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Partner with Your Customers for a Better IVR Customer Experience
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Partner with Your Customers for a Better IVR Customer Experience

September 18, 2012

  By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

There is lots of discussion about how to fine-tune interactive voice response (IVR) systems so they provide better customer care. Sometimes lost in the discussion is the role that customers can play in improving a company’s customer service; educating the customer on what is needed from them and empowering the customer during their interaction with a company can yield a better, more productive experience both for them and the company.

Three easy ways to get the customer involved include telling customers clearly what they need to bring to their interaction with the company, what they need to do during the interaction, and creating opportunities for self-directed customers to help themselves whenever possible.

Letting callers know what they should have ready before advancing through an IVR menu or speaking to a live agent can greatly improve the customer experience. If account numbers, invoice info or credit card data will be required, let the customer know early so they can hang up to retrieve the info or be prepared when handed over to an agent.

“It has often been my experience that if I had been advised of what was needed when calling or visiting certain businesses, the interaction may have been more efficient for myself and the customer service employee,” wrote Errol Allen in a recent blog post on

Consider posting contact requirements on your company’s website, invoices, in email and on customer service counters as appropriate, advised Allen.

A second way to get your customers working with you to provide a quality IVR customer experience is to not only tell them what they should bring with them to the interaction, but also how they should act during the call.

“Anxiety and frustration levels tend to rise when the customer is not sure where they need to be,” advised Allen.

Work to make it obvious where the decision tree will take them during the IVR process, and what they are expected to do or say when they reach an operator. Surprise is fun in a mystery novel, but not during a customer experience.

Third, make self-serve options clear and easy to find. “Not all customers require the personal touch. Some prefer to do things themselves – not necessarily because they fear the level of service they may receive when interacting with customer service personnel – it’s just their preference,” noted Allen.

David Lee (News - Alert), lead consultant at Datapoint, added that self-serve options must not only be clear, they must be simple.

“For call steering, keep any menu options to four or less, and don’t have more than two levels of options,” he wrote. “For self-service applications, start with the easiest, high volume services (such as account balance) and build up from there. Don’t try and automate complex transactions – pass these calls to an agent.”

And make sure that there is an agent available at all times if a self-serving customer wants help.

“Don’t block the exit,” advised Frank Sherlock, senior VP of sales and professional services at Convergys (News - Alert). “Although it appears to fly in the face of investing capital in technology, never prevent the caller from reaching an agent if they want to. This will only frustrate, making the interaction more difficult for the agent when they do reach them.”

Sometimes just a little thoughtfulness and partnership is all it takes to give a good customer experience.

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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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