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IVR can be a contentious topic but when it is done well it can significantly add value to the customer experience, as well as being a means of productivity improvement. Over the years our Success Management team have been involved in many IVR set-ups for all kinds of businesses. Here are some of their top tips for IVR success.Icon-Red-61

First off, what is IVR? Whilst it actually stands for “interactive voice response” it also (and more commonly) encompasses the selections we make using the telephone keypad - pressing buttons on the keypad in answer to pre-recorded announcements. Voice recognition can also be used in IVR applications but it's more common to have selections on the keypad in order to route the call or access self-help. More often than not we simply refer to 'voice menus' when talking about IVR.

iStock_000019112782SmallAt some point in our lives we will all have had a bad, frustrating IVR experience; often resulting in phone rage, which is why it's earned such a bad reputation.

Here are some top tips for your IVR system that should help you to make it a success.

But don't just set it up and leave it - be sure to revisit it often for sense checking and even talk to your customers about it and get their feedback (or consider customer surveys to ask them).

1. Have the customer in mind - sounds obvious but do ensure it is the customer experience you are considering rather than your own business processes when mapping out your business IVR journey. Make messages clear and easy to understand. Start with the most common scenarios at the beginning.

2. Simplify the levels - don't have too many layers and don't make them too long. Don't over complicate it! You might want to consider using different dial-in numbers to effectively remove the first step - so you're put into a specific queue based on the number you have dialled - and then the subsequent voice menus can be tailored to that call type accordingly.

3. Don't create barriers - always have the option to escape and get a real person on the line. Whether that is by pressing '0' or another rule, it really is best practise to offer a way out. Otherwise you can end up with some very unhappy callers who will most likely take their frustrations out on the agent that they eventually reach.

4. Ensure consistency with your other channels - stay true to your brand. Consider your messaging, tone of voice and language used and ensure voice plus your other channels are all in line with each other.

5. Ensure callers have the ability to go back a step - if there are multiple levels we have found that by providing the facility to go back a step within the IVR this can have a clear impact on people staying on the call rather than dropping off.

6. Avoid repetition - if your business needs to ascertain verification/identity (typically 2 or 3 pieces of information) for security and you're using the IVR to capture some of these details, do ensure that the agent is not then asking them to repeat anything, for example if they have already entered their account number through the IVR, make sure it's a different security question or form of ID that the agent asks for when they connect. Even if your business does not use Customer ID and Verification, be mindful of repetition in your menus and when it comes to agent interaction.

7. Be clear; give explicit instructions - ensure any instructions are sufficiently clear and explicit - if you need to press hash at the end for it to register then say so! Again, this might sound obvious but we've come across numerous scenarios where this was a key stumbling block to success.

8. Make sure you've got the right agents on hand when the call does connect. There's nothing worse than spending time navigating an IVR system only to be connected to an agent who is little or no help and to need the call to be transferred again. Also, ensure that any information the customer has entered through the system is also presented to the agent, so they have a clear picture.

9. Be intelligent! - if you can integrate CRM or other data systems you can tailor the voice menus based on the customer and deliver a great customer experience. For example, a customer with an outstanding delivery could have their delivery slot read out using text to speech, followed by the option to continue through if this did not answer their query. Perhaps a customer with an overdue account could hear a voice menu with payment options as the first step. You could also route VIP customers and tailor their voice menus. There's lots of ways you can be intelligent in a way that's right for your business and for your customers.

10. Track the progress - make sure you've got access to the right stats and analytics to be able to understand what is happening and identify any potential problem areas. Are there certain stages with high abandonment or stages where people repeatedly need to step back a lot? You're unlikely to get it exactly right first time but by reviewing and refining you can get there quicker than you might think...

Bonus tip: Don't forget your self-service strategySelf-service solutions can often be a welcome experience. Be considered in your approach so you can introduce self-service appropriately at a stage where this might be preferable for your customers to use. For simple queries like checking an account balance we often prefer the self-service option compared to connecting with the sales agent who might want to push insurance, loans or other products and services onto us!

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Arguably speech recognition technology is still fairly limited but as this technology improves it will no doubt have a part to play in the future of IVR. Hosted IVR is increasing dramatically in popularity due to the enhanced flexibility options it presents.

Our Success Managers will always work with our customers when it comes to configuring voice menus and working through the logic and best practises. When you are reviewing your IVR set-up, hopefully these tips will help to aid the process and dispel the bad reputation that has plagued IVR over the years. We know it can be an incredibly effective tool as we've seen the results first hand.
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