Put Your Best Foot Forward With IVR
Interactive voice response systems, or IVRs, have been implemented by numerous companies to allow callers to navigate their way to the right person or department without having to wait for an operator or talk to a live person. To be sure, this was a cost-cutting move for many firms, but it also can be a great tool to help callers get to their end contact more directly.
The problem, says Mitch Lieber, principal of Lieber & Associates, a call center management, metrics and technology consulting firm in Chicago, is that, “IVRs have become a barrier at companies for many customers, so much so that legislation has been introduced in some states to require an opt-out to reach a live person.” Once several states have laws, he explains, IVRs will become an issue for the federal government. Like abusive outbound calling programs, the misuse of IVRs by companies to avoid direct contact with customers will generate national laws.
“IVRs themselves are neither good nor bad,” Lieber points out, “it’s how companies use them that’s successful or unsuccessful.” To make sure your IVR system is helping customers rather than aggravating them, take note of the following best practices from Lieber and OpenVoice, a voice prompting services firm:
* Look at your top customer service topics and match them up to your IVR menu options. If callers can’t figure out which menu item relates to their problem, you’ve wasted their time listening to your options list.
* IVR menus should not go deeper than two or three levels, with no more than four options per level. And keep the most frequently-selected options, such as tracking an order, near the beginning of the options menu.
* Make sure your system is set up to allow callers to make their selection before the menu has finished playing. Regular callers know which options to select, and don’t want to wait through now-familiar messaging.
* Let callers listen to the option first, then tell them what corresponding number to push to select that option.
* Callers should be able to repeat the list of options, in case they weren’t able to identify the option that best suited their query on the first run through.
* Set up your system to handle invalid entries. Prompt people to make another selection by providing the list of options again and/or redirect the call to a live operator.