The 5 Deadly sins of IVR

Tpeople6he 5 deadly sins of Integrated Voice Response

As someone who has been in the telephony technology game for many many years, I have had the privilege of being privy to many IVR implementations, some good, some bad and some real ugly! (There is only so much one can do)

I have therefore also been asked to rework many and identify why they are not delivering the anticipated customer satisfaction and results.  If you want to buy a new a car check this website link.

The most frequently asked questions are:

  • Why is our call center is now handling twice the number of calls as before
  • why have our call durations increased
  • Why the abandonment rate has doubled!

Urrggg, what should be saving you money is now a double “whammy”. The cost of the IVR and unhappy clients.

Thus I thought I would share with you the 5 deadly sins of IVR.

1 Badly conceived:
Many IVR’s are really badly thought out, if thought out at all!

The decision making process for the caller may take them 5 or 6 menu’s deep, to result in a “please leave a voicemail” or simply just “ringing”.

There is often numerous different voices, there are squeals and pops and ringing as systems are forwarded and forwarded again, the volume of voice files differ, the accents change, the gender of the voice changes and by gosh, concatenated speech is still all over the show!

We need to recall, that when IVR first started, most people, had a phone on their desk, connected to a wire. It was in front of you, not attached to your ear, hand or steering wheel!  An intricate menu is hard to navigate, from your shoulder!

One of my many pet peeves, is when I have to enter a phone number, when I am calling from my phone, and then to add insult to injury, when I eventually get through to someone, the first question they ask me “ please, can I have your phone number”, whaaaat, and someone thought this through?
They mapped the options! Reviewed the decision tree! Really! How?

2 Menu Overload:
Yes, I know, you get lots of calls about all kinds of things and since you no longer want a “switchboard” operator, you believe offering all the reasons why your clients could  possibly call you is a good thing!

Unfortunately for you and your clients, it’s not.

Your client, doesn’t want to hear 20 menu options, he only wants to hear the one most likely to lead him to pain resolution, the first time!

If there are too many, he won’t listen to any of them. He will listen to the first 3, chose a random option and wait for his call to be answered, (kind of defeating the purpose of your IVR) or If he doesn’t hear what he thinks is the right choice for him, he will hang up, and call again- increasing both your abandonment rate, call volume and decreasing your customer satisfaction.

The old adage “keep it simple, stupid” is the best policy when it comes to menu creation. In addition use terminology your caller will understand, like Sales, Support, Accounts, All other queries, and on the second menu, expand Sales to “existing customer”, “new customer” if need be. Remember don’t add a menu item if you’re not tracking that data, or if there is no valid reason for it-like more agents servicing support than say accounts.

Historically we would have used IVR to gain customer insight, because our business application didn’t include the fields for us to report this information- how many new clients called, vs exiting clients. However, times have changed and our back office software today is far more flexible and inclusive.

Stop trying to use your IVR to gather business information for you and let it be a tool to increase customer satisfaction. In this way, your IVR will be a worthwhile investment. Integrate all your applications if possible.

Remember you can include personality and humor into your menu, it doesn’t have to be boring. This should however be in line with the rest of your brand, marketing strategy and business plan.

3 The voice:
Just recently, and it appears to be a new trend, but, more and more voice prompts being used are speaking too slowly, it’s as though they are signing. It sounds awful. I agree, speedy prompts are not the answer, however speaking to me like I am child, is not going to work either. You’re insulting my intelligence!

There is considerable research with regards “Voice.”  Tone, pitch, speed, infliction, warmth, pause, gender all impact our customer and how we resonate and endear ourselves to our customers. Your voice prompts need to be in line with your brand, your marketing, advertising and your business strategy.

It’s no good all your radio commercials advertising men’s shaving products being a man’s voice and then your IVR being a woman. Be consistent in your branding. Your IVR is an extension of your company, your clients calling you is not a nuisance.

Just for interest sake, listen to a number of adverts, radio hosts and TV personalities. A high pitched squeal, will go right through you, while a deep baritone, can make you feel warm all over. Often the voices on radio are pretty similar, consistent and come across as “real”. Radio hosts don’t just get their followings for nothing. It because people like to listen to them and they don’t sound like “dead fish”

Take your IVR seriously, as it is the entry to your business. It’s the first thing your customer will hear when they reach out to you. Make it count.

 4 Customer Alienation

All of the above points, if done well, will alienate your customer.

Oddly enough, when your IVR menu is wrong, and I have had to call 3 times, before finally finding the correct department, I have a bad taste in my mouth and my sense of humor has left the building!
I feel sorry for the poor person having to deal with me, and it could all have been avoided.

We spend millions every year, training our staff on how to handle “irate customers” and to “apologize” and that the “customer is always right”, and yet, here we are creating the problem, because we couldn’t get our IVR right.

You, in no way, want your IVR to irritate your customer.

The goal of your IVR is to expedite a resolution to their problem, not cause more.

The goal of your IVR is not to be a “gate keeper” and stop people from reaching your employees and management.

Why would you create an IVR that makes people guess who they should be speaking to? If I knew the person’s extension number I wanted to speak to, I would have dialed it originally “If you know the extension of the person who you want to speak to dial it now”, um, why would I dial into the main number if I could have dialed the person directly. Sort out your call routing.

It’s the same as a business directory, for Mary, dial 1, for Joe dial 2…again, sort out your call routing. Don’t assume people know who is who in your company. If I know Mary, she would have given me her direct number. Think about who is calling you, and why they would be calling you.

With the advent of Speech recognition (which is making tremendous strides and getting better all the time), I however am still unable to make use of these systems and they frustrate the bejeebers out of me. Nothing worse than an accent that is not easily recognized by this technology.

Know who your customer is, or you could be alienating them without even trying. If you are offering a new technology, like voice recognition, make sure your caller knows, that there is a numeric/keypad driven menu as well.

5 Insufficient testing

Yes, the fifth deadly sin- no one tested it!

Test your IVR, listen to it, use it, try all the options, go back and forth. Call into your company daily and use your IVR. Experience what your customer is having to deal with. Love it, embrace it, listen to it.

How do you know if it’s not working when no one ever tried all the options. I am often amazed at how many IVR’s don’t work. I get ringing phones, messages stating that option is not available, I get cut off’ s and all because no one tested the IVR.


My concluding statement though, is,

It doesn’t have to be this way!

With just a little more thought, time, effort, testing, listening and hearing, your IVR can make your business shine.

If you would like any help in this regard, you need an IVR or an IVR overhaul, please do not hesitate to contact me on 2899382468.

Don’t forget, for other idea’s, practical advise and free suggestions, sign up for a copy of my ebook  “How to go from Zero to Hero in Customer Service

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