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Ten Tips for Improving IVR Functionality
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Ten Tips for Improving IVR Functionality

March 20, 2009

  By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

So you just purchased a new IVR system for your call center in the hopes of improving customer service. Congratulations on your first step into a larger world.
But now you have to set your IVR system up – which is no small task. Although every company wants its IVR to be a competitive differentiator, not just in terms of messaging but also in terms of functionality, there are certain basic operations that are common to all IVRs, and you’ll want to make sure the system is working properly before it goes live.

That’s not to say you’ll never have to touch your IVR again once it is set up: Every organization should consider its IVR system a "work in progress" that needs to be continuously monitored to provide the best customer service.
There are, however, basic guidelines for designing a customer-friendly IVR system. What follows are some best practices in IVR design -- provided by IVR solutions provider -- to make your system efficient and effective for both you and your customers:

1. Always let callers know what to expect from the system immediately. This is a simple rule that applies to any customer experience: present a pleasant greeting and explain succinctly what the system can and will do for the caller.

2. Do not hide the option for callers to speak with a live agent. No matter how useful your IVR system is, there will always be times when customers want and need to speak to a live agent to resolve their issue.

3. Whenever possible, give the caller an approximate time for the completion of the request. If transferring to a live agent, let the caller know the expected hold time and provide options to go back into the IVR system.

4. Do not make callers repeat information collected in the IVR to the live agent they are transferred to. If you want callers to believe that the IVR can help them resolve a problem, respect the time they put into the IVR and don't ask for the same answers twice.

5. Provide callers with an option to navigate the system using touch-tone (keypad) or speech recognition. Let callers choose the most effective option based on their general preferences, location or understanding of the system.

6. Personalize the IVR for each caller by integrating with your customer databases and CRM systems. If callers know that the system recognizes their identity, they will be more likely to stay in the IVR.

7. Identify and communicate a few universal commands that are recognized at any time during the call. Examples include "beginning" to go back to the start of the dialogue and "help" to get detailed information on the current request for input.

8. Keep the interface simple: Use closed, short prompts, limit the number of menu choices and request simple, one-word responses. Callers will only use the IVR system if they perceive that it is easy to use and useful in resolving their issue or information request.

9. Always let callers know what is happening. Keep in mind that the IVR dialogue should be similar to a conversation between two human beings. The system should explain pauses with messages such as "Thanks for the information, let me look up your account" or "I am trying to find the most appropriate person to handle your request."

10. Provide courteous, smooth error-handling. Generic error messages that are not tailored to the caller's specific situation will drive callers away from the IVR. The system should always take the blame for errors.

Although it’s relatively easy with today’s fully-configurable IVR systems to establish the above practices, it is recommended that you continuously check the functionality of your IVR and also survey your customers to make sure it is working okay for them., for example, can set up a short IVR phone survey which can be attached to the end of any call and report the results directly back to you. This is key for making improvements in system functionality and boosting customer satisfaction.
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Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard
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