7 Tips For an Effective IVR Experience

Call Center IVR System

IVR (Interactive Voice Response) has been a game-changer in the handling of customer calls. It carries the weight of responsibility in regards to fulfilling a best practices approach to customer service.

Let’s face it: if you blow it here, you’ve really done yourself in.

Why?

The heart of the call center business is customer service. Serving others.

The idea of serving others gets lost in this business, doesn’t it?

Well, IVR is called Interactive Voice Response for a several, important reasons. Consider that the word, interactive – is an adjective. It means, “Designed to respond to the actions, commands, etc., of a user; requiring people to talk with each other or do things together.”?

Did you catch that??

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First of all, there is a method to the madness. There is a design. It’s quite elementary, but if there’s not a design in place, chaos will ensue. If the response from your automated system is nonsensical, then your customer will terminate the call.

It’s plain and simple. It’s quite logical.

Secondly, the response must be so good (convincing, in a sense) that the customer is comfortable interacting with it. It all depends on the complexity of the service being provided. If your call center is handling calls for a healthcare provider, the prudent and logical way to maximize the use of an IVR is to use it for interactions requiring yes or no responses only, if possible.

Why?

For example the healthcare industry and its issues that arise with administering and fulfilling it are complex. It’s not practical to use an IVR beyond a yes/no answer script if your center is providing support to services being provided to the insurance carrier’s patients. Generally, the problems that plague the patients are too complex to be answered by a yes/no IVR.

Let’s keep going…..

Also, IVR describes a voice component. It’s a voice response. It’s not a text or chat response. In this day and age, multitasking is an acquired skill. Some do it better than others. For instance, driving and talking is clearly safer than driving and texting. Therefore, it seems that eventually, our laws will terminate text communication, somehow. (We just can’t seem to text and drive safely enough to satisfy our insatiable appetites for texting and live to tell about it. It’s flabbergasting to me, frankly.) Furthermore, it seems that voice communication is still far easier, safer and practical while multitasking than texting. And, it’s more efficient and effective. (I text, but for the life of me, I never understood why it’s preferred over talking. Talking is much faster and more accurate; one can discern more accurately from my tone by hearing than reading an emoticon what I mean by what I say over a text. LOL, perhaps that’s my age ‘talking.’)

Then, of course, who wants to hear a voice that sounds like nails on a chalkboard?

No one.

Hence, the case is made to text. Text to avoid or limit interaction.

I digress.

Look, make sure that the quality of the voice used in your IVR is pleasant to hear. You would think that, again, it is logical. But, how many times have you yourself called into an IVR and heard a voice that sounded mechanical? It’s depressing. It’s a downer.

You’re zeroing-out, aren’t, you? Yep.

Worse yet, let’s say XYZ Co. is using an IVR for servicing simple, yes/no interactions with customers. You call in. You understand the process and play along. But, you hear a voice that sounds like an automated zombie or a screeching witch!

It’s an awful experience, isn’t it? Yep.

It’s a big time-waster for the customer and the call center, along with the costs of employing a defunct IVR and employing agents to support ‘zero-out’ customers. Thinking a scenario through to a logical conclusion, if wait times are reasonable, a customer seeking a yes or no answer waits longer than necessary to receive a simple answer from a company who spent tens of thousands of dollars to set up a system designed to answer the question, only to deliver answers with a miserable voice.

Is that scenario a helpful experience for the customer? Maybe. Hardly enjoyable.

The bottom line is this:?

  • Ensure that your automated introductions and options are brief.
  • Use advertising or music for on-hold customers.
  • Make sure that the voice quality is superior (research differs on whether the voice ought to be masculine or feminine; whatever you decide, make it appealing and pleasant to hear).
  • Walk customers through the menu interactively without repeating menu options.
  • Prioritize menu options (most needed to least needed)
  • Provide a callback option.
  • Finally, give your customers hope. Communicate to them that they are highly valued and you appreciate their business.

IVR is a tremendous asset and tool to providing quality, customer service when it’s employed properly. Watch it evolve as technology becomes more prolific. A year ago, Telstra CEO David Thodey claimed that call center jobs will not exist in five years, due to technological advancements, like IVR, smartphones and Internet applications. One year down, four to go.

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What do you think about Thodey’s claim? Leave your feedback, questions or comments below...

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To Your Success,?

Greg Meares

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About the Author: Greg Meares

As a Sr. Consultant for Performance Connections, Inc., Greg's primary objective is to provide value to organizations that are focused on raising brand awareness. Additionally Greg works on improving the customer experience, through business process re-engineering, and call center best practices. Greg is an industry expert and is often called upon to provide his analysis and solution oriented approach to improving performance in the BPO and Call Center industry.

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