An interactive voice response (IVR) system is an essential channel to serve customers over the phone. It is often the first channel a customer interacts with and plays a substantial role in shaping their impression of a brand. When designed correctly, IVR provides an efficient means to gather information and complete service transactions. It is available for service 24/7. Additionally, IVR is a successful call router that enables customers to speak with a live employee.
A user-friendly IVR should offer customers an easy-to-use menu and self-service options for simple to moderate transactions. If it is easy to use and provides relevant information, it can enhance the customer’s perception of the brand. Conversely, if it’s challenging to use or fails to provide satisfactory service, it can damage the customer’s perception of the brand. In addition, if a customer speaks to a frontline employee after a negative IVR experience, it is challenging for the employee to turn the customer experience around, which can impact the employee experience.
How to build an IVR
To build a successful IVR, you must determine which capabilities best suit your needs. These ten questions can help you design the right IVR for your business:
- Will the IVR use natural language processing, speech recognition, or touch-tone input?
- How many customers do you have? Which channels do they use today, and how frequently?
- How do you distinguish between simple and complex transactions?
- What communication channels do you use to serve customers? Examples include phone, email, or chat.
- Which contact center technologies have you implemented, and how easily were they integrated?
- Is your telephony system hosted on-premise or in the cloud? How are calls routed to frontline employees?
- How easily can frontline employees find information when they are serving a customer?
- What are your most important criteria for selecting a technology partner?
- Have you established measures for IVR success?
- Do you have an individual responsible for overseeing IVR and telephony operations?
When you build an IVR, design it as simply as possible. Limit the menu options to a maximum of four because too many choices can lead to customer frustration and call abandonment. Monitor how far a customer gets into the IVR before abandoning it to gauge whether it has too many options. Additionally, make it easy for customers to exit the anytime, rather than making them guess how to leave.
To create a more customer-centric experience, ensure the language your IVR uses aligns with how your customers communicate. Whether you use speech or touch-tone, avoid using industry jargon to ensure your IVR is easy for customers to understand. If you use natural language processing (NLP), perform the necessary testing to understand how the interaction will sound to ensure a smooth and coherent interaction.
Implementing NLP, including voice recognition, enables the IVR to understand and interpret customers’ voice commands and provides a more intuitive experience. NLP must mirror human interaction instead of offering fixed responses. Always use the latest NLP technology for the best possible experience. Regular testing, iteration, and data review ensure accurate caller identification by the voice recognition software.
The ability to authenticate customer information is an essential part of IVR. Using a personal passcode makes authentication easier and can prevent the need to go through the authentication process again once a customer speaks to a frontline employee. This approach improves efficiency and enhances the customer experience by seamlessly carrying over the authentication status throughout the interaction.
Effective IVRs require regular assessment to ensure they deliver the customer’s needs. Often this begins with facilitating customer focus groups to understand what an ideal IVR experience feels like. Many consumers are used to navigating IVRs from the world’s biggest brands. Comparing your experience to your competitors’ can inform your design. Once you implement your IVR, you must regularly communicate with customers and frontline employees to learn about their experiences and the root causes of any pain points that may occur.
Data mining is crucial for optimization. Effective IVRs aim for at least 70 to 75% of callers to utilize self-service and minimize the time a customer spends in the IVR. Focus groups, employee input, and understanding the key performance indicators (KPIs) unique to IVRs help measure efficiency. Analyzing IVR performance with a customer satisfaction survey (CSAT) augments focus groups and identifies additional pain points and gaps in the customer experience, such as unused menu options. Measuring IVR effectiveness helps drive needed programming changes.
The future of IVR
When artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and NLP are effectively combined, they can help to integrate chat and IVR channels and move towards an omnichannel environment. AI could allow the IVR to reinvent itself, enabling customers to speak their preferred language without limitations and offering quick, natural responses without sounding robotic.
Most companies face IVR challenges, regardless of the industry, size, or location. Despite the allure of cutting-edge technology, it’s important to remember the core fundamentals: what do customers want to achieve through the IVR? They still expect simplicity and ease of use. Therefore, companies must approach the IVR with the same level of depth and focus, testing with iterations and focus groups and monitoring the KPIs.