Let’s face it, no one WANTS to use an IVR. And that’s because most IVR systems were clunkily designed to save costs and not to enhance the customer experience.
The main purpose of a self-service IVR is to connect and respond to your customers QUICKLY, and ultimately, WITHOUT the intervention of an agent – though some customers will need to speak to a live agent when they can’t find what they need or require assistance for a more complicated matter.
IVR as a self-service solution
All customers want a personalized, more responsive customer experience. With more channels and options than ever before, customers now have the convenience and choice to select when, where and how they connect with you. A customer can use a chatbot on your website to get basic information or subscribe to a new service. They can gain access to their records and information to perform transactions. All without ever speaking with a live agent.
But the original self-service concept began with the IVR. Now seen as a baseline feature for contact centers and service-minded organizations, an IVR is a convenient tool that allows customers to get the information they need, solve an uncomplicated problem, or complete a transaction without ever engaging with a live agent.
Using voice and button prompts, customers are navigated through a series of selections to get to their desired point. This reduces the time spent – wasted – waiting in the queue to speak with an agent to perform basic tasks. An IVR also lessens the burden placed on your staff when you know their time can be applied towards more value-based activities.
- Prioritize calls
- Route calls to different departments
- Allow customers to perform basic tasks, like get information and perform transactions
- Respond to customer needs without agent assistance
- Provide customers with important and timely information, in addition to promotions and special offers
- Cost-effective self-service option
- Available at all times – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
Speech recognition makes life easier
Whether on cloud or on-premises, an IVR should be considered an important part of the customer experience. But by all means, your IVR should adopt modern practices that promote the continued use of your self-service option.
An IVR with speech recognition allows customers to speak instead of pressing buttons to access information or complete transactions. This more natural process allows customers to quickly navigate through the IVR and provides a more human approach to the customer experience, without actually talking to a live agent. With a more simplified approach, customers feel less frustrated with automated messages or long sub-menus that often lead to call abandonment.
The customer experience, at all times
Unfortunately, most companies design their IVR systems focusing on cost savings instead of prioritizing the customer experience. It explains why most customers would rather NOT use an IVR system and when they do, instinctively dial 0 to speak to an agent so they can avoid a long and complicated menu selection.
IVR systems have one major flaw: people don’t like them. To address this, companies need to rethink their design priorities and put customer experience first
The “set it and forget it” strategy may have worked for Ron Popeil’s rotisserie infomercials but has no place in your IVR strategy. Start by thinking of your customer and how you can best assist them in their individual customer journeys. Then design and tailor your IVR strategy to address their needs, making this journey seamless, quick and painless – instead of focusing exclusively on costs.
And once in place, your IVR will need to be continuously monitored and updated to reflect customer-journey analytics to better gage and understand performance. For example, let’s say that a majority of customers engage with a live agent at a specific point within your IVR. By analyzing this breakpoint, you can determine why this section in time triggers the need for human support, prompting changes to your IVR menu, messaging or other initiatives that improve the IVR experience.
Follow these 5 TOP best practices on how to configure your IVR to maximize the customer experience:
1. Provide flexible options during wait times
Provide creative alternatives that keep customers engaged in the process, believing in your brand and feeling positive about each and every interaction with you.
Before placing a call interaction into the queue, provide your customers with a series of helpful options that can better direct their inquiries and improve their experience. These options include features like IVR call-back (when selected, the customer receives a call when an agent becomes available without losing their priority) or leaving a voice message for non-urgent interactions. If the voicemail option is selected, just be sure to automate the call-back function so that these messages are not forgotten!
By providing immediate options, customers have greater control as to whether to want to wait in line or receive a call-back at their convenience.
2. Optimize your call routing
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) needs to be configured so that your most competent agents are first to receive specific interactions. When interacting with an experienced and knowledgeable agent, customers gain confidence in your brand.
To determine the most appropriate agent, first, consider the language chosen by the caller. Next, prioritize the selection of agents depending on the subject of the interaction. On the other hand, when wait times reach an undesirable threshold, use the “bullseye” call routing method that quickly increases the number of available agents by decreasing the number of required skills.
3. A professional voice goes a long way
It seems obvious, but it’s important to choose the right voice for your IVR that will accurately represent your company. This voice becomes your company spokesperson acting as the first connection between current and future customer interactions. By utilizing a professional voice, your customers will be greeted with a variety of polite and comforting intonations that help guide them through the process, ensuring they receive a positive customer experience.
4. Music is more than just a melody
The music on hold (MoH) should be carefully chosen, in line with the type and personality of your organization. The music must not be aggressive or repeated too often as you want this wait period to be calming and not a frustrating experience. A good way to break up wait time is to insert short messages between segments that keep customers informed about your services or news related to your business.
5. Your IVR Needs to be Updated… Often
After investing a considerable amount of time and effort setting up your IVR and voice recognition system, the worst thing you can do… is nothing. As customers, services, and processes evolve, your IVR and voice recognition systems need to be regularly adjusted and improved.
Start by compiling the feedback obtained from post-call IVR surveys or automating the process by using sophisticated contact center technology tools. Once you’ve done this, don’t compile (and stack) all your change requests and introduce them in a single change to your IVR! It’s best to make small changes and see how these changes react in the system and with your customers. In general, a new IVR needs to be adjusted weekly, sometimes on a daily basis. While a stable IVR should only be adjusted every month or every few months.
Treat your customers and your IVR with respect
It’s clear that your IVR will continue to play an important role as a valued customer self-service option within your arsenal of communication channels, ONLY if you continue to invest in optimizing the customer experience. Test and retest. Gather and measure customer data. Fine-tune all aspects, at all times. When viewed as a process instead of a product, your IVR will never again be viewed with disdain.