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Six Best Practices for Interactive Voice Response
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Six Best Practices for Interactive Voice Response

September 18, 2014

  By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Interactive voice response (IVR) sometimes gets a bad rap, but not unjustly. The truth is that many businesses use IVR poorly, and this has given it a bad reputation among consumers. While IVR can be both a cost-effective solution for businesses and a time-savings for callers, it only improves the calling process when it is used properly.

With that in mind, here are six best practices to make sure your IVR system is a joy to use for your customers and does not contribute to IVR’s reputation in a negative way.

Keep it simple. We’re all busy, and we’re calling to get solutions and not to press lots of buttons or spend several minutes on the phone with a computer. To make your IVR system actually useful to the customer, make sure to keep the system simple and clear to use.

Keep the decision tree shallow. Following on the rule to keep IVR systems simple, make sure that you keep your options on a given branch of the tree to three or less. More options and customers both have to wait and can get overwhelmed and forget earlier options. Likewise, don’t make trees deeper than three branches or the caller can feel trapped in the system.

Iterate your IVR. An IVR system is like a car; it periodically needs attention to stay optimal. Avoid the impulse to set up an IVR system and walk away. If the system is not periodically refreshed, it won’t keep pace with caller needs and those of the business. So make a plan to periodically review and update your IVR system every three to six months.

Give them an agent if needed. Nothing is more frustrating than being trapped in an IVR system as a caller. As a result, always give callers the option of reaching a live agent if needed. If the IVR system properly addresses the caller’s concerns, an agent won’t be needed. But if the caller does need an agent, give it to them right away so their time is not wasted; always have an option to transfer to a live person at any time in the call.

Treat callers with respect. It is silly to direct callers to the company’s Web site, for instance. Chances are that they tried the web site before they called, since self-service is easiest for most people. If they have called, they already probably have tried the Web site. So there’s no need to suggest that the customer should visit the site to get their problems resolved—they already know this.

Value their time. While it may be tempting to offer up marketing information during a call, avoid the temptation. Callers have dialed the company for a reason, and it isn’t to be sold something. Show that you value your caller’s time by not wasting their time on marketing material. There’s a time and a place to sell new products or services, and it isn’t during an IVR session.

IVR is a powerful tool, but only if used wisely. These six best practices, if followed, will help make your IVR system one that both leaves customers with a positive impression of your company and helps them change their mind about the value of IVR systems in general. 

Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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