How to maximize use of your IVR

With the different technologies available today, it’s easy to overlook those that have been used for the

In business, just as in life, first impressions matter. Your Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) is often the first point of contact between your business and your customer base. As such, it’s a critical building block for providing a great customer experienceAs such, your IVR must welcome customers in a way that enhances your overall brand and customer service strategy.

But to do that, you need to bring your IVR out of the Dark Ages. Long recorded messages, complicated menu options, jumps between systems, dead ends — a faulty IVR system can tank your customer lifetime value, even before they finally connect with a representative or specialist.

Optimized and modern IVR software lets you:

  • Effectively route customers to the right department and call center agents.
  • Deflect customers to more efficient channels, like SMS text.
  • Showcase a customer’s transactional history so you can provide a hyper-personalized customer experience.
  • Reduce customer hang ups and frustrations.

IVR platforms can wow your customers and improve customer calls — if you know how to use them. Here are 10 ways to achieve maximum efficiency from your IVR.

10 ways to achieve maximum efficiency from your IVR

1. Start with a tried-and-true IVR sequence.

No one enjoys having to click through or listen to a million menu options before finally getting what they want. Your IVR menu should be built around your customer. Analyze call data to establish the most frequently requested queries and design your IVR accordingly. Option one should, ideally, be the area that generates the most traffic. Doing this will reduce customer effort and shorten time spent within the IVR.

Menu option numbers should be mentioned after the department. Customers’ ears are tuned to listen for the department they want to reach. By doing this, customers will have time to process what they hear and be routed more effectively. For example, format your phrasing as, “For billing, press one,” as opposed to “Press one for billing.” Putting the path up front will trigger the brain to listen to what comes after.

We’ve listened to — and even created — a myriad of IVR menus in support of our clients. Having worked with the best brands for over 25 years, we’ve been able to nail down precise recipes to create an effective sequence.

So, before you dig into optimizing your IVR experience, make sure it’s set up right. Here’s a template we provide for our clients.

IVR flow template

Follow this IVR flow to create an efficient menu:

  1. Segment the call.
  2. Authenticate the call (if necessary).
  3. Understand the intent of the call.
  4. If simple, try to resolve via automation. If complex, let them choose their channel of completion.
  5. Set a proper expectation of wait time.
  6. Offer a callback.

Let’s take a quick dive into each part of the flow.

Segment the call.

In simplest terms, this is offering upfront info like, “For billing, press one.” But this could also be self-service information to segment: “To schedule an appointment, please go to the website and select the ‘Schedule’ menu.” The faster you can segment the customer, the more efficient their next steps will become.

Authenticate the call.

For more sensitive industries or topics, this is a chance to authenticate before you’re taking up valuable agent time.

Understand the intent of the call.

Once they’re segmented, this is the chance to find out what exactly they’re looking for. If it’s billing, this is your chance to find out if the call is about a billing problem, if it’s a need to pay a bill, if it’s an update to billing information, etc.“

Routing based on complexity.

If the need is simple, and your brand has a way to self serve, this is your chance to deflect: “To update your billing information, please log in to your account and select ‘Billing.’” If the issue is complex — or high value, like a revenue activity — then it’s time to get in touch with a human.

Set proper expectation of wait time.

Declaring an accurate estimated wait time is important up front, since this will influence a customer’s entire experience from there on out.

Offer a callback.

Whether it’s to meet SLAs or because customers don’t want to wait on hold, offering a callback is the number one way to improve the IVR experience. We advise to offer a callback if the estimated wait time every goes about two minutes.

Takeaway: Streamline your IVR call flow to create the least resistance between customers and call resolutions. Make it as easy as possible for them to connect with the right department or connect with a service agent.

2. Focus on a customer’s prior interactions.

We live in an omnichannel marketing environment, one where consumers quickly transition between websites, social media, text messages, phone calls, and a slough of other communication channels. And when it comes to interacting with a business, consumers want each of these communication channels to be connected.

Thirty-three percent of customers say they’re frustrated when they have to repeat themselves to multiple customer service representatives. This holds true for your IVR system, as well. When customers interact with an IVR and finally connect with a human operator, they don’t want to have to repeat everything they may have communicated in your IVR or other channels along the customer journey.

Takeaway: Your IVR should include a CRM integration so your agents can see real-time information on multi-channel customer behavior. They can then use this information to provide an enhanced, personalized customer experience. Try to minimize the number of times you have to verify a customer — if they’ve already verified over IVR, carry that information into your CRM and start the call off without the repeat.

3. Opt for a multi-functional/advanced IVR system.

Modern IVR systems allow customers to communicate more naturally across channels, tailoring menu options to bypass prompts they may have covered in another channel. This way, you ensure customers are either contained within the IVR through self-service, or are correctly routed to a proper agent. This will increase first contact resolution by minimizing internal transfers and reducing repetition.

American Airlines uses an advanced IVR system to automatically recognize the phone numbers of their members, addresses them personally, and offers customized menu options and call routing. This automation not only takes the burden off of their customer service agents, but boosts customer satisfaction (CSAT) before customers even interact with an employee.

Takeaway: Your IVR system should come equipped with advanced features like speech recognition and CRM integration to smooth out the customer experience.

4. Offer an option for a callback.

Put simply, customers dislike waiting. Effective forecasting does not always safeguard your call center from unforeseen demand and frustrating wait times.

By offering a callback option, customers can take control of their time knowling they’ll receive service from an actual agent without remaining on hold. Callback technology, such as Mindful’s callback, can maintain a customer’s position in a virtual queue, or schedule a convenient callback time when there is mutual availability from customer and agent. Customers feel empowered while you align demand to resource.

Takeaway: Offer callers a callback option in your IVR to put your customers (and your call center) in control of when they communicate with you. Learn more about our state of the art callback.

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