IVR, also known as an interactive voice response system, is a technology used by businesses to communicate with customers through voice and touch-tone input. It routes calls, collects information, and helps customers access their accounts without the help of a live agent, streamlining call center operations and making it easier for customers to get the information they’re looking for.
However, an IVR system is only as good as its design, and not all systems are created equal. A poorly designed IVR can be frustrating for customers and negatively impact your business’s reputation and bottom line.
So what makes a good IVR system? Here are seven things that make both customers and businesses happy.
1. A Simple Menu with No More Than 5 Options
A good self-service call center IVR system should be simple and user-friendly, with clearly defined menu options that are easy to navigate. This means avoiding long lists of options or complex menu structures that can confuse customers.
Try to keep it to under five options, as customers tend to hang up after navigating through too many menu selections.
A good IVR Menu script should be concise, with options that are easy to understand and match the customer’s needs. For example:
“Welcome to Our Company. For account balance, press 1. For payments and transfers, press 2. To speak with a customer service representative, press 3.”
As you can see, the menu options are easy for customers to navigate, and it’s easy for the caller to connect directly with an agent if their specific question can’t be fielded by the IVR system.
Try to avoid creating overly complicated menu options:
“Welcome to Our Company. For account balance, press 1. For payments, press 2. For transfers, press 3. For loan queries, press 4. For credit card services, press 5. For new account setup, press 6. For technical support, press 7. For other queries, press 8.”
With a menu this long, your caller will likely forget the first options, which means they’ll probably either hang up or feel extra frustrated if they do end up speaking to a live agent.
When sprucing up your IVR menu, it’s important to get into the mind of your caller and understand why they’re calling and what they want the most. Using caller data gathered from your VoIP phone service system or other tracking service, you can see exactly what your customers are calling for and tailor the menu options accordingly.
2. Caller Options Provided Before the Action
While it may seem like a subtle thing to provide a menu option before the number, it can significantly improve the customer experience. Including the option before the action in an IVR system, such as stating “For mortgages, press 4,” rather than the reverse, is beneficial for several reasons:
- Cognitive Ease: Hearing the option first lets callers instantly decide if it’s relevant to them.
- Memory Retention: The first part of an instruction is usually remembered better.
- Action Anticipation: Presenting the option first prepares callers for an upcoming action.
The caller experiences less cognitive strain and is more likely to choose the right option the first time. Not only does this reduce caller frustration, but it also speeds up the process and improves call center efficiency.
3. Natural Language Recognition
Natural language recognition (NLR) is a technology that allows IVR systems to interpret human speech instead of just touch-tone input. It’s also known as natural language processing.
By using natural language recognition, customers can speak naturally and be understood by the system, eliminating the need for them to press buttons and navigate a menu.
NLR greatly enhances self-service options in an IVR system and provides accessibility options that serve a wider range of callers.
Here are a few ways NLR can be used to make a positive impact on your IVR system:
- Entering credit card numbers: Customers can now speak their numbers instead of punching them in. This makes it way easier for the customer to relay their card information.
- Pulling up accounts: Just like with credit card numbers, customers can now speak their account numbers without having to try to type in a long code.
- Signing up for services: Customers can use natural language to request information or services, saving time and effort.
You can add this powerful feature to your IVR system through cloud-based providers or on-premises IVR solutions. Setup involves teaching the system to recognize a range of spoken words and phrases, so be mindful of regional accents and dialects as well as caller intent.
4. Collect Caller Information Upfront
Imagine you’ve just spent 10 minutes navigating through an IVR system and are finally connected to a live agent, only to be asked for your account information or other personal details.
It’s frustrating and time-consuming, right? That’s why you should be collecting caller information upfront in the IVR system if possible. This can save both customers and agents valuable time by eliminating repetitive steps.
There are a few different ways to collect caller information upfront, such as using automatic number identification (ANI) or prompting callers to enter their account number or other identifying information at the beginning of the call.
