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The PlusNet Phone System / IVR

The PlusNet Phone System / IVR

The PlusNet Phone System / IVR

 

For those of you that are not sure what an IVR is or want to know how the PlusNet phone system works when you call our support lines here is my blog in an attempt to explain this.

What is an IVR and what does it stand for?

IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response.

It is a term for any telephone-based application that prompts the inbound caller for information using a recorded or synthesized human voice. Most IVR systems do not allow the caller to respond by voice and require the user to respond through a touch-tone keypad. From a business perspective, the IVR is used to route calls to agents with the correct skill set and is known as skills based routing.

Interestingly the IVR makes up 17% of the feedback we got from recent surveys. You can read more around this here http://community.plus.net/blog/2008/04/18/customer-satisfaction/

So What Happens When You Call?

Our IVR is relatively simple and our aim to ensure that customers are not left with choice after choice and a whole host of recorded messages when trying to speak to a human being on the other end of the phone. Most options will route your call to an Agent after one choice. We believe this is sufficient for us to route the call and ensure we offer the best customer experience we can. We cannot remove the IVR as we would be unable to route the calls effectively without having a different number for each type of call, which is confusing for the customer.

When you call, you hit the IVR almost straight away. You will be presented with the following options.

By choosing one of these IVR options your call will be diverted to the relevant team.

 

  1. Sales
  2. Order Updates
  3. Faults
  4. Technical Help
  5. Customer Service Billing
  6. Service Status Updates

After you have made your choice you will be placed in a queue. If there is a wait time in excess of 10 minutes, soon to be 5 minutes, then a recorded message will be presented to you while you wait explaining how long you are expected to wait. You will then be connected to the correct member of our support team who is a subject matter expert in the field of your enquiry. This is why it is important that you choose the correct option, for example, Sales Agents are not trained to deal with technical queries, therefore choosing this option means we will need to transfer you; and your wait time will be extended by the time you spend speaking to the Sales Agent.

Hopefully you won’t be kept for long and reducing the wait time is one of our main focus points within the contact centre, our average wait time is around 1 min 30 however there are times when we do get busy. Just have a think of what time of the day you call contact centres. Well you can pretty much guarantee that everyone else is probably calling at the same time. Early in the week and early evening is when we see our highest demand.

We do have specialist teams to deal with your enquiry. Our technical team is trained to deal with any issue from sales to faults and cover is provided 24 hours a day so no matter when you call you can speak to UK based member of Staff. We also have a dedicated customer services team and a specialist business support team.

Previous feedback received from customers

From recent customer satisfaction surveys we have had one or two customers requesting we put what number they are in the queue before they get through to a member of our support staff you can see the results of those surveys here http://community.plus.net/blog/2008/04/21/customer-satisfaction-results-from-march-2008/. This has been given great consideration however after much deliberating we decided this was not a practical option and opted for current wait time instead, when this is in excess of 5 mins. The reasoning behind this decision was that the position in the queue doesn’t represent how long you are waiting. Yes if there are 15 in front of you could expect to be waiting a while however there could be 2 or 3 customers waiting and all our agents are tied up on calls where the customer needs that extra bit of help with a difficult issue they might have. You might be sat there thinking that every agent can’t be tied up on such a call at the same time but it does happen believe me. In instances such as this, you could be 2nd in the queue but could wait in excess of 5 mins. It also depends how many Agents we have logged in at the time concerned, for example, if we have 2 in the queue and only 2 Agents working, this occurs during the nightshift, then again this does not provide realistic expectations of how long you may have to wait.

Also saying you are 10th in the queue may make you abandon the call, however if we have 35 Agents on calls then you should be answered within a few minutes.

When I call a contact center I would much rather know how long I’m expected to wait rather than what position I’m in the queue not knowing if my call is going to be answered in 2 or 10 minutes and I think that most people agree. But again this can be problematic. The estimate is based on the calls presented that day so far and is a best guess, I always find that when the estimated time is up, I then begin to become frustrated when I have not been answered.

For all options there are pros and cons, however we are trialling giving the longest wait time information when this exceeds 5 mins. If this does not appear to be working then we will revisit this sometime in the near future.

Always remember that you can look at todays call history on our website before you call at http://portal.plus.net/supportpages.html?a=212 You can also see the number of calls we have waiting from this page. As well as this we have extensive support pages to help you with your issue and most housekeeping transactions can be completed online by you, by logging into the members centre on our website http://www.plus.net/support/?helpheader=support . In most cases there is no need to call if you have time to look for the answers yourself. This is also available from any location, so if you are unable to connect at home, you can do some diagnostics and gains support without calling, via a friend or your work PC, if you are allowed to use the internet, Wink, of course!

Well that’s it I hope that clears a few things up and you can sleep at night now and I hope you enjoyed reading.

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6 Comments
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6 Comments
Community Veteran
I'm admittedly playing the devil's advocate here as I never phone PlusNet (touch wood - will probably find my connection goes down completely now I've said that), but... if people have specifically asked to be told what position they're in, why not just give them that information, rather than umming and ahhing about alternatives which haven't been asked for?
Community Gaffer
Because it's probably an uneducated question. People asking "What position am I" are more likely meaning to ask "How long will I have to wait". "What position am I" is pretty meaning less if you don't know how many agents we have in! Cheesy
Community Veteran
I don't know, I suspect PlusNet could be missing the point here a little bit. When IVR systems tell you what position you're in, they tell you regularly as far as I'm aware. So if Mr Bloggs phones up and is told he's 30th in the queue, but after only five minutes is told he's tenth in the queue, he can figure out for himself that he doesn't have long to wait thereafter. That, to me, seems a better system than making up some guesstimate of time remaining which will most likely be fairly inaccurate.
Grafter
So settle the difference! "You are 30th in the queue. We estimate you will be waiting 5 minutes." Satisfaction. ;-)
Grafter
The issue is that we don't have one queue - we have a number of separate queues and use priorities, overflows and other measures to balance call load and keep the overall longest waiting time down. Calls can also be moved between queues in real-time if need be, and so can people (especially between working on calls and tickets if we have a sudden influx of one or the other). So, the problem is, a call can be in position 1 in one huntgroup which has 2 members working on it. If both are tied up with long calls a team leader may choose to move the waiting call to a huntgroup with 12 people working on it, and although it might go in at position 5, it would still be answered more quickly. Telling someone their queue position there would lead to enormous confusion. The reality is that nothing is impossible, and with a bit of time and thought I'm sure we could re-design the IVR to make it better, and perhaps even to end up with just one queue. The problem with that however is that if it reduces our ability to manage calls efficiently, the ultimate loser ends up being our customers. What I would add is that I would be interested to hear if you've come across a call switching system anywhere else that works much better from a usability perspective. We're always open to suggestions as to how we can improve and on the IVR front, if it's often people's first point of contact with us, so we do want it to be the best it can be. Ian
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[...] you call us and there is a wait on the phone we like to ensure that you know this. As suggested in James’ recent blog, we will soon be advising customers of how long they can expect to wait before their call is [...]