How to Build an IVR Experiment

Voice user interfaces are here to stay. Use split-testing and rapid prototyping to keep up with customer expectations and meet their needs.

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How to Build an IVR Experiment

This article is the final in a three-part series on how to create great customer communication experiences with your IVR using APIs. Learn how you can update your IVR like you update your website, and how you can build an IVR that personalizes every call.

“Which new movies did Netflix release this week?”

Nowadays you can casually pose a question like this to Alexa, Siri, or Google Home and expect to get a helpful answer right away. No longer a novelty, these voice assistants are changing the way we navigate through our daily lives. Let’s face it—intelligent voice user interfaces (UI) are here to stay, and they’re raising the bar for all other interactive voice experiences, including your IVR.

Just imagine how delighted you might feel after Alexa cued up your favorite movie and got the popcorn started with your wifi-enabled popcorn maker...

Then imagine your disappointment if your cable cut out and you ended up on a 20-minute hold with the cable company’s less-than-intelligent IVR.

It’s high time to narrow the chasm between these types of experiences.

How? Experimentation is key. But it can be difficult for most businesses to experiment with their IVRs the way Amazon, Google, and Apple do with their voice UIs. When making even simple changes takes months, what you build the first time around is what you may be stuck with for a long time to come.

Off-the-shelf IVRs are either too complex to change or can’t be changed at all. This makes it difficult to try new things and discover which menu choices to present to the caller in each situation. But with APIs, you can build a smarter IVR that integrates with your CRM and other data systems.

While integration is a necessary condition, it is not a sufficient one. You also need to be able to iterate the experience to get it right.

The Two Crucial Elements of Experimentation

Building with APIs enables you to split-test different experiences and methods, and implement prototypes rapidly (like Schwarz Supply Source who built an IVR in eight hours), in order to better understand what your customers want to do with your IVR.

Your business needs its IVR infrastructure to have two elements in order to experiment at higher velocities:

  • The ability to change elements of the IVR quickly and easily
  • The ability to analyze the results of these changes

IVR 3 Inspo Graphic

How to Build an IVR Experiment

Let’s learn how build an IVR experiment with this example:

Let’s say you just launched a new app to stream TV shows and movies called ChillTime. Your product, business model, and brand have been built for the digitally savvy customer, so you want make sure that when people call you for support, they are not sent back to the 1990s. Nineties nostalgia may be in these days, but not when it comes to IVRs.

You have a bright idea: what if ChillTime paired customers with the same agents every time they contacted you? You have a hunch that customers would appreciate having an agent who knows them and their needs so they don’t have to start from scratch every time they call in. You wonder if this approach might provide a better customer experience, and maybe even boost agent effectiveness.

ChillTime’s original IVR greets callers with a basic main menu that lists all the usual options.

IVR Experiment 0

For the first experiment, ChillTime creates a variation of their straightforward menu setup. When callers reach their IVR, they are asked, “Would you like to speak with the same agent who helped you before?”

If the caller confirms they do, the IVR connects to your CRM to find the agent that serviced them last time, and routes the caller to that agent. If the caller says no, they get routed to the original menu, and the program ensures that the caller doesn’t get connected to their original agent.

IVR Experiment 1

This brings up another question for you. If callers do want to talk to their regular agent, they may have to wait until the agent becomes available. In this case, you want to test out giving them the option either wait on hold or schedule a call back.

IVR Experiment 2

You want to limit the experience to a subset of your customers, so you target the experiments to 10% of ChillTime callers. You can then analyze the impact of these changes across several key metrics.

IVR 3 Test Metrics

ChillTime uses communications APIs to build their IVR, which means they can easily test their hypotheses, build rapid prototypes, and quickly learn what their customers love.

Want to try it out for yourself? Let’s get started.