Providing good customer service these days is a challenging task, as we all know. And it’s getting tougher every day, with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, social media and the like. While many companies now offer customer support options in social media, and via mobile applications, agent chat and email, the fact is that a large number of customer inquiries still come via IVR (touch-tone or speech). Certainly many mobile users call IVR systems. At West, we find that more than 50 percent of all of our clients’ IVR calls come from customers using their mobile phones.
There are some poor IVR systems out there, as you know. Yet there are many good ones, too; they just don’t get talked about that much. What makes a good IVR system? Of course, there’s a lot more to the answer than a few bullet points, yet I wanted to pass on to you some high-level thoughts on what makes (or can help to make) a good IVR.
1. Make your IVR system simple and easy to use. More than ever before, today’s customers are time-pressed and impatient. They don’t want complicated, confusing menus that waste their time. One timeless best practice for touch-tone IVR systems is to use short, clearly worded menus that have three or fewer options at each branch. Have you called your own IVR system lately to see how simple (or not) it is to use?
2. Don’t Set up your IVR and walk away from it. An IVR system (particularly speech-enabled IVR systems) is like an automobile: It needs care and attention, including a tune-up periodically, to continue running smoothly and be an effective and efficient tool for your customers to use. When was the last time you tuned your IVR system? Our experts recommend reviewing a mature IVR at least monthly and a new IVR daily or weekly, depending on call volumes.
3. If customers ask to speak with an agent, connect them. Many companies make the mistake of trying to make it overly difficult for customers to reach contact center agents. They assume (falsely) that if they put up enough roadblocks in the IVR menu that customers will ultimately either give up and stay in self-service or simply hang up and never call back. Our experience tells us that many callers are content to use IVR systems that work well; what they really dislike is being blocked from speaking with an agent. It insults their intelligence and wastes their time. How easy is it for your customers to get to an agent if they have to?
4. Avoid insulting the intelligence of your customers. For example, avoid telling callers the website address of your company in the IVR. Chances are, they are calling you because they have tried a transaction on your website or have checked for their answer in social media but haven’t succeeded. Additionally, when you ask for their phone number, don’t tell callers how to say (or input) their phone number to your system; our usability testing at West shows that callers are familiar with how to offer this information without excessive guidance.
5. Show your customers that you value their time. Avoid superfluous marketing messages in your IVR when customers are trying to get help. There is a time and place for marketing, but it’s not when your customer’s Internet is down or their package hasn’t arrived. Our experts find that out-of-place marketing messages are one of the top irritants of IVR users. Additionally, it’s always a good practice to let your customers “barge-in” in prompts, so they can pre-empt menu verbiage and get their business done quickly.
What do you, as readers, think about this topic? I’m interested in your thoughts on this handful of sample IVR best practices and in hearing your views on what makes a good IVR.