Although Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were originally created to increase efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and save the business money, many customers have found that the IVR systems are mazes that are, in reality, time consuming and frustrating.
Benefits of IVR Systems
What exactly are the benefits of using an IVR system? Companies from small businesses to large corporations such as Verizon and Comcast are integrating IVR systems into their businesses to reduce the number of customer service representatives needed. If the IVR system can replace 50 employees, then the company can greatly reduce its payroll expenses. The cost saving measures are indeed substantial. An IVR inquiry can cost anywhere from $0.05 to $0.25, but a live-agent call can cost anywhere from $5-$25. Businesses can save as much as 90% by switching from live agents to an IVR system.
Small businesses can also use IVR systems for individual call routing. A customer can call, punch in an extension, and reach the appropriate employee without any initial human interaction. The time it takes to reach the desired employee is reduced for the customer, and the company also reduces costs because an operator is not needed. IVR systems can also be used to ensure that calls are sent to the appropriate department. Because the customer clearly chooses the specific cause for the call, the IVR will route the call to the department most effectively able to handle the situation. This eliminates the need for call transfers and reduces time and costs.
An IVR system also allows customers to make many simple inquiries after things such as balances, payments, address changes, etc. without the need for a human agent. These inquiries can be handled virtually at any time, beyond the normal call center hours. Additionally, for some businesses, marketing messages can be subtly included while the customer waits for the next IVR prompt. Willing customers may be persuaded to purchase a broadcasted product or service.
Disadvantages of IVR Systems
IVR systems cut personnel costs, increase efficiency, and ensure customers reach the appropriate department or employee. They seem to be the ideal business solution. So why are so many customers frustrated with IVR systems?
Many IVR systems require a user to press numbers for specific options. In this situation, the required option may not be available, so the customer is left choosing something similar and hoping for the best. Some systems require the user to clearly verbalize the option they need. IVR systems often misunderstand the user or cannot understand their voice, so the user is left repeating the word or phrase until the system understands it or transfers them. This “phone tree maze” takes several minutes and aggravates a customer who simply wants to talk to a live agent.
For customers who aren’t technically savvy, automated IVR systems can be confusing. Although it was previously an option, many companies have eliminated the choice to select “0” to speak to an operator because so many impatient customers choose this without even listening to the options presented by the IVR. If multiple levels of verification are required or your options are very complex, customers may quickly become frustrated and simply start pressing buttons, hoping to reach a live agent. However, they may end up waiting 15 minutes on hold, only to be sent to the wrong department which may require another transfer with a lengthy hold time.
How to Use IVR Systems Effectively
IVR systems are cost and time effective, but how can you integrate them into your business in a way that does not decrease customer satisfaction? First, design the system with your customers in mind. Many owners do not test their IVR system to find the flaws or technical difficulties. Also, always allow the customer to reach a live agent at any time. Although the customer may need to be transferred, those who cannot grasp the IVR system will want the choice to speak with a human who can better assist their needs. If your business regularly handles emotional callers (for example, customers dealing with fraud, credit card theft, identity theft, etc.), it may be a wise decision to have a live agent greet them immediately.
The technology of IVR systems is ever-evolving, and systems are constantly becoming more user-friendly. While you may want to save money, consider your customer retention. Only design and use systems that are user-friendly, or you may find your customers simply taking their business elsewhere. And always offer outstanding customer service after the caller has reached the department. Many businesses depend on the automated systems and neglect to provide knowledgeable, trained staff to further assist the customer. Remember, customers love simple, so give them simple options.
About Andrew Jensen & his Optimization Strategies for Success™
As a business efficiency expert, Andrew helps small to mid sized businesses, start-up companies & nonprofit organizations thrive through developing and implementing business optimization strategies. Andrew’s efficiency consulting addresses the entire scope of a business: its processes, customer service, management, employees, marketing, public relations, and communication. His goal with each client is steady improvement, from the perspective of cutting costs as well as increasing value. Contact Andrew to begin a thorough critique of your business operations. Begin your company’s improvement journey today.