IVR systems are becoming more and more ubiquitous by the day. Case in point: Any time customers call a business directly, their first interaction almost always begins in a digital manner. To help offset popular misconceptions about IVR that can lead to poor experience, some companies are starting to use automated chatbots to create what they think is a better experience.

But not all customers want to talk to bots, and not all companies are ready to hand their customer engagement over to automation. Some argue that bots aren’t ready to handle complex customer needs. If you’re not ready for bots, what can you do?

You already have an IVR system in place. The question is, are you using it to its best capabilities? Today’s IVR systems are capable of much more than traditional versions – though they can handle the basics as well. Here are some keys to successfully leveraging your IVR.

Maintain Customer Satisfaction
First and foremost, make sure your IVR is always operational. Assuming you’ve designed it to effectively interact with customers and solve their issues, there’s never a need for your IVR to be offline. In fact, overnight hours and weekends may be the most popular times customers reach out to your company.

During off hours, consider implementing customized messages that offer alternatives to voice, such as email, messaging, chat and callback when representatives become available, and prioritize those customers at that time. And if you have the resources, consider having someone monitor non-voice channels – something that is easy to accommodate with cloud-based contact centers. Never give your customers a reason to go elsewhere. Instead, always allow them to be satisfied.

Know the Sound of Silence Isn’t Ideal
While customers ideally won’t ever have to wait on hold, that’s not realistic from a cost efficiency perspective. So when your customers do have to wait on hold, don’t make them listen to nothing. It makes them feel uncared for and can even make them think their calls have dropped.

Instead, play music – you could even design an IVR application to allow them to select their favorite genre of music. This is also an opportunity to provide them information about your company, new products and services, or to offer opportunities for alternative engagement methods, such as Text2IVR or callback.

Don’t Hide Behind Your IVR
In spite of today’s IVR systems being feature-rich and functional, there will still be situations where customers will want or need to access a live agent. Make it easy – let them know at the beginning of their self-service interactions how get out of the IVR and into a queue for a live agent. Few things frustrate customers more than now being able to easily reach a live agent.

Use Voice Recognition
Today’s technology can make it easy for you to solve customers’ problems by enabling them to speak naturally. By using speech recognition and natural language processing, your IVR system is able to easily navigate them to a solution.

On the off chance it cannot, your IVR can ask additional questions for clarification, ask customers to repeat their questions, or ask them if they would like to be sent to a live agent – and then prioritized in the queue to minimize frustration. The ability to speak with a live agent is much more beneficial for customers than forcing them to navigate through a complex IVR tree that could easily become circular if they make the wrong selection.

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Bottom line: The easier you are able to make it for your customers to reach resolution, the better.

Listen to Your Customers
If you truly want to deliver a great customer experience, this is critical. While the main purpose of your IVR may be to guide customers to resolution, it has a secondary function as a data collection mechanism, including for customer opinion surveys.

These can include anything from post-experience surveys to product feedback to future interests and ideas, or anything else you’d like to find out from your customers. You should also allow them to let you know what they think of your IVR.

Make the Customer Journey Seamless
Every time a customer visits your website, calls your customer service center, navigates through your IVR, or engages with your brand in any way, they are leaving behind a footprint, along with information that can be highly useful. With that in mind, make sure you look at IVR in the context of your overall customer engagement strategy.

Knowing how or why customers enter your IVR system, when and why they exit, which kinds of journeys are more likely to end up in queues, and other similar information can help you improve your IVR, website and other engagement channels. For instance, you can optimize routing based on the most common problems, helping customers achieve quicker and more efficient resolution.

Add a Personal Touch Whenever Possible
With all the data and technology available today, it’s easy to personalize engagements to make customers feel valued, simplify resolution, and provide more specific information or recommendations. IVR systems can use several techniques to personalize experiences.

For instance, they can use biometric authentication to identify the customer. Personalization can also be a highly effective tool for outbound IVR campaigns by segmenting customer groups for specific targeted campaigns, from notifications to product recall notifications to renewal reminders and more.

Update Your IVR Regularly
As you learn about your customers’ needs and habits, apply analytics to assess the performance of your IVR and whether it is meeting your customers’ needs as effectively as possible. While designing IVRs has become much simpler with easy-to-use interfaces, there are many potential points of failure, even with plenty of testing.

In addition, it’s likely customer behavior will change over time and you’ll need to adjust your IVR to match those preferences. Data from your IVR and the entire customer journey will help identify ways to improve your IVR to deliver the best possible experience.

At the End of the Day, Treat Your IVR Like an Asset
Look at your IVR as an asset. Just like your live agents, they are meant to help solve customer service issues. Following these basic guidelines and implementing some new features will help you create a truly exceptional IVR experience for your customers.

Published by Mike

Avid tech enthusiast, gadget lover, marketing critic and most importantly, love to reason and talk.

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