tone or non-vXML-based speech recognition applications must upgrade to a new platform to realize benefits from an IVR optimization.

FACT: No, they do not. In some situations upgrading to a new IVR platform could be a good idea, but if the application works, it is not a necessity. As long as there is a way to evaluate the performance of the IVR application by putting in trackers that identify where and why customers drop out and/or request an agent, the current environment can be optimized without replacing the underlying system.

Vendors of on-premises IVR make most of their money selling new and upgraded solutions and by charging maintenance fees, so this is what they push. Moving from a touch-tone IVR application to a vXML-based speech platform may have substantial long-term benefits, but often requires a hefty up-front investment that could be more than $250,000, particularly if speech recognition application development fees are included.

While many organizations see the benefits of a self-service platform refresh that may have a payback in one to two years, it is often hard to justify when the current solution still works, the CIO has a tight budget, and there are many other critical investment priorities.

In other words, the vendors often price themselves out of a job; instead of helping organizations undertake an optimization initiative, they scare off prospects by pushing a very expensive “rip and replace” solution. This is one of the major reasons sales of on-premises IVR solutions have fallen in each of the last few years, and why this downward trend is expected to continue for the near future. (The opportunity has been embraced by more flexible hosted/managed service IVR providers.)

MYTH 2: End users have little to gain and a great deal to lose from trying  to improve an IVR application that delivers an acceptable automation rate.

FACT: As long as experts are used to implement the improvements, the benefits should be significant, relatively rapid and mostly risk-free. An IVR optimization exercise includes two major components: figuring out what does not work well in the current application—where people get confused and stuck and drop out—and identifying agent-related tasks that can be automated. The first step is to identify and document the problematic activities and new automation opportunities. The second phase, which has some risk, involves rewriting the application to take advantage of these opportunities.

Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting. To learn more about IVR optimization, visit http://www.dmgconsult.com.

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