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IVR Telephony Co. Gives Customer Interaction Tips
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IVR Telephony Co. Gives Customer Interaction Tips

May 30, 2008

  By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

A McLean, Virginia-based interactive voice response and call center solutions company today announced four ways that businesses can improve their IVR systems for customers.

Officials at, a subsidiary of MicroStrategy (News - Alert), say that speech-enabled IVR system providers can only provide a product that customers will use if it “meets the needs of everyone involved – from customer service, IT and marketing teams to the end users themselves.”
IVR is a telephony technology in which someone uses a touch-tone telephone to interact with a database – either to acquire information from or enter data into the database. Generally speaking, IVR technology requires no human interaction over the telephone, since the user’s interaction with the database is predetermined by what the IVR system will allow the user access to.
For example, banks and credit card companies use IVR systems so that their customers can receive up-to-date account information instantly and easily without having to speak directly to a person. IVR technology is also used to gather information, as in the case of telephone surveys in which the user is prompted to answer questions by pushing the numbers on a touch-tone telephone.
Yet for many IVR providers, getting people to actually use the system is a major challenge.
Here’s are four things that – a company that’s provided more than 10,000 telephony solutions to its customers, including Kellogg’s and Reebok – says the providers should focus on in order to fix the problem.
First, IVR providers must know their customers, officials say.
“One of the key complaints end users have of most IVR systems is an abundance of confusing or irrelevant menu items that accompany even simple requests,” they say. “Many of these extraneous options are the result of an incomplete knowledge of callers and the information they seek when they call your company.”
A valuable IVR provider can help design a system based on what callers actually seek to accomplish on the phone, officials say. Research should be conducted to determine what callers are requesting through the current system and with live agents, before anyone develops an IVR interface to handle those callers, officials say. Keep caller demographics in mind as well, they say: Younger users may be more likely to try a complex task with an automated system, while older callers may be more apt to “zero out” to a live agent at the first hint of confusion.
IVR providers also must avoid overstuffing. Any task that can’t be performed elegantly by an end user through the automated system should be directed to a live agent, officials say.
With the highly advanced speech recognition and data management technologies employed in today’s IVR systems, it’s tempting for companies to try to automate as many tasks as possible, officials say. But overstuffed IVR systems are unwieldy to navigate and often wind up driving more traffic to live agents – the opposite of what they’re designed to do.
IVR providers also must involve customer-facing employees.

An automated IVR system is a major touchpoint for a company’s end users, officials say. It conveys as much about a brand image and selling proposition as any advertising and marketing campaign, they say.
Rather than limit IVR design to business owners and executives, says to involve call center representatives and marketing managers.
Finally, IVR providers should pay attention to details.

Even the most carefully crafted, expertly designed IVR system will fall flat if little annoyances impede the user experience, officials say. For example, consider carefully the persona with whom users will interact throughout a call. A system’s persona should be easy to understand, consistent throughout the entire call and free of annoyances that turn users off, such as over-produced or phony-sounding voices.
Michael Dinan is a TMCNet Editor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
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