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Can Interactive Voice Response become less of a pain?

Updated: Jun 26

Man staring at phone in anger annoyed by poor IVR

All research says that we consumers despise ringing a company only to be greeted with a pre-recorded voice asking us to; ”Press two if your query is to do with an invoice, press three if it’s about your subscription…”

It’s called Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and pretty much all large companies use it as a cost-effective way to deal with large volumes of queries, even though the research says that everyone seems to hate it. But that research can be somewhat misleading and automation can be the key to creating better personal interactions between the caller and customer service.

What people don’t like with IVR is answering questions that they feel are irrelevant.

3 tip to improve Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

  1. Make sure the caller always has the option of speaking directly with a customer service agent at any point in time.

  2. Really think through the questions. The questions we get when we call are there to ensure we talk to the right customer service agent from the start and don’t get moved around.

  3. Add in more automation. Point three may sound counter-intuitive but if your system can resolve most of the humdrum queries that pop up, then your customer calls will be more relevant, more personal and of higher quality.

  4. Add in automatic troubleshooting of the customer service performance, directly after they have identified themselves.

And this is already happening. We don’t call customer service as often today as we did in the past. For simpler queries, companies are making the answers easily available elsewhere. We can go online and check our account details or how much surf we’ve used.

This also means that customer service agents are dealing with increasingly complex questions and this places a demand on having the right person at the other end of the line.

But what if you can resolve even some of those complex questions in a convenient way?

“The trick is to add intelligence in your network so that the IVR can know what technical issues you have experienced without asking you any questions. It’s then possible to give relevant tailor-made automated messages to a caller as soon as he or she rings customer service. Let’s say you’ve tried calling the US today but you’re not getting through and you call customer support. An automatic voice could tell you that today there are issues calling the US from Norway, our technicians are working on it, but you’ll experience problems until around 4pm.” says Magnus Zimmerman, CTO at Subtonomy.

Now the problem is solved before you even have to wait in line and answer all those questions.

Here’s how it works: If there has been an issue (in this case calls to the US) and this issue has been raised, then the system can automatically see if a customer calling in has made a number of failed call attempts to the US. If that’s the case, that caller will get an automated message from the IVR and then give the customer the option of hanging up or waiting to talk to an agent.

This kind of message can be tailored right down to the individual level. If done well, you’ll know they are working on your problem before you even have to click on four for ’network enquiries’.

Does this mean we’re going to start changing our mind on IVR and start liking it? We’re more likely not to perceive that IVR is in use at all if we get the right information from the start.

A smarter IVR system can instead become a useful piece of the puzzle when it comes to digitalizing your customer support and making things better for your customer and your brand.


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