By far one of the most popular customer-facing technologies banks have introduced is Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Customers flocked to this technology, calling over and over to hear a balance or see if a payment had cleared, many calling multiple times per day, even if account balances and other information was not in real-time. The advent of Internet banking may have slowed the usage, but it did not go away. Convenience might be an issue: a customer checking an account balance may find the telephone faster than logging into a website. These systems are simple and easy to use.
Internet banking is well into its second decade, however, and many of you are already investing in the next generation: mobile banking. The question is, what to do with our IVR systems? Especially if you are running IVR in-house, it is likely that your system is aging, and support may be lacking. If you’ve priced a new system, you may be taken aback by the cost. If you can keep that old clunker running a bit longer, here’s my step-by-step process for getting a handle on this technology before it causes you a real problem.
Do an operational and contractual assessment of your current system. Get the vendor involved (if they are still around) and make sure you have ready access, in the short term, to replacement parts and support in the event of a failure. Get your core vendor involved (if they are not the IVR vendor) and ask them to help you plot a backup strategy, if your IVR vendor is not around. Or call an expert. Your goal here is to put together a strategy to keep the technology working for another year or two, while you move these users to other solutions.
Take a hard look at the number of calls you are receiving, and who these folks are. Generally, you will find a significant group of “repeat offenders.” Hopefully, your system produces reports, but if not, go to the phone logs to see what you can learn.
If you have outsourced your IVR, think about aligning the efforts listed below with that contract’s expiration date, so that you can retire the technology at that time. A benefit of outsourcing is that you are relieved from worry over the state of your system. A downside, however, is the costs associated with the technology and the calls.
Taking into account (based on available reporting) the frequency and type of activity you see, design an aggressive marketing campaign to move those folks to Internet banking.
If you currently have mobile banking, even better. Promote that directly to your IVR users, with particular attention to the SMS text capability, as it offers the path of least resistance to their using the product.
Trent Fleming is principle of Trent Fleming Consulting. A 30-year industry veteran, he is widely recognized as an expert in many areas of banking technology, operations, and strategy. He can be reached at (901) 896-4007 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.