IVR is probably one of your most useful pieces of tech. It saves money, it shrinks call queues and it saves agents from some of the most boring jobs.
And yet… customers don’t seem that keen on it, do they?
Is IVR doomed to be the ugly duckling of the call center? Or can you make small changes that help customers love IVR?
The research doesn’t look great. Customers say IVR asks irrelevant questions. They think it’s too hard to explain their needs. Over three-quarters rank IVR as the top contributor to negative experiences.
If we were going to grade IVR, it would probably get a D- at this point.
But it’s not all bad for IVR
In defence of IVR, it was very ahead of its time when it was first developed in the 1960s.
Then, when the first big IVR roll-outs started in the 1990s, there wasn’t much expertise to draw from.
So we know why it hasn’t always been used well. Is it better now?
CX is finally in fashion
Look at any big CX problem and you’ll find the same root cause – service is seen as just another cost to bring down.
But that’s been changing recently.
Businesses – a lot of businesses – are facing up to the fact that 96% of customers base their loyalty on customer service.
As a result, customer expectations are now the biggest driver of growth in the call center.
IVR has a lot of ground to cover
What are we going to do about it then? Service is more important than ever and IVR isn’t pulling its weight. Let’s cover some of the basic ways you can bring yours up to standard.
#1 Limit your IVR options
Starting simple – there shouldn’t be too many options on any menu in your IVR. If you get to ‘for sales, press 9’ you’ve gone way too far.
Set a hard maximum of five options for any page. Keep to three where you can.
#2 … and limit your IVR menus
Continuing simple – there shouldn’t be too many menus. I know it’s tempting to grab as much data as you can, or try to be everything to everyone. But all you’ll do is annoy and confuse your callers
No more than three menus, or your callers will give up on you.
#3 Integrate IVR with other systems
Now we get more sophisticated. The ideal IVR is one that ‘talks’ to your other systems and makes the customer’s experience as smooth as possible.
For example – if this isn’t the first time your customer has called about their issue, they don’t want to go through your menus again.
And why should they? When your IVR is integrated with CRM, your systems will recognise the number. The IVR doesn’t need to waste time asking them who they are and it can pull details from the open ticket in your Helpdesk.
#4 Make input easy
However well you plan out the customer IVR journey, it falls apart when customers don’t know how to use it.
A lot of systems now have a combination of natural language and DTMF, letting customers use whichever they prefer. You’ll often get a prompt like ‘say yes, or press 1’. So far so good.
Common findings from our analysis is that the IVR system was poorly worded and menu choices were not intuitive or did not match current service choices.
Some stages may be entirely voice, and that can work too – so long as you let customers know what they’re supposed to do. For example, your IVR might say ‘how can we help you today?’
Human beings are wildly inventive, and open questions will get responses that don’t help you. You need to do some hand-holding, like this: ‘how can we help today? You can say things like, I want to check my balance, or, there’s a problem with my bill’.
#5 Switch from IVR to SMS and email
One of the reasons customers don’t already love IVR is that it can leave them feeling boxed in. Customers are interested in whatever options you can provide for a simple, self-service resolution.
It’s shockingly easy for an inbound call center to integrate IVR with SMS and email.
That gives customers the chance to move their query into a channel they’re more familiar with. And it doesn’t make it any harder (or more expensive) for you to resolve.
#6 Stay flexible
Pretty much the biggest problems we see in call centers are rigid processes.
In general, the operations teams we speak to know exactly what they’d like to change about their IVR. But the time and the cost challenges mean they have to do their best with what they’ve got.
It’s worth looking into No-Code tools that let you adapt and improve IVR – and other systems – whenever you want. Once you can create your own call flows (without a software project) time and cost constraints go out the window.
Is it too late for IVR?
You might be ready to lose hope in IVR. Isn’t it a bit low-tech for our world of chatbots and omnichannel contact anyway?
Actually, it seems that the opposite is true.
We already talked about how technology is only just catching up with IVR’s potential. The same is true of customer service culture, thanks to the rise of self-service.
Around three-quarters of customers think they should have the option to solve their own problems. That number is even higher for millennials, the largest consumer group of them all.
As interest in self-service increases, it’s very likely that customer opinions of (well-designed) IVR will improve. That’s why better self-service is one of the top three priorities for businesses that want to compete on customer service.
We’ll soon start to see more call centers rethinking their IVR systems as ‘telephone self-service’ rather than a call routing solution (or a delaying tactic…)
But to achieve that, you need a way to quickly design new call flows and improve current ones. That means using No-Code tools which put control in your hands
Remember – a great IVR isn’t a barrier to reaching a live agent. It’s the reason your callers don’t need a live agent.
Want to find out more about the hidden potential of your IVR? Take a look at our free ebook for your guide to automating SMS and IVR.