Interactive Voice Response Systems: What Works and What Doesn’t

In the early days of automated customer service, IVR systems were hailed as a game-changer. IVR solutions allow customers to navigate a company’s phone menus using their voice or keypad without the need for human interaction. This promises faster and more efficient service.

However, IVRs have not always lived up to the hype. They are confusing and frustrating in many cases, leading them to hang up in frustration. Nevertheless, this technology is still in use by many companies today. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of IVR systems and look at some best practices for using them effectively.

What is IVR?

An IVR system is a computer-driven phone menu that allows interaction with a company without speaking to a human agent. Customers can use their voice or keypad to navigate the menu and select from various options.

IVR systems are commonly used by companies to save costs. They can handle large volumes of calls quickly and efficiently without the need for live agents. However, this comes at the cost of lower customer satisfaction rates. When done well, an IVR system can be an essential part of your strategy. It can speed up call times and reduce the need for human agents.

Multi-level IVR

A multi-level IVR allows numerous stages of customer interactions, with each level providing more options and menu choices. This type of IVR is often used by companies that require a high degree of customization or have many products and services.

The multi-level IVR system requires the caller to key in their selections at each stage which can be time-consuming and cumbersome. This can lead to frustration for customers who just want a simple answer to their questions. In addition, if they make a mistake at any point in the process, they may have to start all over again from the beginning.

Pros and Cons of Using IVR

There are several benefits that come with using an IVR system:

  • Cost-effective. An IVR system can save your company money. You will no longer need to pay live agents to handle customer calls.
  • Quick and efficient. An IVR system can quickly and efficiently handle a large volume of calls without human interaction. This can lead to shorter wait times.
  • As your business grows, you can easily scale up your IVR system to accommodate more callers without hiring additional staff.
  • Available 24/7. An IVR system can be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This can be especially helpful for businesses with international customers in different time zones.

Despite the benefits, there are also several drawbacks to using an IVR system:

  • Reduced customer satisfaction. This is because customers often find IVR menus to be confusing and frustrating. In addition, they may feel like they are being treated as a number rather than a person when interacting with an IVR system.
  • Not suitable for complex issues. An IVR system is not well-suited for handling complex inquiries that require human interaction. This can lead to longer wait times as they are transferred to a live agent.
  • Limited customization options. You may have limited options for customizing your IVR menu based on your business needs. For example, you may be unable to change the menu items’ order or add new features without paying extra costs.

As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using an IVR system. You must carefully weigh the pros and cons to decide if an IVR system is right for your business.

IVR Call Center Software Features

There are several features associated with IVR systems, including:

  • Automatic call distributor (ACD). This system routes calls to the appropriate agent based on customer input. It is a critical component of any IVR system.
  • Skills-based routing. This routing method directs calls to agents based on their skills or expertise. This ensures that each call is handled by the best-suited agent.
  • Call queuing. This feature allows customers to be placed in a queue when all agents are busy. Customers can elect to wait or leave a voicemail message instead.
  • Ring groups. Ring groups allow you to assign a group of agents to a specific IVR menu option. This ensures that calls are distributed evenly among the agents in the group.

When used in conjunction with IVR, these features can help to improve the customer experience and call quality while reducing agent workload. Therefore, it is crucial to consider them when selecting an IVR system for your business.

Getting Started with an IVR Solution for Your Business

Before implementing an IVR system in your business, there are a few things to consider. The first is whether an IVR system is suitable for your company. Consider the following:

Your Customer Base

Your customer base is one of the most critical factors. If you have a large customer base, it can be beneficial in handling the increased call volume efficiently. However, it may not be the best solution if you have a small customer base or one that requires personal interaction. In this case, using a human-based customer service strategy may be more effective.

Your Calls

Another factor to consider is the nature of your calls. If most of your calls are simple and do not require complex problem-solving, an IVR at least partially automating them can make sense. This will allow agents to deal with more complex issues while still providing good service quality for more straightforward inquiries IVR systems. On the other hand, if most of your calls require human interaction or involve sensitive information such as credit card numbers, automated solutions might not be ideal since they could lead to long wait times or customers hanging up out of frustration.

Your Agents

Another important consideration is the skills and training of your agents. If your agents are not adequately trained to deal with customer inquiries, it can help to reduce their workload. However, if they are well-trained and able to handle complex customer issues, you may want to reconsider using an IVR system since it could lead to longer wait times for customers or many abandoned calls.