New Year, New IVR? Four things to do to Improve your IVR and Customer Service in the New Year

Voice is the channel that people love to hate. Or, perhaps it’s more of a love-hate relationship, because recent data shows that 51% of consumers believe that the fastest way to resolve a problem is to use the phone. So, if your voice channel provides a sub-optimal customer experience, you’re potentially alienating the majority of your customers.

The fact of the matter is that businesses can’t afford to have a sub-par voice channel. In a day-and-age where customer service can make or break customer retention, 83% of consumers said that they would avoid interacting with a company following a poor IVR experience. From the customer perspective this makes sense. Voice and IVR appear, to the end-user, as the most basic and familiar service channel. If a company can’t be bothered to put the time into deliver good experiences there, what does that say about the rest of their operation?

So, as we kick off the new year, here are four things you can do to improve your IVR and customer service in the new year.

Optimize your call-flows

More than anything else, companies use IVR for call routing. And that makes sense, given it’s a primary IVR function. But too few businesses seem to put a lot of thought into optimizing menus, prompts, and call-flows.

Speed is the name of the game in customer service so anything you can do to knock seconds off the caller experience is worth the time investment. For instance, with phone menus you want to ensure that the options callers choose most frequently are listed first.

When it comes to prompts, you may want to break out the old stopwatch and test out different word combinations. If you’re concatenating pre-recorded audio with text-to-speech, you’ll want to ensure that transitions are smooth as well.

Finally, look at your typical call-flow to ensure that it helps callers achieve the things they’re trying to do.

Hopefully, your IVR software has built-in data and reporting to help you make informed decisions around these items. If your IVR doesn’t provide optimization data, it may be time to look into a new IVR provider as well.

Another option to consider is utilizing natural language processing (NLP) to streamline call-routing. This type of AI may not be right for every company, but it’s worth investigating.

Expand Capabilities

Call-routing is great and all, but IVR is capable of doing all kinds of things. Many consumers strongly prefer self-service until they don’t. Then they really want to talk to a person. Businesses can easily set up their IVRs to cater to customers anywhere on the self-service spectrum.

Adding functionality like payments, appointment scheduling, reminders and outbound notifications, and surveys all provide ways for callers to get information or accomplish tasks on their own without having to rely on agents. Yet, agents are still available if needed. For example, if a caller wants to schedule an appointment, they can do that using an IVR application. Once they have the appointment on the books, the caller can transfer to an agent to have them put in some notes about their specific appointment.

Of course, this type of use case could be automated as well with IVR. It would be possible to give a caller an option to leave a voice memo about their appointment. This voice recording would then be transcribed and automatically appended to their appointment record. It’d even be possible to flag the caller’s account to inform the service provider that there are additional notes about the appointment.

Equip Agents with Info

One thing that callers hate doing is having to repeat themselves, even if that includes inputting information into an IVR. When agents ask callers for information already accepted by the IVR it adds time to their calls and causes frustration.

Companies that utilize SIP trunking have additional options. SIP technology enables the transmission of call data along with a call. If a call gets transferred from an IVR to an agent, data that the caller input during the IVR leg of the call piggybacks on the call transfer. That information can integrate with the agents’ workstation and automatically populate key data fields.

Not only does this speed up the entire transaction, but it also reduces the level of frustration by the caller. The agent can always confirm that the data is correct, but consumers tend to be more forgiving of agents doing their due diligence. It’s certainly less frustrating than having to rifle through your wallet again for the card that you just put away.

Simplify Security

If you decide to take advantage of the breadth of functionality that IVR offers, you want to ensure that all the data you’re processing remains secure. Fortunately, IVR can attain the same security certificates and compliance measures that other digital channels have.

For credit card processing you want to ensure your IVR provider is PCI-DSS compliant. If you deal with healthcare data, you’re going to want to look for HIPAA compliance. And, naturally, if you dabble in both finance and healthcare, you need a provider that has both.

At the end of the day, it’s the role of technology to support and enhance your businesses’ customer service offerings. Taking the time to diagnose and address issues with your IVR is a reflection of how your business views customer service. While it’s rare that anyone ever notices good IVR experiences, consumers rarely miss an opportunity to complain about bad ones. That’s why it’s better to head off customer complaints before they can occur and bolster your IVR for a more productive and customer-friendly new year.