The IVR is a fascinating piece of technology we tend to overlook. After all, it is essentially a decision tree. However, when used well, the IVR answers calls and enables them to be routed to the most appropriate agent to support the caller. However, it can create painful, endless loops (or dead ends) for callers and hides support rather than facilitate it when done poorly. The latter is, unfortunately, still far too common.
Usually, the first comment I hear from one of the IVR-hell offenders is 'we don't have the right analytics to understand what is wrong', which is an excuse not to bother trying. This represents such a missed opportunity for these businesses, as you do not need to have fancy analytics to improve or even redesign your existing IVR tree.
Now, could analytics help? Sure, it could. If you can see what paths are taken most often, what routes have the highest volume and rate of abandonment, or why your customers are getting in touch, your life would be a lot easier, and you can shortcut some of the headaches.
That being said, it's still more than feasible for anyone to take a look and explore their IVR sans data, and this is what I want to cover with you now.
First Things First: Call Your Own Line and Audit It
This one is almost as obvious as water is wet, but it is still critical to do. How do you go about finding the number to your phone lines? Is it easy to find, is it challenging? More importantly, when you call, how long does the welcome message take before you are given an option to choose?
Do you still have that embarrassing message that blames the wait time on COVID? If you do, stop reading immediately and instruct your team to remove it. If you haven't been able to adapt your operation around something that has been around for over a year, your organisation needs to have a long hard look at itself and how it does business.
Rant aside, call your own IVR and navigate through a few scenarios. Ask yourself why your customer would call you and map the decision tree out: literally go through the journey and take notes of what hoops you have had to jump through. Do they all make sense? Are you struggling to get to some of your desired outcomes? Chances are, the way it was structured wasn't completely customer-centric and caused some confusion. Note them down as areas for improvement.
Next, Do You Give People Enough Time to Reply?
I once heard from a fellow customer experience professional that they were reviewing an IVR tree with a surprisingly high volume of people complaining they had to share their account number twice. Once to the IVR, once to the live agent. Going through the journey themselves, they realised that this happened because when the IVR asked for the account number, the system timed out before the customer had the opportunity to key in the numbers they were asked for. This meant that the system couldn't capture the information to hand over to the agent.
Look at where you ask your customer to input any information and diagnose: are you giving them enough time to shuffle through their paperwork, find the number they want and key it in?
Finally, How Should it Flow?
Instead of adjusting and tweaking an existing flow, it often proves more valuable to start from a blank canvas.
Assume this is the first time your organisation is implementing an IVR system. How would you design the decision tree to give customers more seamless journeys? Your goal here is to minimise steps to the lowest possible number and keep messaging brief, relevant and to the point.
Chances are, the design you will come up with will be pretty different from what was initially agreed. It can offer you a path towards a better caller experience and reduce the burden on your agents when callers eventually make it through.
People tend to make things more complex than necessary - try to resist this urge and simplify to the extreme.
Take Your IVR to the Next Level
Once you have your basic navigation sorted for your phone tree, opportunities open up for you to deliver enhanced caller and on-hold experiences through more personalised journeys. Or you may wish to consider implementing Dynamic IVR that replace this rigid system with an intent recognition-based navigation, making the process even more seamless and personalised than any traditional IVR could. That said, I would advise against jumping straight to the more advanced and sophisticated stuff: get the basics right first and foremost.
All great journeys start with a single step, and so does your IVR transformation journey. Start by giving your organisation a call (or a few calls) to get started on your pathway to IVR excellence.
Premier CX offers a free audit with a personalised demo of how you could sound to your callers, so if you don't have time to do it for yourself, and get them to do some of the heavy lifting for you.