The Truth about Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
By Peter L DeHaan
Interactive Voice Response seems to be everywhere – and no one likes
it! You call a company and get a machine. Who wants that? In
response to past frustration with inane IVR systems and endless
levels of options, many people seek to immediately bypass the
machine by pressing zero – often times, repeatedly – in an attempt
to talk to a real person. Sometimes this works; other times, it
company has no real regard for their customers, then they should
tighten up their IVR system. Force callers to spend more time
interacting with their IVR so that their employees spend less time
interacting with callers; do everything possible to block customers
from talking to their staff; and hold down costs to make their
department look good. That’s fine if they have a captive customer
base, operate a monopoly, or believe that it is easier to get a new
customer than to keep an existing one. Otherwise, they need to
listen, really listen, to what the buying public is saying, because
they are right.
does have its place in business, but we need to not overstate what
that place is. If IVR can truly speed up the call for the
customer or gather information that can assist the call center
agent in providing better, more effective service, then by all means
it should be used. However, when the primary goal of IVR becomes to
save money, reduce the employee headcount, or limit customer service
options, then it needs to be put on the scrapheap of bad ideas.
are my recommendations for the right way to use IVR:
Always, always provide an option for the caller to press 0 to talk
to a person.
Provide short and basic options that can be readily understood by
someone from outside your company.
your customers, and even your friends, to call and test your IVR.
Then fix the things that bug them.
your company’s IVR exactly as you would want one to work when
are calling someone else.
block the digit 0. “The customer is always right” and if the
customer wants to talk to a person, let them.
prompt for an account number if the operator is going to ask for it
have callers make entries (such for “billing”) and then not tell the
call center agent which option was selected.
route callers to a general-purpose call center agent after you have
made them take the time to tell the IVR specifically why they’re
calling. Skip the subterfuge and just route the call.
provide level after level of long menu options; keep it simple.
force a mildly irritated customer through a frustratingly
long and cumbersome IVR tree, because they will exit it highly
irritated – and take it out your staff.
truth is that for most companies IVR is broken and needs to be
fixed. What are you going to do about it?
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