Interactive voice response (IVR) is considered an essential call center technology. It enhances the customer experience by guiding them through options when they call and, based on their response, directing them to the appropriate agent or relaying the needed information.
You have likely heard of IVR before in light of their wide use. You call a company and hear, “For billing, press or say 1; for location, press or say 2; to place an order, press or say 3. The prompts continue, helping customers reach the right department.
So, why do call centers use them, and what is an IVR? Call centers use IVR because customers appreciate them. Most of today’s customers want a self-serve option, enabling them to quickly gain information without speaking to a call center agent. Research by SQM Group found that the first call resolution rate when using IVR rose to 74%, the highest rate of all contact channels.
What Is an IVR?
IVR is an automated tool that answers incoming calls. It responds with a menu and relays options. Depending on the response, it provides a recorded message for commonly asked questions, routes the caller to the right call agent, schedules a callback or accepts payments. It can also deflect calls, letting customers switch to a text message or live chat.
Thanks to technological advancements and natural language processing, some systems use voice recognition, enabling callers to speak instead of using a keypad to press their response.
What Are the Benefits of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System?
Now that you know what an IVR is, let’s explore a few of the benefits these systems offer:
- Resolve issues quickly: Research by Gartner revealed that 70% of customers use self-service channels to help resolve issues. A report by Zendesk found that almost one-third of customers believe the most important part of good customer service is resolving issues quickly. When used correctly, that’s exactly what an interactive voice response IVR system can do.
- Efficient call routing: By gaining information, an IVR can, if needed, direct the call to the appropriate call center agent. Getting the call to the right person increases first-contact resolutions and reduces wait times. Whether calling to place an order, gain additional information or request a return, an IVR guarantees the caller gets to an agent who can help them.
- Cost effective: As you can imagine, an IVR customer service system saves call agents a significant amount of time, letting them focus on more complicated tasks and customer service issues. Without an IVR, call agents must speak with customers before routing to the correct location.
- Increases customer satisfaction: An IVR saves customers’ time by providing answers to basic questions. Directing them to the right call agent helps them receive the customer service they need.
- Prioritizes calls: While working on a “first come, first served” basis is nice, companies can’t always operate in that manner. Some calls, such as from someone needing immediate support due to an issue affecting their business, take precedence over someone calling to see if there are any job openings at the call center.
- Reduces wait time: An IVR can handle large call volumes during peak periods. This action reduces wait times and improves efficiency.
Overcoming Challenges in IVR Customer Service
While IVR customer service offers many benefits, like most technology, it has limitations. If poorly deployed, it can lead to negative customer sentiment and high call abandonment rates. Fortunately, with attention and IVR best practices, many of these issues can be resolved.
- Long Messages: Have you ever called a company and received so many prompts that it annoyed you? If you’re unsure which prompt to push, you have to start all over after going through the list. The result? Customers hanging up in frustration.
- Long Wait Times: They finally get through the prompts, decide to speak with a customer service agent, and are put on hold, listening to repetitive music. Callback functionality resolves this issue, allowing customers to do other things until an agent calls them back.
- Impersonal: While many customers today appreciate self-service options, others want to speak directly to an agent.
Implementing IVR Best Practices for Enhanced Customer Satisfaction
Many of the challenges inherent in an IVR system can be overcome with IVR best practices. For instance, it makes a significant difference when the IVR sounds less robotic and more personal. You can use a professional voice-over recording to provide your IVR with a human voice. Along the same lines, callers should be greeted by a customized company message.
Long, frustrating prompts can be overcome by keeping it short and simple. According to industry standards, 80% of calls should be responded to within 30 seconds. This also translates to IVR recordings, ideally keeping them under 30 seconds. If possible, you should also stick to the essential options, limiting them to five or fewer.
Don’t make customers go through all the prompts before they get the option to speak with a live agent. Or, worse, don’t make them go to a sub-menu to get the option. Many customers call intending to talk to someone and appreciate that offer front and center. Speaking to a call agent should be easily obtained.
When someone’s on hold, listening to high-quality music demonstrates their dealing with a professional company. Don’t forget the callback option; it’s the key to keeping customers cool despite a lengthy wait.
If designed right, every option has a purpose. It gives the customer the information they want or transfers the caller to the correct agent. This provides an exceptional customer service experience and keeps callers from getting irritated when a live person doesn’t answer their call.
Last but not least, your IVR should integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Like call agents, it enables the IVR to address existing customers by name. It also retains any vital information that can help you provide an exceptional experience in the future.
An interactive voice response IVR system may be a potential customer’s first experience with a brand. It defines a company’s voice and heavily informs future actions. If things don’t go right, they’re not always easy to repair. If they do go right, you’re on the way to a customer for life and one who will spread the word. At TeleDirect, we’re committed to providing the best possible customer service to those who trust us with their companies. To learn more about the services we offer or to schedule a consultation, contact TeleDirect today.
Smitha is the CEO and CFO of TeleDirect. Smitha obtained her license as CPA in 2007 from the California Board of Accountancy. Smitha is a results-driven leader with a proven track record of driving profitability and growth. With over 20 years of experience in business and finance, Smitha’s expertise in developing and implementing strategic plans has led to significant improvements in customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and operational efficiency. Smitha’s expertise in financial analysis and strategic planning allows her to develop innovative solutions that balance the needs of clients, employees, and shareholders. Smitha is passionate about building strong relationships with clients and fostering a culture of excellence that empowers employees to deliver outstanding results.