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You don’t need a live human. You need a better automated system

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The folks at CNET posted “Please Get Me a Live Human: Automated Phone Menus Are the Absolute Worst” – just the latest article I have seen on this topic. They make some good points (standard way to get a human, stop talking about changed menu options, don’t suggest the website, call backs etc) but they fail to address the number one thing. These automated phone menus are just poorly built systems. They almost always have three problems.

  1. They assume everyone is the same.
    The menu is always the same, even though different customers are likely to have different options. For instance, a customer with a home policy but no auto policy doesn’t need a menu option to discuss their auto policy. Make the menu like the current customer is the only customer.
  2. They prioritize standardization over targeting.
    Related to #1, the focus is on standardizing the menu not on making it responsive to the current user. Menus might be grouped from most to least likely but this is across the whole population rather than focused on the current customer. This means an option can be buried even when it is obvious that its the most likely for this customer. The choices they have made so far and what else you know about them could be used to predict what’s likely on their mind. Target your customers.
  3. They don’t really let you DO anything (any more than most chatbots do).
    All the important things your customers want to do require an approval or calculation – a decision we would say. If a customer wants to return something or get a discount or know the price of something or check on a claim then your system will have to make a decision if it is going to help them. Often the automated phone tree or chatbot can tell the customer what the policy is, but not how that policy is applied to this customer’s concern. An effective automated system needs the power to act on behalf of your customers.

If you own an automated phone system or IVR, you should be using digital decisioning to decide what menu options to present and to decide how to proceed with the call as it progresses. You should be backing it up with decisioning systems that let these same automated systems (and your chatbot and your call center staff) act on your customers’ behalf by approving and calculating what matters to them in-real-time.

Should you make it easier for customer-people to talk to company-people? Yes. Should be make your automated systems smarter, definitely.

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