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Perspectives by i-Comm Connect

Why 800 Numbers and IVRs are Dead in the Digital Era

Posted by Harris Von Essen on December 20, 2019 at 11:24 AM

The invention of the telephone dates back to the late 1800s and while it has changed in look and feel in the past 200 years, it wasn’t until the cloud-based era in the last 20 years have we seen real evolution of the technology. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology dates back to the 1970s and became mainstream in the 1980s as a means to hold and filter callers to save time and resources directing calls manually. IVR technology can decrease operational costs, allow customers to get information quickly without talking to a person, and offers an easy way to research what they are looking for; however, what often gets lost in the process is human interaction.  Customers are forced to wait through slow IVR processes before they can even talk to a human being in order to get customer service. 

While businesses are going through digital transformation in the modern age, they are attempting to create digital and mobile touch-points to make it easy for their global customers to self-service their needs in the best way possible. While the 40 year old IVR technology has been an option in the past, it is important that companies bridge the gap between a digital customer experience and human interaction in order to sustain a great customer experience and increase brand loyalty for years to come.

The Customer Journey in the Digital Age is Broken

A typical customer journey often starts with a digital experience, usually beginning with visiting the company's website or a mobile app.  Think about the last time you actually picked up a yellow page directory to call a company - this was probably over a decade ago, right?  The reality is that everyone in our society is tethered to their smartphones or some Internet connected device when they engage companies today.  If you need something from a company, you usually go to a search engine, then their website or use their mobile app to search for your answer.  Most people would rather not talk to anyone to get to what they need if it’s easy to access the necessary information.  This is what makes FAQs, digital AI tools, chatbots, apps etc. so useful.  The customer wants the information as quickly as possible and then moves on - it's only human nature.

The interesting thing about humans is that once we cannot find the information or we run into a problem, question, or issue, we want to interact with another human being who can help us - immediately. On top of that we want to get to the RIGHT person and not be handed off to several people.  This is what is challenging with most digital customer experiences today.  Once we need a human being we are forced to scour a website for the right 800 number, leave the digital platform, dial a number on our mobile phone, and hope there isn’t some lengthy IVR where we need to push a whole lot of buttons to get a real human on the line.  I have never met anyone who enjoys this process. 

WebRTC Can Bridge the Digital Gap in 2020

So, as we approach 2020, why is it that we force our customers to do this?  Are we not all living in the digital age where every day we use technologies like SMS, social media, video, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and other tools to communicate?  We have so many diverse ways to communicate with one another, which is why the 800 number and IVR is dead and we must look toward more cutting-edge technologies.  The only scenario in which someone would be forced to use a landline phone and printed directory would be if they lost their mobile phone and were standing in front of a payphone in the middle of nowhere like a National Park (which is actually the last place I actually saw a payphone).  And let’s be honest, if that is your situation you are not calling a company – you are calling your buddy to come pick you up.

All kidding aside, there is a better way.  About 10 years ago a technology called WebRTC was created by a bunch of really smart guys at Google.  This technology protocol allows for real time communications like voice and video to be handled over the web with quality that is as good if not better than most VoIP communications.  The platform is supported by every web browser we use today and most mobile platforms.  If used properly, companies can simply integrate this technology into the digital platforms customers use today and conduct live voice conversations with their call centers right through the digital platform itself. 

Imagine you go to a website, look for information, need some help, click a button, and bam – a real human being is talking to you right through the website or mobile app!  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  And now imagine you didn’t have to repeat your account number 2-3 times to the call center agents because they would already have the contextual data in front of them.  If every company had this capability, they wouldn’t need 800 numbers at all.  Let’s face it, no over ever buys 800 numbers for themselves, so, if the only purpose of an 800 number is to route customers to a call center or customer facing rep, then why use them at all if we can route calls through the digital medium itself?

More Data is the Future State of Customer Service

WebRTC technology also has the power to pass customer data from the digital platform to the call center. This helps call center operators optimize the customer experience because now they have more data about the intent and the context of why someone is calling.  If you are looking at a specific product on the website before you hit the in-app call button, they know you want information on that specific product. Or, if you sign into a mobile app, they already know your customer account, name, and what services you own.  Essentially once companies start to embrace this way of routing calls to the call center, the customer experience can be greatly improved because more data can be shared in real time.  Once you leave the digital platform and use an 800 number all that data is lost. 

Moving From Traditional IVR to a Visual Directory Empowers the Customer

Thus, the additional benefit of in-app calling with intent is the fact that you don’t need to route customers through silly IVRs to establish why they are calling.  In fact, traditional IVR technology has no real purpose if we can utilize WebRTC to route calls with intent. If the IVR’s purpose is to figure out where an inbound call should end up, this process can be infinitely easier by using a Visual Directory.  Customers are able to self-route themselves to who they need to engage by choosing a specific end-point on the menu. The basic idea is to use a digital interface to do the same thing IVRs perform but to empower our customers to control the process more efficiently. 

In conclusion, 800 numbers and IVR are old technologies – and their time is up! The digital world we live in today negates the need for these relics and we should embrace the new technologies that allow us to engage human beings faster through the digital screens in which we spend most of our time. If you are interested in a technology that harnesses the power of WebRTC and the Visual Directory to transform your customer experience, check out TACTAL by i-Comm Connect. Start communicating better with your customers today and bring your communications into the 21st century.

Agree? Disagree? Reach out to harris@icommconnect.com or call me through our website. I would love to talk to you about the current state of customer communications. 

All the best, 

Harris Von Essen 

Click here for a Free Demo of TACTAL

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