How to improve your customer experience with Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

22 July, 2022

Legacy IVR systems used to be the exclusive domain of large multi-national companies. Costing much time and money to integrate, they had all the hardware complexity and high maintenance costs of a hand-built sports car from Italy.

IVR is now available to businesses of all sizes thanks to cloud telephony and SaaS platforms, much like how today's electric cars deliver supercar-like performance for a lot less money!

So, should you implement an IVR system for your company? We'll walk you through the advantages of IVR from the viewpoint of your business. Following that, we'll go through typical mistakes to avoid while deploying IVR. Finally, we'll show how easy it is to integrate IVR into your workflow with the help of a customer experience (CX) platform.

What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

IVR is a self-service phone system that allows callers to perform routine transactions or get information by listening to pre-recorded messages and replying with keypresses—all done without speaking to a live agent. If customers are unable to solve a complex issue on their own, IVR systems can intelligently route the caller to the most qualified agent.

So, an IVR can be thought of as a hybrid communication channel: there's the automated aspect, where a pre-determined script qualifies a caller and moves him or her along their journey; and then there's the human element when automated solutions are exhausted and the customer requires assistance to answer their question.

Benefits of IVR systems

Adopting a modern IVR into your contact centre can bring your business a list of benefits. Let's cover some of them.

1. Reduces CapEx and OpEx

Previously, installing and maintaining an IVR system required significant capital expenditure in complex hardware and networks such as PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems, PSTN or VoIP phone systems, computers, telephony cards, databases, servers, and supporting infrastructure. There were also continuous operating expenses such as landline bills, phone leasing, and on-site monitoring of employees to ensure 24/7 service and uptime.

Modern cloud contact centre solutions, such as CINNOX, automatically integrate IVR into their platform. Everything you need to run your service centre is included, including incoming and outgoing telephony (converting PSTN to VoIP or vice versa), virtual numbers, an IVR menu, databases and cloud services. This removes the need for separate software, infrastructure or technicians! When compared to traditional IVRs, this results in a huge reduction in operating expenditure and large cost savings.

Customisable routing destinations

2. Improves team productivity

Contact centres can be overwhelmed by a high volume of inbound enquiries, resulting in stress and frustrations among your agents. Every day, they deal with issues ranging from the simple, such as "What are your business hours?" to the complex, such as "My credit card was charged, but I haven't received an email yet." When your agents spend time on routine enquiries, they are unable to work on more challenging cases.

An IVR system encourages customers to resolve simple enquiries and transactions on their own. Not only can they get answers 24/7, but callers can also pick the choice of language to interact with. Having customers achieve first-call resolution themselves means that agents can focus on more gratifying, challenging and value-added work.

Also, keep in mind that agents' time is money! Callers save time by avoiding having back-and-forth talks with agents when they utilise a self-service channel, such as IVR. This increases the productivity and efficiency of your contact centre teams, improves the call flow, and minimises the wait times of other customers in the call queue.

3. Personalised interactions

While IVR may lack the human touch, it makes up for it by allowing you to record personalised messages and prompts. Unlike human agents who may be inconsistent in customer service, an IVR always welcomes callers with the same enthusiasm every time! Plus, caller ID may be used to personally greet customers by their first name.

Also, when people enter their details into an IVR system, you're gathering information about the caller. If the call is routed to a human agent, your team has the caller's profile and can even anticipate their enquiry by tracking their IVR customer journey, such as seeing that they're interested in your range of motor insurance policies, for example.

An overview of a customer call journey

4. Better customer service & reduce manual errors

When IVR is effectively implemented, McKinsey & Company found that a customer-centric IVR system increased customer satisfaction by 10-25% across all calls! Thus, a well-designed and optimised IVR system not only pleases management by hitting all the right KPIs, but it can also deliver and maintain a high level of customer service at scale.

You can give a great customer experience by delighting and surprising callers, such as connecting a cardholder immediately to an agent when a lost or stolen card is reported. You can also show expertise and knowledge when customers connect directly with an insurance claims specialist when a personal accident policy is entered, for example.

Best practices for IVR systems

One way to improve customer satisfaction is to deliver what the caller needs as quickly as possible. An IVR system offers a lot of potential for resolving routine calls using automated voice prompts. However, if little thought is given to the customer journey or if the software and hardware solution is poorly designed, your substantial investment of time and money in an IVR project can backfire and result in a bad customer experience!

1. Keep your menus simple

Remember that an IVR system is audio-based, so callers must memorise the menu selections as well as the numbers or symbols to push for responses. When faced with multi-level menus and too many options, callers may simply hang up and take their business to your competitors. In this case, the more simple your menu is, the better.

Designing an IVR menu and options

2. Route calls efficiently

IVR and automatic call distribution (ACD) work as a team. When an IVR collects customer data in our motor insurance example earlier, ACD uses the data to sort and distribute the calls so that caller speaks to the next available motor insurance specialist. Together, IVR and ACD can improve customer satisfaction and team engagement!

ACD depends on call routing rules to direct the calls based on your preferred type of distribution method. If you want to shorten the wait time for the caller, route the call to whoever's immediately available. Or, like our motor insurance example, direct calls to agents in the motor insurance team rather than the home contents or life insurance teams.

Routing rules at work in CINNOX

3. Use the same voice

Some IVR systems present a disjointed experience to callers when the gender, accent or loudness of the voice prompts change during the call journey. This suggests different internal systems are used at a bank, for example, to handle retail banking transactions versus credit card points redemption. Test your IVR system before deploying it.

4. Say things concisely

An IVR system might be overly enthusiastic at times, presenting much too much information to cover all the possible scenarios! Keep in mind that callers are spending time and money to listen to unnecessarily long audio prompts. Help them get to their destination as quickly and easily as possible by keeping your IVR script to the point.

5. Reduce wait times

Your new IVR system is up and running, and it is routing incoming calls far more effectively than you expected. Congratulations! However, a lengthy wait time to speak with the next available agent may undo all of the advantages of streamlining client enquiries. Take a look at the complete customer journey, not just the IVR system.

6. Cut down confirmations

Callers may face another inconvenience with IVR by having to confirm every input by listening to their selection again. While confirmations can reduce errors, such as entering a policy number, they can quickly become annoying when it is needed every time. Use caller ID to match the phone number listed on the policy, for example.

7. Tone down advertising

Finally, don't subject your callers to jingles or promotions repeated ad nauseum while they wait on hold. Not only will your message be irrelevant to their call purpose, but it is also amplified when they put their speakerphone on while waiting! Instead, respond to calls efficiently and quickly to avoid playing advertisements to fill in the space.

How to implement an IVR system

So how do you go about installing an IVR solution? What used to take consultants months to install and configure, can now be used as a SaaS. Better still, IVR should be seen as part of an omnichannel solution, such as CINNOX, so that you can unify all your customers' interactions—live chat, calls, SMS, IVR and more—in one platform.

CINNOX: a CX platform that integrates IVR

Getting started with IVR in CINNOX is an easy two-part process that involves offline and online configuration. First, you need to sign up for an Enterprise account and then provide details such as your virtual number, prompts, keypress and navigation options. Next, you configure your IVR menu, keypress options and destinations in CINNOX.

For a more detailed walkthrough check out our IVR user manual online.


IVR is now within reach of all businesses

IVR technology is here to stay. It helps you deliver a good customer experience by giving callers a self-service option as well as the option of interacting with a human. Why not give CINNOX a free 14-day test drive to see how easy it is to integrate IVR and more in your communication channels. Contact us now!

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