Saturday, July 19, 2008

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Interactive Voice Response is one of the most widely used technologies in business today. Utilized by organizations to deliver a wide range of services over the telephone, IVR provides a broad spectrum of uses for B2B and B2C applications, including surveys, account inquiry systems, lead generation, product order and fulfillment, credit card transactions and field employee reporting, as well as many other business applications.

Well-designed IVR systems can significantly reduce operating costs, and help organizations in supporting both their customers and employees.

Outsourcing is a cost effective way for organizations to add IVR to their customer/employee communication mix, while avoiding high start-up costs, limited scalability plus maintenance or obsolescence worries.

IVR - Understanding the Full Service Hosted Managed Approach

When choosing a full service IVR service provider, you can expect the following:

To manage all aspects of the IVR project including planning, development, testing, and deployment of the application.

To work with your business and IT team, to achieve the desired data integration objectives.

To take care of vendor relationships, maintain and update telecom infrastructure, software and hardware as required.

To act as a single point of contact for IVR implementation and maintenance, that can bring the necessary resources and experts to you in time to meet your objectives.

To provide you with dedicated support, and have an in-depth understanding of your application. Since IVR providers are industry experts and have developed 1000's of applications, they are well prepared to get an IVR solution up and running in a relatively short period of time.

Key Application Design & Implementation Elements:
Once you choose your IVR service provider, they will work with you though the key design/implementation elements to achieve your specific business objectives. These include:

Review of your program objectives and specifications - a good understanding of your business and business objectives will provide your IVR service provider with key information to make recommendations throughout the process.

Script /VUI (Voice User Interface) - Your IVR service provider will consult with you, on how to design a Call Flow & Script to meet your business objectives, while optimizing caller experience. After all, increasing your customer satisfaction should always be your priority to maximize your investment.

Data Connectivity, Communication and Storage - Your IVR application will most likely be required to retrieve or/and store information from a database. Your IVR service provider will be able to offer you a wide range of data communication options, to meet your specific business objectives, in line with your technological capabilities. Allow your IVR service provider to discuss these in detail, as there are several options, and one will best meet your requirements.

Web Services: Web services allows for the real-time exchange of information with your web enabled database - this industry standard allows you to communicate with your IVR service provider in real-time, utilizing standard communication protocols such as XML over HTTP. This communication method allows you to capitalize on your existing web technology investment, and skills.

Batch Transfer: As an alternative to Web Services, your IVR service provider should be able to offer you a batch process, which utilizes FTP to transfer data between databases on a scheduled basis. Although this is a relatively mature technology, and does not provide the real-time capabilities of web services, it may be a good alternative if you are retrieving/storing data from a legacy system, or your organization has strict guidelines regarding communicating data over HTTP protocols with outside vendors.

Data Hosting: If your application does not require real-time access to your in-house database, or you wish to keep the IVR data completely isolated from your IT infrastructure your IVR service provider will be able to offer you, a Data hosting plan, including utilities to extract your data 24/7. This approach is very common with short-term IVR applications such as surveys.

Voice Talent: Selecting Voice Talent for your IVR application is a key consideration, as she/he will be representing your company; she/he is your spokesperson. As well, she/he should have experience in recording prompts for IVR, as the pace, pronunciation, and intonation are important to keep the caller engaged. Before you select Voice Talent, ask to listen to a sample, and remember, just because she/he may have broadcast experience, or a good voice, that doesn't necessarily mean they will know how to engage a caller in an IVR environment. Listen to a sample recording, first and foremost, you want someone who makes the application flow, and is easy to understand.

Reporting: Your IVR service provider will provide you with standard IVR traffic reporting, allowing you to monitor the activity of your application 24/7 in real-time. In addition to standard reporting, you might want to review with your IVR service provider how to create application specific reporting, allowing you to audit the process, and implement a continuous improvement process.

Application Support: In the Hosted Managed Service, Client Applications are monitored, maintained, and supported on a daily basis to ensure the best performance. Applications are monitored to ensure high availability, performance, and ensure clients business objectives are being met.

From an IVR Hosted Managed Service you can expect:

  • Custom support based on customer specific application.
  • 24/7 support of the IVR applications and component technology
  • 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) monitoring
  • Telephone, e-mail and web support
* Consult your service provider as to the application support options available.
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