6 ways to get your IVR working better for your customers

With the explosion of smartphones, tablets and social media, it’s becoming ever more challenging to provide the kind of service your customers want. While many companies are now offering support through more channels, it’s a fact that customers still make enquiries through phone automation and contact centre agents.

In addition, the majority of these phone calls are coming through IVRs from mobile phones. When developed poorly, IVRs can be extremely unpopular with customers. This usually happens when companies try and make IVRs super-efficient but end up making them over complicated - adding layer upon layer of options. Unfortunately this just creates unnecessary frustration and results in agents beginning conversations with highly irritated callers.

So what can you do to make your IVR system good? It's a hard question to answer without knowing your system, but here are a few tips from Eckoh to consider getting your current system the best it can be:

1. Keep it simple.

For the sanity of your customers, keep the menu options short. We now live in a world where we expect answers within seconds, so time-pressed customers don't have the patience to navigate through complicated confusing menu systems. Give your IVR a call to see what you think of it, and where you may be able to simplify it if necessary. Aim for short clearly worded menus with no more than three options at each interval.

2. Don't forget it.

Like any machine, an IVR needs attention at frequent intervals to ensure its running smoothly. A mature system probably needs reviewing every month and a new IVR will need daily or weekly attention (depending on call volumes) to ensure it's working to its peak performance. Make sure your IVR is tuned up regularly to keep it effective and efficient for your customers.

3. Don't ignore customers' requests to speak to an agent

If a customer wants to speak to an agent – connect them. Many companies make it extremely difficult for customers to speak to agents by putting in diversions and blockers to force customers through automation. In our experience, customers happily use a well-designed IVR system if one of the options includes speaking to an agent early on in the process. Don't make it impossible for customers to talk to you as you'll end up alienating them to your brand. Check your IVR and see how easy it is for your customers to get hold of an agent. It should be within the first two menu intervals.

4. Give your customers some intellectual credit

It's highly likely that your customers have seen your website or contacted you through social media, so you don't need to tell them how to find you on the web by giving your website address. Also, if you ask them to give you their phone number through speech or touchtone, you don't need give them excessive guidance on how to do it. Usability tests show that people are well versed in providing this information over the phone and the various formats that are required, so save your customers time by trusting their intelligence.

5. Save customers their precious time.

If a customer phones you wanting to track an order or pay a bill, they're unlikely to want to hear about your latest promotional offer. So save marketing messages for a suitable time during the call – preferably at the end. Also, allow customers to anticipate options and interrupt the IVR dialogue rather than insisting that the caller listen to the whole message or option before they choose. Both these tips will help progress the call quicker and will help the customer resolve their query.

6. Remove menus altogether.

Highly departmentalised companies who have complex and multi-layered IVRs are reviewing the opportunity that natural language speech recognition provides and are opting for a speech recognition system. In some cases this removes the menu system altogether and after saying what they want the customer is directed to the correct destination within seconds and without lifting a finger. If relevant for the company, this alternative to IVR has a high take by customers given its more intuitive interface.

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Posted by eckoh at 11:39 PM on Oct 30, 2015

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