Aug 25 2017 If You’re Using Traditional IVR, You’re Driving Your Customers Crazy



Think about the last time you had to make a call to customer service. “Please listen carefully, as our options have recently changed,” the voice tells you. You make your initial selection, thinking you’ll be taken where you need to go – but wait, you pick another option. Then another. And another.

It’s an all too common tale, and I recently experienced this tired traditional approach to IVR myself, when I called 1-800-WE-CARE.

Dial One for Frustration

I was initially greeted with a thank you for my call, and then I was presented with several options. After a few tries, I finally made it to something that sounded promising: “Change your credit card information.” Since my caller ID was associated with my account, so I simply needed to validate the account by entering the street number portion of the service address.

This is where things started to go horribly wrong.

I began my entry – 1-4-8-2-4 – and then I was cut off with, “Welcome, Jeff. Press one to hear your credit card on file, press two to delete your credit card on file, press three to add another card, press four if-”

I pressed one.

“Please enter your credit card number.”

I obliged the benevolent IVR overlord on the other end of the line and entered my number.

“I’m sorry, I could not find that number. Press one to try again or two to enter a new card.”

Well, maybe it was my mistake, and I miskeyed my entry. I pressed one. I entered my card number again, this time being very careful not to press anything incorrectly. Unfortunately, they still couldn’t find my card. This time around, I opted to enter a new card.

“Is the service address the same as the billing address?”

“Yes,” I said aloud, only now just realizing that I could speak my entries. I confirmed my expiration date and other details, but then it wanted more information. Did I want it to be my default card, etc.

At this point I gave up and pressed zero for an agent.

Know and Guide Your Customers

This frustrating tale is not representative of every self-service IVR system out there. But it’s not atypical either. So if you’re using a traditional IVR system for self-service, a portion of your customers are going to be people like me. People who have become so frustrated with the process that they zero-out to speak to a human being and get off the phone.

Know me and guide me are the principles that should be followed in cases like this – something we’ve discussed before.

In the case above, a better scenario would have been the system recognizing I was on a mobile device and offering me a link via text message to more easily complete my transaction – rather than battling with their IVR system verbally and through keypad entry to do something as simple as update my credit card information:

This would have left me much more satisfied with the self-service transaction – and I wouldn’t have had to speak with an agent, either.

Traditional IVRs are sub-standard when it comes to self-service. Which is why you need to adopt a more customer-focused model of self-service, where you develop the strategy around the needs of your customers, knowing them well enough to guide them to a resolution that solves their problem as quickly as possible – the way they want to do it, using their preferred channels.

As it stands right now, traditional IVR engagements usually take two minutes or more, and often result in hold times while those who zero-out are waiting for an agent, as well as a healthy dose of frustration. But a more customer-focused experience, like the one I illustrated above, are quick transactions that not only don’t waste the valuable time of your agents, they also leave your customers feeling satisfied – and maybe even delighted.