The Customer Relationship Blog on gartner.com had a post by Esteban Kolsky about www.gethuman.com that made me think more about the posting I made earlier today on self-service in banking. I think Esteban is completely correct in asserting that the IVR v person debate is not the right one. The right issue is "what can I get done quickly, easily and effectively for myself" not "am I speaking to a person or a machine". If the person I speak to always has to refer me to someone else or say someone will call be back then speaking to a person does not help. If the IVR system gives me a different answer to the one I get when I do web research or talk to the branch, then its no good either.
The common thread here is what have I automated to the point where a front-line employee or an IVR system can help a customer complete it. So if I have automated the process of deciding about a credit line increase then I can probably have either a person or an IVR system interact with the customer and make the decision. If I have automated the cross-sell process to make sure I make an appropriate and targeted offer that a customer could accept and have it be closed automatically then I can have a person make the offer at the end of the conversation or a machine make the offer while I am on hold.
So, like Esteban, I don't think customer service would improve just because I am speaking to an unempowered human instead of a poorly programmed IVR system. It will improve only when I am interacting with someone or something that can actually make the decisions I need made.