Rethinking IVR surveys

Thank you for participating in our survey. Please use your telephone keypad to answer this survey. Press 1 for “Strongly Agree,” 2 for “Somewhat Agree,” 3 for “Neither Agree or Disagree,” 4 for “Somewhat Disagree,” and… CLICK!

I’m not sure about you, but that’s usually how long I last when I’m on the phone with one of these IVR survey applications. I’m glad that the company is offering surveys to callers in order to measure customer satisfaction, but there has to be a better way, especially when there are no incentives for completing the survey.

Survey Opt-In

Most companies leave it to the agents to offer the caller the choice of participating in a survey. After the customer is finished speaking with an agent, the agent will ask (politely) whether she or he would like to answer a survey. More often than not the answer from the caller is “no.” But if the answer is “yes” then the agent transfers the caller to an IVR survey application.

Some IVRs present the survey opt-in choice after the greeting. In other words, why bother the agent when the IVR itself can offer it? In conjunction with CTI, the customer’s opt-in choice can be presented during the screen-pop so the agent will know whether to send him (or her) off to the survey app upon completing the conversation.

Personal Touch

CTI can also determine the specific agent who helped the customer and populate agent information into the survey to be presented. Additionally, the use of speech technology can also improve the experience. For example, instead of the bland introduction:

Thank you for participating in our survey…

How about this:

I see that you spoke to our agent Jane Doe, employee number 12345. In order to help her better serve you and future customers, please answer the following…

It adds a personal touch to the survey. By attaching a name to the survey purpose, the participant will be more thoughtful in responding and the survey result is likely to be more accurate.

I can’t say I’ve encountered such a design in my run-ins with IVR surveys. Have you?

The design can even get more personal. How about using technology to detect excessive background noise and have the survey app offer the choice to call back another time? You know, for those moms juggling between their child and the phone, or customers at a bus stop trying to get to work. Many companies already have their agents ask this when the customer says “I’m kind of busy right now.”

The Phone Sucks

As a tool to capture survey input, the telephone sucks at it. The participant has to listen at the prompts and instructions, then use the keypad (or speech recognition, if lucky) to go through answering the questions.

So what’s a good alternative?

A more visual presentation is obvious. How about using the web? Offer to send an email with a link to the survey after the call. Your CRM system already has the customer’s email address (if not, remind the agent to ask for it), so why not just ask a simple question, either by the IVR or by the agent: Can we email you a survey after the call?

Today the majority of people are very comfortable with email and web navigation. The user experience is definitely better by visual means than just hanging onto the phone to complete a series of questions. You can have graphic designers help with constructing a visually appealing web survey, populate it with the personal touches (e.g. time and date, agent name, etc.), and even easily offer advertisement or rewards within the web page. Most people aren’t bothered with unobtrusive online ads but absolutely hate telemarketing messages. The survey can become a revenue stream.

Benefits and Challenges

By pushing surveys onto the web you are respecting the customer’s schedule. You allow the customer to complete it at his or her convenience. Not only that but you are also freeing up IVR (and to a degree, agents) resources to take those important incoming calls, rather than offering surveys that nobody really want to complete over the phone.

I have received emailed surveys after visiting a web site, but not after calling into an IVR or speaking with an agent. It is evident that contact center operations are not married to the corporate marketing (what web design usually falls under) and IT (what web programming usually falls under) departments.

Sure, the contact center director regularly submits reports to the marketing director to gauge the success of a campaign or product launch. But their relationship usually ends at that. So much more can be accomplished, however, by utilizing marketing resources to design a customer-focused contact center survey that’ll help the whole company.

The relationship with IT is usually more intimate, as the contact center relies on telecom, networking, and desktop equipment to work together seamlessly. Furthermore, it’s often a team of IT resources who develops the contact center apps and continues to support the technical environment. IT resources can certainly contribute to an enhanced contact center survey design and development.

A good survey is valuable but rare, yet with the close cooperation between the contact center, marketing, and IT, it can be transformed into something that customers enjoy participating in. Not only that, they would also be helping the company enormously by capturing more good data and goodwill from customers.


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