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Using IVR in Contact Centres

Six Advantages to Using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) in Contact Centers

What do you think Alexander Graham Bell would have said back in 1876 about the telephone he created, now hosted in the cloud…with an omnichannel call routing system that helps manage demand and call flow for a contact center? 

He may not have been surprised, after all, he was a pioneering man! 

The modern-day contact center is embracing both multichannel and omnichannel communications because of changing customer expectations – so the IVR needs to change too! In this article, we’ll look at 6 advantages of using an IVR in the contact center and how this can improve customer experience, contact center efficiency and user experience to name but a few. 

We have all probably experienced that draining feeling when we ring a contact center, only to be faced with multiple layers of options (Press 1 for…and so on!), so let’s look at some of the key challenges we face.

Firstly, whilst you might have lots of options for your products and services, your customer doesn’t necessarily want to hear them all, so giving all of the options can be counter-productive and ends up meaning the customer just presses an option to escape!

In addition, the quality and consistency of your IVR message matters. Customers like consistency but as our organizations change, IVR messaging has to keep pace. These changes can often result in quickly recorded messages (usually from a member of staff with a few spare minutes!) – which can impact the brand ‘tone of voice’. 

Your customers want options and ideally would like to solve their problems without waiting in a queue, so a lack of ability to self-serve is a common frustration. Where possible, create the opportunity to allow customers to opt for easy ways to self-serve…but be careful not to give the impression that you don’t want to speak to them! 

Quite often we’ll create IVRs and then continue to layer more products and more services on, forgetting that as we do this, we can make the whole journey more confusing and frustrating for the customer. 

So how do we solve these challenges and what are the advantages of getting it right? Here we explore 6 key advantages to getting IVR solutions right. 

IVR can create greater operational efficiency

The ultimate purpose of an IVR is to support your customers to get the help they need as quickly as possible. Modern-day IVRs can triage calls to reduce demand entering the call center and putting customers straight through to the person who can help! The more calls the agent must answer, the more resource is required (employing more people), thereby adding cost into your operation, but an IVR can remove demand and valuable handling time from agents in two ways:

  1. Reducing handling time by having Identification and Verification processes that can integrate with your CRM, showing the customer record, without having to ask for that information.
  2. Eliminating demand through self-serve options or the ability to signpost to other channels where the customer might be able to find the right answer. 
The right IVR can enhance customer experience

The two things your customers want primarily when dealing with your contact center is to be able to get through to you quickly and for you to make it easy to do business with you. A decent IVR can allow that.

There’s nothing worse than waiting in the queue with terrible hold music or poor-quality audio, whereas a modern-day IVR can allow users to opt in to hold music, with some even letting them choose the genre of music to listen to! They can also tell customers where they are in the queue and how long the wait is likely to be. This puts the customer in the ‘driving seat’ and allows them to choose if they would like to continue to wait.

In addition, a good IVR will direct customers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that can be found on the website, as well as advising about busy periods and times where the queue may be longer. All this gives the customer information and the ability to choose, rather than feel they are stuck in the ‘customer service machine’.

Better first call resolution rates (FCR) can be achieved with good IVR routing, using Identification and Verification processes to direct the customer to the most agent who is best placed to help with their query. 

Cross-sell opportunities and better retention

There will be times when your demand is so high that callers will be on hold – it is inefficient to staff to levels with zero wait time.

Using your IVR hold messaging is a great way to raise awareness of products and services that your customer might not have had exposure to previously. NOTE: be mindful not to use high-pressure sales tactics or too overt messaging, or overwhelm them with choice.

Instead, you can talk about relevant products that also may be appropriate. Intelligent IVRs and smart segmentation will help this if you use the Identification and verification process alongside CRM integration to establish product holding and suitability. 

Customers will often spend more and remain loyal to brands that provide good customer service and this can be supported with a good IVR. We mentioned earlier that customers like convenience and a great IVR can help. A well set up IVR can identify the last agent that a customer spoke to and route them straight back, or at least to that department, creating a more seamless journey. No customer wants to be passed around…especially if, after all the waiting, they come full circle or to an agent who can’t help! 

Agent experience

We talk a lot about customer experience in the contact center, but agent experience is also hugely important. A disengaged and unhappy employee is not only less productive, but also less motivated to do a great job for customers. 

Modern-day IVRs and supporting technology can reduce the demand on your by including:

    • Self-service options
    • Skills-based routing
    • Natural language routing 
    • The option for customers to ‘stay in the queue’ but not having to physically wait 

All of these things mean that an agent is better prepared to deal with the customer and feel like they have been well equipped to do so.

Omnichannel Integration

Using a cloud-based IVR allows you to create API links into other systems (e.g a CRM). This has numerous benefits to the customer, in that it can allow you to identify the customer in advance of them reaching an agent, which in turn:

  1. Reduces the handling time by removing some elements of the ‘call script’.
  2. Improves first call resolution by getting your customers to the right person and department first time.
  3. Allows you to direct high-value clients or VIP clients (identified through segmentation) to your ‘best’ sales or service agents.
  4. Reduces demand and makes customers aware of the full suite of contact solutions available; consumers are increasingly tech-savvy and with the introduction of chatbots, live chat and email there are more ways for customers to engage. The IVR can help signpost this and is a great way of managing demand.
Business continuity planning

A good contact center should have a robust business continuity plan and technology should form part of it. Often a BCP considers people and technology but the IVR routing and messages can be forgotten. 

On-premise telephony solutions and IVR routed in hardware can be a challenge in an emergency and creates a business continuity challenge. Reacting to a move in premises can leave you exposed to delivering sub-standard customer service.  Thankfully, IVR solutions can now be configured in the cloud, so you can move your contact center anywhere and provide the same professional and slick customer journey. This is hugely important in periods when your resources might be strained and demand is likely to increase.

The IVR has come a long way from its inception in 1973 and with advancements in cloud technology, the possibilities seem to be endless. Whether you are still using DTMF solutions on-premise or cloud-based IVR solutions, it is crucial that you take a look at your IVR through the eyes of your customer and evaluate their journey, so you can continually make it better.

About the author – Nathan Dring

Nathan is the SME for our Contact Center Catalogue. Having worked in L&OD for over a decade, Nathan has experience in sales, service, SME and retail. Whilst at Asda, Nathan led the learning and development function for the global contact center estate.

Nathan was Head of Global Organisational Development at thebigword, before setting up his own business, Nathan Dring and Associates Limited at the start of 2018.

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