Improve service with better IVR design

Max Parry, Value Partners
Telecom Asia

As fixed and mobile penetration rates increase throughout Asia, and developed markets approach saturation, customer service is becoming a key differentiating factor for telecom operators in retaining subscribers. However, operators are facing greatly increasing pressures on their ability to meet customer expectations when it comes to support.

Firstly, telco product offerings have become more sophisticated, increasing the complexity of technical issues that need resolving. Secondly, many operators aim to provide seamless support for multiplatform offerings, but have found the integration of separate fixed and mobile support organizations to be time-consuming and complex (Telstra's integration of these support organizations launched in 2007 and was not scheduled for completion before 2010-12). Finally, customers themselves have become more demanding, expecting always-available support services to be offered over a number of different channels.

Traditional approaches to customer care have focused on striking a balance between investment in resources (usually more call center staff) and the satisfaction of customers using the service. We have worked with companies that have seen customer care budgets increase by 15% over a single year, without any corresponding increase in customer satisfaction relative to competitors. However, we are now observing and advising on a shift to more intelligent support methods that can enrich the customer experience while simultaneously achieving greater cost efficiencies.

In one example, our client shot from being a distant No. 3 to a clear No. 1 in independent quality ratings by implementing new customer care methods, and concurrently reduced costs by 17% in 12-18 months.

As can be seen in the chart on next page, call centers remain the most heavily-used support channel, but consumers are fairly dissatisfied with the interactive voice response (IVR) systems commonly used to filter and automatically resolve customer queries. However, our work with clients suggests that frustrations with IVRs are principally due to poor design features such as confusing menu structures and poor navigation.

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