5 simple ways to ensure IVR isn’t losing you customers

“Press one for sales, two for returns….28 for deliveries or # to hear your options again”

Interactive Voice Response (IVR), the friendly voice that we as consumers have all had a relationship with, often simple, sometimes ugly, but always with little patience.  There are many misconceptions about IVR, and the lack of patience from consumers is making the benefits that they are receiving obsolete.

Done right however, IVR systems provide many rich features that enhance the self-service experience. For example, visual IVR enables customers to tap their way through visual menus and reach agents quickly. It saves customers time, often providing a call back feature so they can get on with their day. For the retailer itself, it provides cost savings in the contact centre and empowers the agents to perform at their best. When customers are routed to the most qualified agents, productivity increases, allowing agents to resolve cases more quickly and assist more customers as needed.

IVR often gets a bad reputation from customers and can be the final straw in terms of their loyalty, but it is a fundamental requirement for any retailer that wants to provide a quality customer experience. Here are the five most common mistakes businesses make with their IVR offering, and how to overcome them.

1: Don’t forget it’s all down to the data

Successful software is hugely reliant on the quality of data you provide it with. In order for IVR solutions to deliver personalised experiences and predict what customers need they require channels to be integrated so they can feed off each other.

If your systems are disparate and your customer data isn’t joined up, then your IVR system won’t be able to deliver the personalised experiences that delight and make you stand out.

2: Don’t forget the significance of real-time communication

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of a customer’s relationship with a brand will occur without human-to-human interaction. This means that real-time, automated communication is more important than ever.

Consequently, businesses need to ensure their IVR is linked with all other channels and systems that monitor and trigger real-time communications. That way, each call takes into account the customer’s previous interactions on other channels, reducing frustration and waiting times, and streamlining issue resolution.

3: Don’t forget to be selective in your menu offerings

A customer’s worst nightmare is being left listening to an automatic system with 20 different menu and sub-menu options.

It’s important to use IVR to route people to the right department but getting too granular will only frustrate and confuse customers further. Incorporate the latest natural language processing (NLP) capabilities so you have effective voice recognition. That way your customers can have an experience they now expect when they phone through to your IVR – they can talk to the virtual assistant the same way they would Siri or Alexa and be understood first time.

4: Don’t forget to use good-quality hold music

If waiting wasn’t bad enough don’t subject customers to poor-quality hold music.

Similarly, while sales-through-service can yield good results, playing a marketing message about your latest product when someone’s phoning about a malfunctioning existing product isn’t likely to do you any favours. Stick to something short and positive so that long waits don’t become too stressful.

Even better, use that time on hold to have the virtual assistant get any required information, so the call can be dealt with more effectively and efficiently. Alternatively, a proactive approach would involve offering to call customers back when they’re first in the queue, so they don’t have to wait on hold.

5: Don’t forget to make customer communication easy and accessible

Offering self-serve options is crucial – 73% of customers want to self-serve, after all. But there are times when even the best IVR system and automated messages won’t be good enough.

If a customer phones up with a complex query (or can’t or doesn’t want to use self-serve options), it needs to be easy to bypass the IVR system and speak to a real person quickly.

Ultimately, the customer still calls the shots, and this is the key to successful omnichannel communication. Afterall, Omnichannel communication is all about giving them control over how they choose to interact with companies. One step to achieving this and empowering customers is though IVR. Once businesses are aware of how to use the solution correctly it will not be surprising if every company wants this weapon up their sleeve.

About the Author

Chris Crombie is Senior Product Owner at Engage Hub. At Engage Hub, it’s our mission to make sure your business treats your customers as individuals to engage each and every one, so you win them over faster and keep them for longer.