Interactive Voice Response (IVR): Should You Use It?

Many people hate IVR. The only thing that’s worse than being stuck on hold? Having to listen to a robotic voice list off options for you to choose from! But this technology has been around for half a century and it’s going strong. Why? The plain truth is that IVR works! It is a great way for businesses to improve customer satisfaction, and save time and money – if it’s done right.

Should you use it? Read on to make a better-informed decision.

What is IVR?

You might not know it, but you probably interacted with IVRs more often than you think. IVR is what happens when your phone rings and a generic-sounding recorded voice tells you to “Press 1 for Customer Service, Press 2 for Sales,” or something similar.

The term “IVR” stands for Interactive Voice Response. It refers to any system that allows a customer or user to interact with a phone system or computer through voice commands without speaking directly to an operator or employee. This can be done in many ways, including using touch-tone keypads, speech recognition, DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency), and other methods. It can respond with prerecorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct users on how to proceed.

The most common applications for this technology are in call centres and customer services. IVRs are commonly used in call centres as a phone menu so that customers can navigate through a series of options to get information about products and services, billings, appointments, and more. This technology is also popular in customer services because it can be customised to answer frequently asked questions.

Benefits of Using IVR

What makes IVR such a great tool for businesses? Let’s find out!

1. Reduce Call Wait Times

One of the biggest benefits of IVR is that it helps shorten customer wait times by filtering calls so that they’re routed to the right department or agent first, rather than having every call go through a general hotline first. Customers no longer have to wait on hold for extended periods of time just to get a simple answer.

2. Improve Customer Experience

IVR can provide help to customers around the clock, which is extremely valuable for businesses whose employees work in shifts. If a customer calls in at 3 AM, they may be able to resolve their issue without ever having to speak with an agent! It gives your customers more control over their user experience by allowing them to select from various options instead of being put on hold by an operator. IVR can also improve your customer satisfaction scores because customers are routed to the best suitable employees that can assist them with their issues.

3. Save Time & Money

Enabling IVR can save you thousands of dollars in staff costs per year as you won’t need as many call centre employees working in your business. IVR helps to filter and channel high volume calls efficiently and effectively according to each customer’s needs. It can also be programmed to answer frequently asked questions so that employees don’t need to spend time doing it manually. It frees up your employees’ time, allowing them to focus on more complex enquiries that require human intervention.

4. Provide Accurate Information

One benefit that may not be obvious at first glance is its ability to reduce human error. IVR helps prevent miscommunication by cutting out different accents, external noise, and other factors that could make it difficult to understand a person on the phone. Fewer mistakes, as well as fewer delays caused by incorrect information being given out over the phone lines, is always a good thing. Ultimately, it gives a consistent initial impression regardless of which agent picks up the phone and results in fewer complaints altogether.

5. Gather Data

Gather, analyse, improve. As with everything technology these days, don’t let the data go to waste! IVR helps you know your customers better and understand what your customers want, which can help you improve your business long-term. Analyse your IVR and call data to know what issues customers struggle with and what information is requested frequently. Then make these information and options easily available to your customers.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Yet with all the benefits IVR provides, many businesses often make mistakes that backfire and cause customer frustration instead. Here are six common mistakes and how you can avoid them:

1. Providing too much information at the start

Customers have a particular objective in mind when they call. Forcing customers to listen to a lot of introductory messages before getting to their objective will likely frustrate them. Once you’ve established what the customer wants, give them the right information or connect them to the right person immediately.

2. Giving too many options

Consider what your customers really want and need. Are they looking to troubleshoot, enquire about billing or delivery, or need more general information like hours of operation and store locations? Don’t add unnecessary options, such as a list of every product or service in your business. Stick to the basics and keep it simple.

3. Not offering an option to speak directly with an employee

Some problems can be too complex or too specific for your IVR. If customers prefer talking to a live agent instead of interacting with an IVR, don’t make them navigate through multiple layers of menus before they can talk to someone. In fact, research shows that 84% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a business.

4. Using complicated languages and words

Keep your language simple and straightforward. Don’t use jargon or acronyms that only people within your team would understand.

5. Not keeping information up-to-date

IVR is a great way to get information about your business out there, so make sure that when people call, they’re getting the right message. If you’re offering something new, have a change in business hours or want people to know about upcoming events, be sure to update the IVR with that information. This will prevent customers from receiving old information or direction that no longer applies. But remember to keep it short and sweet.

6. Including an option that doesn’t exist

This will only frustrate them and could result in wasted time and effort on both sides of the line. If someone asks if they can speak to your billing department and then later finds out that you don’t actually have one, we just can’t imagine how bad this reflects on the business. Honesty is always the best policy, don’t promise something you can’t deliver.

An over-engineered IVR is worse than no IVR at all.

Start with the ‘must have’ options and add more only when needed. Use simple words and be sure to keep your IVR updated. In short, make sure your IVR is user-friendly to reap all the benefits it brings.

Is it for you?

IVR replaces the traditional phone tree by providing an automated system that uses voice recognition and advanced algorithms to route a customer to the right department or deliver them pre-recorded information about products or services. Typically, this is more applicable for large businesses or organisations with multiple business units.

However, it can also be an incredibly useful tool for small businesses. If you run a small business with an extremely limited staff, IVR can be a great way to make your employees’ workloads manageable while allowing customers to get the answers they need on their own time. It also helps customers feel empowered by providing them with the option of doing things themselves—instead of waiting on hold for an operator who might already have a gazillion calls waiting in line and has not even had a washroom break in the past 5 hours.

Regardless of your business size, IVR is quickly becoming the standard for any business that receives a high volume of incoming calls. Along with its many benefits, IVR assists and improves the work of human agents when done right. However, it is in no way a complete substitute.

On the other hand, if text messages are the way your customers roll these days instead of calls, we suggest you give WhatsApp Automations a try instead.

Not sure where to begin? Contact us for a non-obligatory free consultation today.