An overwhelming majority of people begin the customer service journey with the aim to speak to a live agent, and will often circumvent automated phone and online systems in order to reach one, according to a survey of 1,321 American consumers conducted by Interactions and the Center for Research on the Information Society.
Often, respondents reported being frustrated by interactive voice responses (IVRs) that replicated information already available on the website, and there was a perception among callers that robotic call system technology will be unable to resolve their problems.
"One of the most surprising outcomes of the survey is the level of thought and planning that consumers feel they need to put into getting a question answered," Jane Price, vice president of marketing at Interactions, told eWEEK. "Consumers do their research and plan outreach paths that use multiple modes of communication just to get the service they are looking for. By investing this time and effort, they also become quite emotionally involved in a successful outcome."
Price said Interactions has heard feedback about how consumers felt anxious and afraid when interacting with automated customer care support systems, hoping they wouldn't say the wrong words that would derail them reaching a timely resolution.
"We all understand the frustration of dealing with an inefficient IVR system, but when consumers feel like they need to circumvent that IVR system, it leads to frustration and anxiety, and corporations need to take action," she explained.
The survey found that just one in 10 respondents feel that IVR menus are satisfactory, and just 3percent like using them.
Additionally, more than a third of respondents said they find the systems difficult to use, yet this is still the most common channel businesses use to handle incoming service calls.
The study found that when dealing with a complex problem, IVRs are useless. In fact, 69 percent agreed that IVRs make it difficult to describe a problem, and a majority prefer to use technology that adapts to their speaking patterns, as opposed to speaking to robots.
"We really think IVR is a concept that has largely passed. It is the customer care channel with the lowest rating and despite being put in place to remove operational costs, it actually adds business expenses through misroutes, errors and lost customers due to poor experience," Price said. "We see a shift toward virtual assistant solutions that communicate with customers just like a human."
She explained multi-channel, conversational virtual assistants could work across the enterprise to provide a consistent, effortless customer care experience through voice, text or touch.
"With advanced understanding and intelligent intent capture capabilities, consumers are able to do more in self-service," Price explained. "When you put a friction-less solution at all customer entry points, customers no longer need to do excessive research and planning to get the help they need."