Listen Carefully, for Our Menu Options Have Changed: Best Practices for Reducing IVR Frustration (Assuming You Still Have One!)

By Lisa Durant
On Aug 15, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014

It’s no secret that a poorly set up IVR can cause countless headaches. Between pressing and re-pressing keys, speaking to a machine that misunderstands responses, and complicated menus that lead to nowhere, many frustrated customers simply choose to automatically hit zero or say “operator” just to get to a live person and skip the menu maze. IVRs can cause frustration both for customers and contact center personnel, and this is leading some organizational leaders to avoid or even get rid of their IVRs. 

The Nemertes 2014-15 Enterprise Technology Benchmark found that 13% of contact centers have an ACD but do not have an IVR. For some of these organizations, an IVR is just a low priority. “We talked about adding an IVR, and nothing has come out of it,” says a manager at a mid-sized non-profit in the education industry. For others, an IVR just no longer made sense. “We don’t have an IVR anymore, “ states one CIO of a mid-sized financial services organization. “We pulled the plug on our IVR.”

Still, the vast majority of contact centers have IVRs, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. So, what can IT leaders do to reduce IVR frustration? Nemertes makes the following recommendations:

1.     Simplify, simplify, simplify – If you take one recommendation away from this blog, it should be this one. Too often, IVRs turn into a tangled mess of poorly defined menu options that take too long to listen through. When it comes to the IVR, less is more. Use minimal menu options and keep them brief, concise, and understandable to the everyday customer.

2.     Enable barge-in – Experienced users do not want to listen to the same menu options every time they call in. They know where they’re going; let them get there as quickly as possible by enabling them to interrupt the system and quickly navigate through prompts.

3.     Personalize the experience and eliminate repetition – I cannot count the number of times I have called a company, used self-service to enter information like my account number, and then had to re-tell the agent my account number all over again. Yes, keep security measures in place; however, don’t make customers repeat themselves unnecessarily. The point of self-service is having customers take care of steps so agents don’t have to; don’t waste customers’ or agents’ time. And, if possible, try to automatically use available information (like the number the person is calling from) to identify who might be calling and personalize the experience.

4.     Enable a back-out option, and make it clear how customers can back out – Nobody wants to get 5 layers deep into an IVR and then have to hang up and start all over again. There should always be a back-out option for customers who need to back track to an earlier menu, and make sure directions for backing out are clearly explained.

5.     Analyze and update IVR menus – IVRs aren’t something to set up once and forget. It’s important to routinely analyze current IVR setups and evaluate ways to improve navigation and performance.

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