7 best practice tips for successfully implementing IVR
While the range and use of digital channels is growing, the telephone remains the most common way for consumers to get in contact with businesses. According to the Guide to Self-Service by ContactBabel, voice calls still account for over 63% of consumers’ interactions with businesses.
On the telephone channel, companies have three main priorities when it comes to managing interactions:
- Making the channel as seamless as possible for customers to use
- Encouraging self-service where possible
- Increasing efficiency
These priorities put the focus on interactive voice response (IVR) technology which can successfully contribute to all these priorities.
IVR: the frustrations
However, while well-implemented IVR is a customer service asset, when it doesn’t work properly it not only damages the brand but also results in a poor customer experience. Reasons for this include:
- Customers are provided with unclear IVR options
- Options don’t fit with what the customer is trying to do
- Wait times are too long
- Customers can’t retrace their steps if they choose the wrong option
- Voice based IVR technology doesn’t understand what the customer is saying
When issues like this build up, it adds to customer frustrations, potentially leading to greater churn. Badly deployed IVR also makes life harder for agents as they have to deal with angry or frustrated customers because of their inadequate IVR experience.
Poor IVR navigation also has a negative impact on business efficiency. If calls are not passed to the right department, time is wasted directing the customer to the right agent. Also, if IVR self-service is poorly executed customers switch to speaking to an agent instead.
IVR best practice tips
Getting IVR right therefore must be a priority in the contact centre. Here are seven IVR best practices that can help companies get it right:
1. Plan your routing
Take time to understand the typical reasons and queries behind calls. Ensure that your IVR trees reflect these needs, and route callers quickly and efficiently to the best qualified team to help them – or to appropriate self-service resources. Make sure the most common queries are prioritised in your IVR tree design.
2. Be clear in the choices you offer
IVR choices need to be crystal clear and succinct, without unambiguous wording. Ensure that customers can grasp each one easily to choose the option that best matches their query (ideally without having to hear the list more than once). If necessary, explain each option in more detail.
3. Keep the menu simple
To make the experience simple and easy, avoid having too many options in each IVR menu. If customers have to listen to a long list, they can easily lose track, forcing them to repeat the process multiple times before they are able to select the right option. Alternatively, they might just give up on IVR and try to bypass it to speak to someone.
Structure your IVR tree logically so that options flow seamlessly, with relevant choices that help find a solution or connect the customer with the best available agent.
4. Keep the customer informed
Wait times are one of the biggest issues on the telephone channel, especially when negotiating an IVR system. Communicate and let customers know how long they need to wait if they are placed in a queue. And include messages about alternative ways their query can be resolved if they don’t want to (or are unable to) wait, such as via website or chat.
5. Test IVR tech under real-world conditions
Comprehensively road-testing your IVR is essential. For example, check voice IVR understands all customers (including different accents); test your IVR trees (potentially with agents doing mystery shopping to check they get to the right place for common queries); and ensure that messages such as voice prompts are clear and understandable.
6. Give customers the option of speaking to an agent
If the customer has tried using the IVR system and is stuck, then don’t force them to persist with it. In this situation, make it as easy as possible for them to be able to get through to an agent who can triage and route their call.
7. Keep improving
It’s essential that you keep monitoring and analysing how customers use your IVR system. Analyse this data to see if they are consistently selecting the right options and to identify places where they typically stall or seem to become confused. Similarly use customer feedback, agent feedback, and agent wrap-up codes to identify problem areas and drive improvements. And remember to look for opportunities to extend IVR based self-service to make customer lives easier and deflect calls from agents.
IVR best practice
IVR is often the first contact a consumer has with your customer service team. It needs to be helpful, and effective at enabling customers to get to where they want to go quickly and easily. It’s therefore vital to step back and take a strategic approach when designing your IVR system. Follow these IVR best practice tips and regularly review and look for ways to improve your IVR to ensure it delivers on its promise.