The Truth about Interactive Voice Response

Author Peter DeHaanBy Peter DeHaan

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) seems to be everywhere – and no one likes them! You call a company and get a recording. Who wants that? In response to frustration with infuriating IVR systems that give endless levels of options, many people seek to bypass the machine by pressing zero – often times, repeatedly – in an attempt to talk to a real person. Sometimes this works; other times it doesn’t.

If a company has no real regard for its customers, then they should tighten up their IVR system. Force callers to spend more time interacting with a machine so that their employees spend less time interacting with callers; do everything possible to block customers from talking to their staff; and hold down costs to make their department look good. That’s fine if they have a captive customer base, operate a monopoly, or believe it’s easier to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. Otherwise, they need to listen, really listen, to what the buying public is saying, because, in this case, the customer is right.

IVR does have its place in business, but we need to not overstate what that place is. If IVR can truly speed up the call for the customer or gather information that actually can assist the call center agent in providing better, more effective service, then use an IVR. However, when the primary goal of IVR becomes saving money, reducing the employee headcount, or limiting customer service options, then it needs to be put on the scrapheap of bad ideas.

If your company uses an IVR, I urge you to consider my IVR recommendations:

IVR Dos:

  • Always, always provide the option for the caller to press 0 to talk to a person.
  • Provide short and basic options that can be readily understood by someone from outside your company.
  • Ask customers, and even friends, to call and test your IVR. Then fix the things that bug them.
  • Set up your company’s IVR exactly as you would want one to work if you were calling someone else.

IVR Don’ts:

  • Don’t block the digit 0. “The customer is always right” and if the customer wants to talk to a person, let them.
  • Don’t prompt for an account number if the operator is going to ask for it again.
  • Don’t have callers make a selection (such as for “billing”) and then not tell the call center agent which option they picked.
  • Don’t route callers to a general-purpose call center agent after making the caller take the time to tell the IVR specifically why they’re calling. Skip the deception and just route the call.
  • Don’t provide level after level of long menu options; keep the options short and simple.
  • Don’t force a mildly irritated customer to go through a long and cumbersome IVR tree, because they will exit it highly irritated – and take it out on your staff.

The truth is that for most companies IVR is broken and needs to be fixed. What are you going to do about it?

Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit www.peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

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About editor

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan shares his passion for life and faith through words. Peter DeHaan’s website (www.peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages. Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (www.peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly.