The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems of the past were simple. They played announcements, greeted your customers and routed callers to available agents. Today, IVR systems fill the much more important role of transforming companies into constantly accessible businesses with a singular goal of addressing customers’ needs quickly and effortlessly.
That means your IVR needs to provide a more natural and effortless self-service experience to meet the ever-evolving and demanding customer expectations. To help you get started, here are the five best practices I share with my customers who are looking to implement their own perfect IVR system.
No. 1: Resist the Urge to Automate Everything
Too often, I find myself interacting with people who want to automate all of the calls that their agents handle. I call it “the 100 percent automation goal.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of automation, both at work and at home. In fact, with two teenage daughters and a young son, I have an automated system at home that wakes my children every weekday morning by automatically turning on their room lights and blasting their favorite radio station. And when it’s time for them to leave for the bus stop, I have the kitchen lights programmed to blink several times like the intermission warning lights at a stage performance.
But just like at home, automation only makes things better when it’s developed and deployed strategically.
When it comes to call center automation, you should abide by the 80/20 rule. Automate 80 percent of your call center transactions and leave the remaining 20 percent of calls for your agents to handle. That 80 percent majority share should be comprised of the routine transactions that are easy to automate, as well as those your agents are bored with handling.
That’s why my automation at home is focused on waking my children, arguably the most tedious part of the morning routine, and the challenging part of making their breakfast and lunches every morning is still handled by Mom and Dad.
No. 2: Design Your IVR the Way Users Want to Get Information
When designing an IVR application, the natural tendency is to model the IVR call flow after layout of the data in your backend systems. It seems logical, right? The programmers for your backend computer systems most likely had the foresight to lay out your customer data in the exact way that a customer would like to receive that data.
Well, unfortunately computer programmers are not quite that insightful, even with the best intentions. Instead what you often find is that your data is actually stored in a way that easy to access and not the other way around, with your customer top-of-mind.
Your IVR application needs to be designed the way your customers expect to receive the information. So, if your customer is calling to pay their bill, it might be a good idea to ensure they can get their account balance before paying their bill online. The ultimate goal is to make your IVR effortless and easy to use. Customers will continue to use a system that allows them to quickly and easily get the information they need.
No. 3: Use Speech Appropriately and Enable Touch-Tone Input
Speech recognition has been the big fad over the past 10 to 12 years and has had customers clamoring to implement speech-enabled systems. Speech has its place, but is not required for all applications. For example, transactions that require numerical input are typically most effective when implemented as touch-tone applications.
Now, if you do need speech for your application, you should still always allow those proficient customers to perform the same function using touch-tone input. Once your customers become familiar with your IVR, they will likely become “power users” and perform routine functions using their touch-tone keypad.
No. 4: Make the IVR Sound Friendly
One of the most common mistakes when developing an IVR application is skimping on professional recordings. In order for your IVR to be effective, it needs to sound professional. If your callers are turned off by your IVR, they are less likely to use it.
Use professional talent to record your voice prompts; don’t lean on concatenated voice prompts in favor of pre-recorded voice prompts for currency amounts and dates. The more natural your IVR sounds, the more your caller base will use it.
No. 5: Continue to Improve Your IVR
Like your partner or your car, you need to give your IVR lots of love and attention. That means checking it periodically to see if it is meeting your customer’s needs. I have found that good reports can provide a lot of information on the effectiveness of your IVR and can suggest areas where the application can be improved. Tune your IVR system often, and you will continue to drive more customers to your IVR system.
Ultimately, the goal to implementing an effective and well-used IVR system is to make it effortless and pleasing to use. So design your IVR the way customers want to access information, and you will to increase the utilization of your IVR and keep your customers happy. With happy customers, happy agents and a high utilization of your IVR system, everyone is a winner.