A First Time For Everything

A First Time For Everything

I talk a lot about personalization. About how you can study how each caller into your IVR behaves over time, and about how to adjust the automated interaction to support and react based on that data.

Of course, in order to analyze the behavior pattern of a caller, there has to be enough behavior to analyze. So what does that mean for new customers or new callers into the system? That they have to deal with “the generic IVR’ for months until you can build up enough information to make some predictive personalization moves? That’s not ideal. Those initial interactions are so important: your IVR has only one chance to make a first impression. Do we just do a mediocre job until one day the data volume says “now we can personalize” and just like that we’re delivering focused messages and individualized menus?

Your IVR can help you do better than that. Coupled with your data, the IVR can make decisions about how to interact with any caller, even first-time callers.

Let’s invent a demographic profile taken from a fictional retailer’s internal analytics.


Generational – Boomer

Gender – F

Balance Owed – $2300

Credit Limit – $10000

Average Wallet Per Month – $300

Monthly Interactions – 5

Most Common Activity – Confirmations

Most Often Purchased Items – Personal Care

Payment History – On Time


These are completely made up numbers of course. They show a profile of someone who pays their bills, makes frequent purchases, maintains a low used/available credit line, generally interacts after they take an action, and so on. An attractive demographic profile for this business.

When I’m thinking about how to interact with first time callers, this is where I start.

First of all, we know that when this person calls they’re most likely doing so to make sure that something went right—whether it’s a payment or a purchase or a delivery date. Configure the IVR so that it checks to see if there is any recent activity for this caller and reports on it—before it offers menu options. That could end the call very successfully: full containment, a satisfied customer and first call resolution, all in half a minute.

Now take a look at the credit and purchase profile. Since this is a new caller and a new customer, there’s no actual history. But the profile tells you that this customer is a good credit risk, a reliable revenue source and interested in premium personal care products. If you have some specials to offer along the lines of “things you might buy” this is a good time to do that. Perhaps even better, offer to send them text or email alerts when those items go on sale. (Acceptance gives you permission to open another channel to them.)

The group is a good credit customer for you—they pay their bills on time but they don’t pay it all off each month. Naturally, one thing to check on is if they have your store credit card. If not, don’t you have a good first-year incentive for them to sign up?

Another way to get permission to go into other channels is by offering to send callers a report on the call. One thing I’m thinking about is sending them the menu path they took—for instance, to confirm their shipment date they pressed 1452. That will help them develop “menu memory” so that the next time they can speed through to the selection without listening to the prompts. That makes it easier for them to use and stay contained within, the IVR. (And, again, it opens a new channel for messaging.)

Now, we’ve made a lot of decisions about a first caller. Some will be correct, some won’t. That’s OK. If after five or six calls, the caller never wants to get some kind of confirmation but instead wants to return a product, adjust accordingly. Each time you interact with that customer, your IVR grows more knowledgeable and the interaction more personal.

Even if you don’t know anything about an individual right off the bat, your IVR can help you know quite a bit about individuals like her, and give you a good step forward in creating personalized IVR experiences.