Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ally Bank: "We speak human"

Ally Bank is a new pure-play internet bank. To introduce themselves to potential customers they purchased a 2 page ad in a recent Business Week:
"There are times when you just want to speak to a real, live person about your money. And at Ally Bank you can, anytime, 24/7. Just just push "0" to speak to a real live person. It's that easy. No complicated phone trees to navigate and no repeating yourself three times to a robot. We even publish our current wait times on our website. It's just the right thing to do."
With all of the financial turmoil and lost investments and failed banking institutions that have beset consumers recently, Ally Bank's pitch to new customers is this: avoid the stupid IVRs whenever you want and talk to a person. This is not a glowing recommendation for the speech IVR industry.

In fact, when it comes to bad IVRs, there is plenty of blame to go around. Companies that install IVRs as a front end to their call center go often go into projects with inflated expectations of what speech IVRs can reasonably do. Others do not, but don't feel that usability is very important and will settle for "good enough," however that is defined. Vendors will oversell the technology's ability to recognize speech, or put more emphasis on the technology than on design.

There are lots of reasons why speech IVRs fail. And there are now companies like Ally Bank that are exploiting consumers' dissatisfaction with telephone automation. I hope every company with a speech IVR will take notice.


UniDig said...

Great blog posts!!!

IVR is quite a conundrum no one wants to listen to an automated system nor do they want to pay the fees collected to support a live call center... dare I bring up a centralized call handling center.

Lately I see a huge shift in the type and tone of the voice being recorded for "call trees" and wonder what the future information provided on them will look like given most of it can be obtained through online websites... leaving a lot of the telephone calls to be pure customer service pportunities.

Carl Turner said...

Customers call even when they know or believe that the information they want is on a website. One reason is that not everyone has internet access. Another reason is that many web sites are not well designed. Call center managers, who don't have authority to fix the websites, try to reimplement the same information in their IVRs in order to keep callers away from the CSRs. That usually turns out to be a mess.