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Exploring the Impact of IVR Modernization – Your Customers’ Perspective

by Robert Wakefield-Carl

Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, technology is not a new invention. In fact, IVR has been around in one form or another for more than 40 years. We’ve all encountered them when calling a utility company to update account information, a bank to get a balance statement, or a customer service line to resolve an issue we’ve experienced.

Despite its longevity and usefulness, IVR is overlooked – or underutilized – by a large number of modern businesses. This is a shame, because IVR has the potential to positively impact all parties involved in an experience – your customer, your agent, and your organization as a whole.

In this series of blog posts, Robert Wakefield-Carl, Avtex Senior Director of Contact Center Innovation, answers the most pressing IVR questions from the lens of each of these parties – starting with your customer.

What is IVR?
From the customer’s perspective, IVR may be the helpful (or annoying depending on implementation) automated voice that asks them to make a selection based on their specific needs or goals for an experience. Of course, we all know that IVR is so much more than a simple recorded voice and menu structure, but the customer doesn’t see past that automated interaction. IVR, from the customer’s perspective, IS this list of options – which makes it so important to ensure that the menu structure and the voice recordings are all created with the customer in mind.

How can IVR positively impact my customer?
Done properly, IVR can significantly improve the experiences your customers have with your brand. For example, when a customer calls into your contact center for help with a specific issue, the IVR can automatically direct them to the department or individual who can best assist them. This helps the customer avoid unnecessarily repeating their concerns and ensures they are routed to the person or persons best suited to resolve their issue without escalation. Call times are reduced, the customer gets what they need, and the experience is overall positive.

How can IVR negatively impact my customer?
An ineffective IVR strategy or implementation can have a dramatically different impact on your customers. Lengthy menus, disjointed option strings or convoluted scripts can lead to unnecessary frustration and delays for your customers. The more frustrating or negative the experience, the higher the chances of the customer forming a poor opinion of your brand.

What are the keys to successful IVR?
To be useful for your customers, your IVR experience should be:

  • Easy to understand: One of the most frustrating things you can do is offer your customers an IVR menu that is difficult to understand because of a language issue or the overuse of jargon. Be sure to develop your script with your target audience always in mind – if any portion of your customer base may struggle to understand your script, it’s time to make edits.
  • Concise but inclusive: Creating an IVR menu that offers the ideal number of options for your customers can be challenging but is a critical step in the overall success of your implementation. Work with customers and various internal departments to learn which menu options are important, and which may be unnecessary.
  • Logical and consistent: Ensuring that the terminology and menu structure used throughout your IVR script remains consistent is important. Jumping from term to term or changing the format of menu selections can lead to unnecessary confusion and frustration for your customers.
  • Natural: A robotic or unnatural IVR can be disruptive to a customer’s experience with your contact center. Be sure to create a conversational, natural sounding script and use human voices whenever possible.

If your IVR strategy or implementation fails in any one of these regards, your customers may experience unnecessary frustration and delays.

How can you get started with IVR modernization?
If you aren’t currently utilizing IVR or have yet to explore your current IVR’s full potential, it is time to take action. The first step in your IVR modernization journey should be to fully understand your customers, including their expectations, preferences, needs and desires. By mapping the pathways your customers take to interact with your contact center, you can identify ways to use IVR to streamline and improve each experience.

Stay tuned for new IVR perspectives

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore answers to these same questions from the perspective of your employees and your organization as a whole. By doing so, we hope to help you gain a holistic view of IVR and how you can use it for the benefit of all parties.