by John Seeds and Karl Phenix
Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, has long been used to streamline customer interactions with a contact center. By offering an automated series of menu options, IVR helps to guide the customer to the appropriate department or agent for assistance.
From the customer perspective, IVR can make or break an experience. When executed effectively, IVR can reduce the amount of time and effort customers spend attempting to resolve an issue, thereby improving their overall experience with the brand. Unfortunately, ineffective IVR strategies can have the opposite effect – resulting in longer interactions, unnecessary frustration and poor experiences for customers.
Last week, Robert Wakefield-Carl, Avtex Senior Director of Contact Center Innovation, offered this helpful insight into IVR from the customer’s perspective. This week, he’ll dig deeper into what IVR can mean for your agents.
What is IVR?
The average agent probably won’t know the ins and outs of your IVR solution, or the strategy driving it. However, most agents are likely to have a general understanding of the part IVR plays in individual interactions and their overall role in supporting customers. Your agents likely view IVR as the system that guides customers to their department. Perhaps they view IVR as the technology that gathers information from the customer to assist with a pending interaction. In any case, your agents hopefully view IVR as a tool that supports their work.
How can IVR positively impact my agents?
An effective IVR implementation and strategy can positively impact your agents in many ways. Done right, IVR can help customers address a minor issue or access desired information without the need to speak to an agent. This helps to reduce the volume of interactions each agent must field, which helps to reduce stress and improves the quality of experiences offered to customers.
In cases where a customer requires live support, the IVR can help to gather some information prior to the agent’s involvement. For example, your IVR may ask the customer to offer information regarding their specific needs (i.e. billing, account changes or general assistance), their standing with your organization (i.e. new customer or current customer), or a product or service of interest (i.e. mortgage loans, savings accounts, checking accounts). These selections route the customer to the appropriate department, AND give the agent fielding the interaction some information to work with.
Finally, an effective IVR can have a significant impact on the customer’s mood during the interaction. When the IVR quickly and easily guides the customer to the proper department or agent, they are likely to have a more enjoyable experience, which in turn makes the agent’s job that much easier.
How can IVR negatively impact my agents?
Ineffective IVR strategies or implementations can have a negative impact on your agents and their overall employee experience. When the menu system isn’t clear, or the pathways are not properly configured, customers may be routed to agents who are unable to assist them. This leads to frustration for both your customers and your agents.
If your IVR fails to capture basic information prior to connecting the customer to the agent, the interaction is likely to start off on the wrong foot. The agent must take the time to gather basic information, which can delay the resolution of the customer’s issue. This is especially bothersome if the customer already provided this required information via the IVR system and is asked to repeat their answers.
Boiled down to basic terms, IVR solutions are intended to make interactions easier and more enjoyable for customers AND agents. If your IVR solution fails to meet that base-level function, the results can be catastrophic for agents as they are subject to increased interaction volume and the ire of frustrated customers.
What are the keys to successful IVR?
To help your agents do their jobs, your IVR should be:
- Well-structured: The menu options you provide your customers significantly impact their ability to traverse the IVR and connect to the appropriate department or agent. Be sure to clearly define the menu structure and configure pathways to connect customers to the agents best equipped to help them.
- Integrated: The information gathered by your IVR should be easily accessible to agents before, during and after an interaction. Integrating the IVR with the solutions your agents use most, such as your contact center platform or CRM, streamlines information access and tracking.
How can you get started with IVR modernization?
When developing or updating their IVR strategy, many organizations overlook one of the most valuable resources at their disposal – their agents. The insight your agents have into your customers’ expectations, needs and preferences is invaluable when creating your IVR strategy. Be sure to take the time to involve agents in the process, and take their perspective into account during the initial development of your IVR strategy, and during ongoing refinements of the system.
Want to know more about IVR?
IVR means many different things to the various parties involved in an interaction. For a holistic view of IVR, read the other blog posts in this series:
Register for Our Upcoming IVR Modernization Webinar
Looking for insight on the characteristics of an effective IVR? Want tips on how you can optimize the positive impact of your own IVR? Register for our upcoming webinar IVR Modernization.