How Modern Family Shows the Value of Modern IVR


The other day I was nursing a cold and binge watching Modern Family re-runs. One of the episodes from season 2, titled Unplugged, originally aired in 2010 but its plot is still extremely relevant when it comes to consumer engagement and interactive voice response (IVR). We find Phil (father), Claire (mother) and the kids trying to improve their communication skills by giving up their electronic devices, including mobile phones, laptops, etc.—everything except for the TV.

Haley, the eldest daughter, argues “How am I supposed to talk to my friends?” Claire responds, “Use the house phone.” Where Haley retorts, “I don’t even know our number!” The other daughter, Alex, is forced to complete her research paper using encyclopedias, too.

Their dependence on technology reflects our own, but one particular scene of this episode illustrated the infamous battle of consumers vs. IVR. Claire is trying to confirm the family’s travel reservations, but she can’t use her computer, so she has to call in. Her interaction with the IVR goes like this:

Representative! Representative! Representative!

While we don’t hear the other end of the line, it is obvious that Claire is not getting what she needs and she gets caught in a self-service tail spin that forces her to ask for live agent assistance. Unfortunately, she is not able to do that, so she hangs up and is forced to open her laptop. For the record, the episode ends with her and Phil losing the bet.

As consumers, we find ourselves in similar situations more times than none. Forcing customers to navigate through poorly designed IVR systems never bodes well and leads to low containment rates—the percentage of calls which end in the IVR and don’t reach a live person. Here are three ways modern IVR capabilities can improve the business-customer relationship, reduce costs and create amazing interactions.

Context continuity enables customers to move from one channel to the next without needing to repeat themselves. For example, a customer can start with IVR self-service, log in to the disposable app, engage through SMS and escalate to a live agent.

Caller intent prediction enables the IVR to predict the reason why the customer is calling based on past interactions and transactions.

In-queue self-service gives customers the option to receive a call back at another time, while offering mobile self-service during their wait for an available agent. In most cases, mobile self-service will resolve the customer’s issue and remove the callback from the call center’s queue, which reduces costs and strain on live assistance.

Just think, if Claire’s travel vendor had modern IVR capabilities she would have been able to confirm her reservation and won the family bet. I can safely say if I were involved in a similar contest I would rather complete a research paper with encyclopedias than call in to a bad IVR.