Insights & Resources3 min read

Using IVR to Improve Customer Experience: 9 Top Tips

Here are nine best practices you should keep in mind when designing an IVR that puts the customer first.

Pete Christianson
How to build a smart IVR
The benefits of an IVR system are inherent. A well designed IVR will reduce the strain on customer service resources by empowering customers to self-serve without the need to speak to an agent. IVR can also drastically improve customer experience—getting the customer where they need to be faster, with agent time focused on solving the problem at hand. One of the most important aspects of building a customer-centric IVR is to utilize smart IVR technology.

What is smart IVR?

Smart IVR is similar to a traditional IVR, but smart IVR has enough menu options and interactive capabilities to handle simple customer service tasks without the aid of a human representative.
Implementing smart IVR is the first step in taking a customer-focused approach. And it enables you to much more efficiently follow these best practices and implement the right features for building a great customer experience. Following that, here’s how you design an IVR that puts the customer experience first:

Always give customers an option to bypass your IVR

Many IVR providers avoid this because they worry it will essentially remove IVR from the call flow. But forcing customers to use the IVR is the best way to generate lots of frustration and dissatisfaction. If the IVR isn’t meeting the customer’s needs, and the customer can’t skip the IVR system, there’s no way the customer is going to be happy with the experience. Always offer an option to go straight to a live associate.

Pass any information collected by the IVR to the customer service agent

This might seem elementary, but a surprising number of IVR systems do not give customer information to the customer service associate. So, even when the customer reaches a live agent, they have to repeat information, which causes even more frustration. The IVR should always show the agent information it has already gathered to streamline the customer service process.
Only make ‘call recording’ announcements when the call gets transferred Yes, it’s a requirement to tell customers when the call is being recorded. But listening to irrelevant information is one of the biggest complaints about IVR systems. So only play the ‘call recording’ announcement when it’s absolutely necessary.

Limit IVR menus to 30 seconds or less

When you’re listening to IVR menu options, 30 seconds seems like an eternity. You’ll also lose the customer’s attention after about 30 seconds. Then they may need to have the menu repeated. That’s irritating. So cut your IVR menus to 30 seconds or less to minimize customer frustration.

Use natural language

Your IVR should sound like a customer service agent. Using natural, conversational language makes customers feel more comfortable with your IVR. And the experience will be more consistent if the customer needs to speak to a live agent.

Allow customers to interrupt prompts

Most customers will realize what they need to say before your IVR has finished prompting them. It’s best if your IVR allows barge-in for prompts. That way customers don’t have to wait before saying what they want. If you can’t implement barge-in for some reason, phrase your prompts so that the customer knows they need to wait until the prompt is complete before they speak.

Provide natural pauses to let customers speak

Use voice recognition technology to create natural pauses in your IVR prompts where customers can say what they need. That way the IVR flow feels more like a normal conversation with a customer service agent.

Correct errors as efficiently as possible

If the customer gives an invalid command or if the IVR doesn’t understand the customer, your IVR should use different words to re-prompt the customer. So, if your IVR needs to get the customer to repeat what they said or choose a different option, it shouldn’t say the same thing over and over. That just exacerbates the misunderstanding.
Also, your IVR should automatically transfer the customer to a live associate after a few attempts. There’s no reason to keep trying if the customer can’t communicate with the IVR.

Offer a touchtone option

Many customers are apprehensive about voice recognition technology. So give customers an option to enter their information with the touch tone keypad, if they prefer.

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