IVR: The Technology We Love To Hate

Call-Center-Comic-64Anyone who uses a phone has experienced IVR by now. It’s the “Interactive Voice Response” system that many companies have implemented to handle incoming customer calls.

I’ve found it’s been helpful and efficient most of the time, but IVR seems to be the subject of jokes and scorn by many.

Why all the animosity?

IVR gets a bad rap and I know why: bad design and implementation. Let’s look at some common problems and solutions.

Having to press 1 for this and press 2 for that seems to really irritate people. Typically, they are the people who would prefer to press nothing and just yell at a live person. (I admit it, but I’m not proud.)

IVR is not for every customer.

The main menu should include an option to speak to a live person for issues that need special attention that only a trained customer service agent can provide.

Avoid further frustrating customers by making this a main menu option… and most importantly, avoid the clichés.

Customers don’t really care if your menu options have changed or being told to “listen carefully” or “pay attention”. Unless you’re a toddler, you probably don’t like being talked to like a child.

Apologies or saying how important the call is really just overused and should be avoided. Customers appreciate clear choices and options, period.

What they don’t appreciate is listening to a lot of fluff that really means nothing to them and wastes their time.

How many times have you dialed up a company and had to listen carefully to a dozen options? Then, once you pick an option what you want is several layers of menus further.

An IVR designer shouldn’t try to automate too much.

The solution is simple; find out the top 3 things that customers want to do and automate just those things. Keep it simple and easy. Less really is more here.

There can’t be enough emphasis placed on testing the system. Test, test and then when you’re done with that, test again. Customers are lost, figuratively and literally when a company doesn’t test its IVR system.

Here’s an example:

I’ve put in my account number and selected the option I need. I wait, and the chipper computer lady says, “Are you still there? Please select your option”. I select my option again, but this time the news is not so good. Computer lady now says, “I’m sorry you’re having trouble, goodbye”.

Someone was clearly having trouble, but it wasn’t me.

I pressed the option as instructed, but got the boot. Testing the system would have prevented this unfortunate situation.

Bottom line; I chose another company who could help me. I wonder how many other customers were lost because of this glitch.

An IVR system can work around the clock, 7 days a week. It takes no sick days or vacations. With those kinds of advantages, some employers can see nothing but potential cost savings and place no value in improving their system.

Customers aren’t stupid.

They will clearly know a company’s motivation if they implement a poorly designed IVR system and chances are they’ll take their business elsewhere because of it.

All in all, automated phone systems are great and do a lot to make life easier. But like relationships, when it’s good it’s so good and when it’s bad, it’s just awful.

Customers don’t remember a good IVR experience, but they will never, ever forget a bad one.

Thanks to Ezinearticles for the article.

One Response to “IVR: The Technology We Love To Hate”

  1. pollyelliott Says:

    Reblogged this on Contact Centre Customer Experience and commented:
    Great blog about the frustrations of IVR!

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