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Improving customer experience with the right IVR strategy

Customer talking to a contact center agent, having her questions answered


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  • An IVR system guides callers through an automated menu to get them to a specific destination
  • A poorly-designed IVR menu leads to a negative contact center customer experience
  • Designing a positive IVR experience involves giving customers self-service options as well as the ability to connect to a human

IVR systems can play an important role in automating the customer experience and making it smoother and more efficient, but to improve the customer experience, you need the right IVR strategy. 

What is an IVR system?

An IVR system (which stands for interactive voice response) is an automated phone system that interacts with callers through voice or phone keypad selections. Callers select options from a menu until they get to their desired destination.

Customers might not be familiar with the term “IVR system,” but they likely use one any time they call a large organization.

Why customers don’t like IVR systems

Even if customers don’t know the term “IVR systems,” they generally have a negative opinion of them. Why is that?

Customers complain about the following characteristics of IVR systems:

  • There aren’t adequate menu options
  • It takes too long to reach an agent
  • The system doesn’t understand voice inputs

When customers encounter poorly designed IVR systems, they become frustrated, and it’s not hard to understand why. They call a company to solve a problem, and when they can’t do that, they have a poor customer experience.

Creating a better IVR strategy

When an IVR menu is well-designed, it makes the contact center customer experience much more pleasant for customers. How can you create a better IVR strategy?

  • Understand what questions your customers need answered
  • Create an IVR menu that gets customers where they need to go
  • Make human contact an option
  • Route calls to the agent best-equipped to handle the situation
  • Build in self-service options
  • Integrate business applications into IVR menus

Understand what questions your customers want answered

Your IVR menu won’t be useful if it doesn’t contain the options that customers want.

How do you determine how to make an IVR system useful? Talk to the people who work with customers the most – your customer service team. These team members understand the questions customers ask every day.

Create an IVR menu that gets customers where they need to go

Take some time to sketch out IVR menu options that make the most sense. For example, if many customers need to talk to someone about their bill, your IVR menu should have a selection to connect to the billing department. Remember that a flexible contact center software solution makes it easy to modify IVR menus.

Wearing a headset at a desk

Make human contact an option

Sometimes, organizations want to deflect calls to the greatest extent possible. There are some good reasons for that: decision makers understand people don’t want to wait on hold, and properly implemented call deflection gives customers other options aside from speaking to a human. Often, customers prefer a self-service option, and call deflection meets that need.

That being said, there are times when customers absolutely need to speak to an agent. When you’re designing an IVR menu, take that into consideration to reduce customer frustration.

Route calls to an agent best-equipped to handle the situation

While it’s important to connect to an agent, it’s even more important to connect to the right agent.

Skills-based routing connects customers to the right agents. That means that when a customer calls with a specific problem, the IVR system understands, based on the customer’s selection, which agent would be the best person to handle such a call.

We’ll illustrate with an example: Lisa bought wireless speakers, but they don’t seem to be connecting to her computer. She calls the manufacturer and immediately finds herself dealing with an IVR system. Lisa selects an option to be connected with someone who can handle software problems.

The contact center software knows that Sam is the best person to deal with this issue – he’s available, and he’s also handled calls and interactions like this many times in the past several months. As a result of skills-based routing, Lisa gets the help she needs and has a better contact center customer experience.

Build in self-service options

There will be times when customers want to talk to a human being. At other times, it’s simply faster to get things done on your own.

Incorporating self-serve options gives customers the option to find answers on their own. They spend less time on the phone waiting for help and get the help they need faster.

Integrate business applications into IVR menus

One way to improve IVR systems for a better contact center customer experience is to integrate business applications into IVR menus. Integrating business applications enables customers to perform activities through the IVR system.

We’ll illustrate with an example. Tim wants to pay his water bill over the phone. The water company uses an IVR system that integrates into its billing system. All Tim has to do is call a certain extension, and an automated menu guides him through the process of paying his water bill.

If the billing system weren’t connected to the IVR menu, Tim would have to wait on hold to connect to a contact center agent. This is a waste of Tim’s time and of your contact center’s most valuable (and most expensive!) resource, the agent. Integrating business applications into your IVR menu gives customers the self-service options they need to complete crucial tasks. Moreover, it makes the contact center customer experience better.

Improve the contact customer experience with RingCentral
RingCentral’s robust contact center solutions feature a flexible IVR menu which organizations can configure to best meet their needs. You can improve the contact center customer experience by giving customers self-service options as well as the opportunity to connect with a human.

Originally published Jul 14, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022

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