Hidden Risks with Post-Call IVR Surveying Stealth Mode


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post-call ivr survey technologyMany think post-call IVR survey programs must be conducted in stealth mode (sometimes referred to as automated transfer). Some contact center leaders and technology personnel say it’s necessary to prevent agents from being able to manipulate or game the system. They fear that agents would otherwise prevent complaining customers from getting to the post-call survey by only sending the happy callers that are likely to give them higher scores. They conclude that this risk is too high and that the only way to eliminate this risk is by conducting post-call IVR surveys in stealth mode. Ironic but, there is risk in buying into that risk assessment!

If you are wondering what’s stealth mode, here is an explanation that provides a good high-level understanding.

For those wanting to avoid agents controlling the transfer of a customer to the survey system, you may elect to use ‘stealth mode’. With stealth mode the caller is asked by recorded message, prior to speaking to an agent, whether they would like to participate in a survey at the end of their call. If they elect to do so by choosing ‘Yes’ (opt in), they are asked to hold the line at the end of their call (with the agent). The call is then automatically transferred to the post-call IVR survey line at the end of their interaction with the contact center agent.

For those that believe stealth mode is the only way to do post-call IVR surveys, there are few significant problems you may not be aware of, but must be willing to accept.

Think like a Customer

You call a company’s contact center and before you begin interacting with a contact center agent you hear an invitation to participate in a post-call survey after your interaction. And as stated in the explanation above you need to select ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

You selected ‘NO’

Let’s pretend you selected ‘No’. You are placed into queue and sit there and wait, listening to some horrible on-hold music that is interrupted every 15-seconds with a message that your call is important and the next available representative will be with you shortly. Then you also hear a message that you can visit the website and do your transaction there. But you already tried that for the last hour and that’s WHY you are calling. Oh, don’t forget your call may be recoded for quality monitoring purposes. Remember your call is important…hang on. Worse than that, you are now going to be stuck all day, singing some stupid song. “You are the only one for me, which makes me feel…Your call is important to us so please hang on the line.”

So after 10-minutes of waiting, you now totally regret selecting ‘No’. So you are stuck with a serious dilemma. You selected ‘No’ and now you want to take it. Do you hang up and call back in? “But I have been waiting 10 freaking minutes,” you tell yourself. No way, I’m not hanging up.

Finally, you get to speak with a contact center agent. They ask how they can help and you explain in perfect detail what just happened with your website experience and how it led you to call into the contact center. And they ask you to repeat it. Really! After you repeat it all over again, they tell you that there are system problems with the ordering system and it’s impacting the contact center, so no orders can be processed right now. You need to keep trying and maybe it will be back up in 30-minutes. So you ask, “Why can’t you call me back when it comes back online.” The agent says, “We have no way to do that and anyone can help you when you call back. I can’t help you anyway; I get off work in 15-minutes.”

“Please transfer me to the survey”, you say. But the contact center agent can’t because you did not opt-in and the agent has no means to transfer callers when ‘No’ was entered on the front-end. Of course you don’t believe that, even though it’s true. You perceive the contact center agent is blocking you from taking the survey and you are getting to the point of outrage. It’s a conspiracy, you think.

Being blocked from the survey due to the automated process causes you to call back as fast as you can hit that redial button. There is no way you are letting them get away with not hearing exactly how you feel. You may think, why not ask for a supervisor? You did, but one was not available, which just added to your conspiracy theory.

So a repeat call is generated just so you can take the post-call IVR survey. The sampling strategy employed does not guarantee that you will be selected again so now you know it’s a conspiracy. You hang up and hit redial again and hope to hear the invitation; because hope is all you have left.

Now you can say ‘Yes’ this time

Why you call back in to take the survey instead of going to their competitor is unknown, but you are mad and rational thought left your brain a long time ago. You are determined to let them know about their poor customer service and how it’s unacceptable to be treated this way. So you dial back, you select ‘Yes’ and get to an agent and say…, “I just called back in to take the survey.” And now, all of your survey data gets linked to a different agent and to a different call. Result: stronger negative feedback, FCR problem, data corruption, unfair performance review that undermines accountability… survey malpractice.

But you were WOWED!

Let’s rewind and try a different scenario. Let’s still pretend you selected ‘No’. You get placed into queue and sit there and wait, you hear a message about your call being recorded for quality monitoring purposes and get immediately connected to a contact center agent. You explain your situation in detail without having to repeat it. You are told they are having system problems with the ordering system and it’s impacting the contact center, but they will send you an email when the system is back up along with a discount code to choose free shipping or a 10% discount. Wow, that was unexpected and I regret that I said ‘No’ to that survey so I could leave a compliment. You realize that you need to go pick up your dry cleaning before they close and you don’t bother to call back to take the survey (which would be incorrectly assigned anyway). Result: Positive feedback lost.

