Using IVR Technology: High-Touch Service for Retailers

Posted by on November 22, 2012 in Business Technology [ 0 Comments ]

IVR for retailersEmail marketing is the tool most used for communications between customer and retailer in online shopping. But what about offline shopping? For customers who like to shop in person or over the phone, outbound interactive voice response, or IVR, can take email’s place.

IVR Systems

IVR systems are automated systems that enable humans and computers to communicate through speech or DTMF input (numerical entry). Instead of a computer screen, keyboard and mouse, users employ a phone to access information in an organization’s database (i.e., bank account balances, et cetera).

All major corporations and service-related companies today use IVR systems as the contact point between callers and the company. If we call our bank or credit card company to check a balance, it’s an IVR that answers the phone. This tool is mission-critical for service-based organizations as well as pollsters and survey professionals.

According to U.K.-based trade publication Call Centre Helper, 64% of call centers used IVR or speech recognition technology by 2009. Within vertical markets, 86% of telecom and utility companies used IVR (e.g., Excel Energy has an excellent IVR system), 80% of IT, 73% of transport and travel, 63% of manufacturing, 56% of insurance, 44% of public sector and 40% of retail and distribution.

Contemporary IVR systems aren’t just receptionists. They’re more than capable of retrieving account balances and performing many of the functions live agents perform. In the recent years, outbound IVR has enabled organizations to take a more proactive approach to customer service.

IVR Began in Healthcare

The healthcare industry was one of the first to see the advantages of IVR. The technology gets heavy use in this industry, which relies on high-touch service (i.e., appointment reminders, appointment follow-ups, rehabilitation treatment, et cetera).

For outbound calls, this means a doctor’s office can program its IVR to automatically call patients a few days before an appointment, and then call again after the appointment for a follow-up.

IVR in Retail

Retailers are beginning to use IVR systems in the same way—to provide high-touch customer service.

Inbound IVR

Rite-Aid, for example, is bridging the gap between healthcare and retail with the IVR services for its pharmacies, which are some of the best IVR services around. Refilling prescriptions is easy, aided by an outbound call from the IVR system notifying customers when their prescriptions are filled.

Email—the flycatcher of the marketing world—may grab heaps of spam these days, but IVR is still a handy tool for automated online shopping systems. You can use your IVR to generate automated confirmations, for example.

Outbound IVR

The outbound side of IVR is now opening a whole new avenue for promotion, in the same way it opened up treatment in healthcare. Retailers are beginning to use IVR to keep in touch with current customers, announce upcoming sales and remind them of service changes.

While it is most common to see retailers using live agents for providing order and shipping confirmation, it can be a poor allocation of resources when an IVR system can do the same job more efficiently and cost-effectively, which retailers understand very well.

Photo credit:

Charlie Smith is the Marketing and Communications Director at Plum Voice where he manages the blog IVR Deconstructed.  From general to niche technology, Charlie and his team of writers explore the world of technology offering a fresh take and unique perspective. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>