You can further simplify this process by:
- Just asking for the last 4 digits of the caller’s account number
- Asking for information that’s easy to remember, such as a social security number or date of birth
- Using speech recognition to capture and verify information without requiring touch-tone input.
This feature is especially useful for customer service departments that receive a high volume of calls and require accurate and timely caller information to provide efficient assistance. It also helps to automate basic procedures such as payment processing or account inquiries.
Making it easier for customers to pay their bills and access information also means fewer outbound calls made by agents to try to collect missing information and late payments.
5. Implement Callback Options During High Volume Periods
Many call centers mistakenly believe that by setting up a pleasant wait line with music and relevant reminders, customers are happy to wait.
However, even if customers are willing to wait, they may still become frustrated as the time drags on.
One of the biggest problems with wait times is that callers never really know how long they’ll have to wait. Even if a predictive automation system gives an estimated wait time, customers are still likely to become frustrated as the time increases beyond this estimate.
If your call center has exceptionally high volume periods, it’s essential to have a callback option in place. This allows customers to request a callback instead of waiting on hold, saving them valuable time and reducing frustration.
It’s also better for call center efficiency as agents can return calls during less busy times, leading to more productive conversations and a better customer experience overall.
To set up a callback option, follow this standard callback flow:
- Give customers the choice to receive a callback instead of waiting on hold.
- Collect required information such as phone number and reason for the call.
- Provide an estimated time frame for the callback, ensuring it’s within business hours if possible.
- Keep your promise and return calls on time.
It’s important to monitor your call metrics to see how your new callback system is affecting call volume and customer satisfaction. This way you can make adjustments like increasing or decreasing the estimated callback time to find a balance that works best for your call center.
6. Keep Menu Item Descriptions Under 7 Words
Maintaining brevity in your IVR menu descriptions improves user experience by making options clear and easy to understand. Aim to keep descriptions under seven words, such as:
“Press 1 for Billing.”
This concise approach allows the caller to understand, in four short words, exactly what will happen when they press a specific button.
Long descriptions can cause confusion and result in incorrect selections, leading to customer frustration. For example, a customer may be overwhelmed if the first menu prompt states:
“Press 1 for Billing Inquiries, Payment Processing, and Account Balances.”
This lengthy description not only takes more time to say but also makes it challenging to differentiate between options. The caller may end up selecting the wrong option or becoming frustrated with having to listen to a long list of items before making their selection
Furthermore, if menu descriptions become too wordy, customers can get confused or forget the initial options.
This could lead to misdirected calls, longer call durations, customer frustration, and a decrease in overall satisfaction.
It can be a delicate balance to make sure your menu options are succinct as well as keep the number of menu options low. So if you can master both, you’ll be providing an excellent IVR experience to your callers that many other companies struggle to do.
This will set you apart from competitors and make sure your agent base is streamlined with call routing.
7. Regularly Update IVR Scripts Based on Caller Data
Regularly updating your IVR scripts according to caller data can significantly enhance customer experience. For instance, if data shows that most callers select “technical support,” consider placing it as the first option.
If commonly selected options are buried deep within the menu, customers will have to wait longer, or they may end up accidentally selecting the wrong option. This could result in longer call times, higher abandonment rates, and decreased customer satisfaction.
These are great regular updates to implement at least annually:
- Analyze Caller Trends: Regularly review call logs to identify common requests or issues. For example, if data shows an increase in calls about a new service, add a specific prompt for it in the IVR menu.
- Adapt to Seasonal Changes: Update the IVR script to reflect seasonal queries or promotions. During tax season, for instance, include a direct option for tax-related inquiries.
- Personalization: Use caller data to customize the IVR experience. For example, if a caller has a pending payment, the IVR menu can offer an option for bill payment without having to go through multiple prompts.
Regularly updating your IVR scripts is essential as user behaviors are constantly changing. By staying up-to-date, your IVR system can meet customer needs more efficiently and make sure your system properly reflects your brand’s values and objectives.