You do call back

Let’s say you do call back because you want to make sure the company and the agent know you were delightfully surprised and that you appreciate being treated like a valued customer. When you do get to the survey offer and select ‘Yes’ to be transferred to the survey, you just linked your positive feedback to the wrong contact center agent. The agent who you wanted to praise will not get your praise (unless Survey Calibration is being conducted which is unlikely).

Are you prepared for the customer to change their mind? Assuming they won’t is a recipe for big surprises. Surprises like that are not welcomed with open arms. They will be met with internal disputes and complaints. Accountability will be impossible, morale will be damaged, and a good amount of resources will be wasted. Survey malpractice is expensive on many levels.

Contact Center Agents can STILL Influence Participation

Your original position as to why stealth mode was the only way to do this measurement has another key risk:

If they elect to do so, they are asked to hold the line at the end of their call. The call is then automatically transferred to the post-call IVR survey line at the end of their interaction with the contact center agent.

It reads like this is because the system has control of the call but can only transfer it to the survey application when the agent releases the call in the proper way. In essence, the ‘Yes’ response engages a software command that waits to transfer the caller to the survey application after the agent releases.

The perception of post-call IVR surveying is that contact center agents are unable to bias survey results in a stealth mode (blind-to-the-rep) transfer process. But agents must release the call before the caller can get to the survey. This is true for both premise-based and hosted survey systems. Consider that in the majority of contact center environments, the practice is for agents to wait for the caller to end the call. They are conditioned to never hang up on a customer!

Consider a treasured career representative that has been serving customers for over 10 years which could easily be over 500,000 served and now…you must start hanging up on customers because of this new survey process. This new post-call IVR surveying process requires a behavior change for you that you are expected to execute on each and every call. Will you be able to change 10 years of habit?

Let’s assume they can handle it…because they are a top performer. The behavior change is working and callers are being released by you and other contact center agents. Callers are being automatically transferred to the post-call IVR survey.

You will start to get callers saying they tried to take the survey and they waited on the line and nothing happened so they called back. Then negative surveys start showing up on other agents’ scorecards and you don’t know why. You wonder if there is something wrong with the survey system. How is this possible? It doesn’t take much for some agents to figure out that if they don’t disconnect, the caller doesn’t go to the survey. If they suspect a caller to be dissatisfied, all they need to do is be quiet after the interaction and wait until the caller releases the call. When the caller releases the call it is gone and no longer attached to them. They will successfully prevent the customer from participating in the post-call IVR survey.

So if the purpose of the stealth mode transfer process is to eliminate contact center agents from cheating the system, was this accomplished?

Callers are Conditioned Too

Remember callers must also be changed to fight the natural reaction to hang up at the end of the call with a stealth mode transfer. If they remember after the hang-up, the issue starts – repeat call, incorrect assignment (if selected again) of the rep who initially served the caller, and so on.

Assigning the Surveys

As you can see contact center agents can influence who reaches the post-call IVR survey even in a stealth mode transfer process. If contact center agents are expected to own their performance they will need individual scorecards. Technology often contaminates the connection between the contact center agent providing the service and the agent assigned the survey result.

It happens with transfers too. Follow this, a caller calls in and selects to participate in the post-call IVR survey and is routed to an agent. The agent works with the caller and at some point determines that the caller needs to be transferred. The transfer occurs either to another contact center agent in that contact center or even to another physical location. Which agent should the technology assign the survey to? Can it do that? This is not an element of the measurement program that can be ignored or you will immediately have problems with contact centers being mad because of being held accountable for scores that aren’t theirs.

Technology is NOT the total answer

In all contact centers, whether technology is abundant or scarce, consistent or inconsistent across contact centers, you must consider the science, callers, contact center agents, technical resources, and the business objectives to experience the big benefits that post-call IVR surveying can deliver. Even though your stealth mode bubble may have been burst, post-call IVR surveying can support you in delivering exceptional customer experience improvement results.

If you want a successful voice of the customer program good research design is critical (which may include stealth mode with conditions). Post-call IVR should be in your toolkit but the technology must support your research efforts and not define or undermine them.

Since Customer Relationship Metrics invented post-call IVR surveying in contact centers we get a lot of questions about how to do it correctly. We wish it was a simple answer, but it is not. Every program presents a different set of variables that must be considered to make the program successful.

Technology and human behaviors must be part of your program considerations. It is possible for the stealth mode to work, but not for everyone. For it to work for you, you must obtain a complete understanding of the strengths and weaknesses and include them in your design plan.

Want to increase your chances for success now? Then you must take advantage of our complimentary post-call IVR survey program assessment or our post-call IVR survey self-assessment today.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jim Rembach
Jim Rembach is recognized as a Top 50 Thought Leader and CX Influencer. He's a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner and host of the Fast Leader Show podcast and president of Call Center Coach, the world's only virtual blended learning academy for contact center supervisors and emerging supervisors. He’s a founding member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association’s CX Expert Panel, Advisory Board Member for Customer Value Creation International (CVCI), and Advisory Board Member for CX University.


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