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Who Said IVRs Have to be Boring?
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Who Said IVRs Have to be Boring?

June 24, 2009

  By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

Bring up the topic of interactive voice response, or "IVR" systems during a party or social gathering and you’re likely to hear people bemoan the inadequacies of today’s systems. They’ll share anecdotes about how they got “lost in the company phone maze” and hung up in frustration, or how they got almost all the way to the end of a self-service transaction only to have the system fail on them in some way, thus requiring them to call back and start all over again.

And then there’s the familiar complaint: “Why do IVR systems have to be so boring?”

Well, who says the voice of your IVR system has to be so … “stale?” With the advanced IVR systems on the market today, companies can have unprecedented control over the configuration and management of their systems, including the ability to record customized messages that not only drive home branding, but entertain as well.

That means the IVR deployed by your company is as good as you make it – it can as informative, or as entertaining, as you want it to be. As a result of the high level of flexibility and customization afforded through today’s IVR systems, organizations are free to “experiment” and try new messaging that will help improve – and differentiate – the customer experience.

While it’s definitely true that there are best practices for building and deploying an IVR system (and here we’re not really talking about messing around with complex branching schemes) that doesn’t mean you can’t deviate, at least to a degree, in order to deliver a more unique experience for your customers.

As you probably know, many companies today are surveying customers at the end of self-service transactions in order to gauge how well their IVR systems are meeting their needs. These companies can then use this feedback to make improvements and changes to the IVR system.

These changes can and should be done incrementally, so as to not throw customers off from the expected outcomes when they interact with the IVR.

But, if you listen to what your customers are saying, you might uncover numerous ways to liven-up the interactions and improve the overall experience.

To a large degree, making your IVR system “less boring” is really a function of the messaging you use, and, to a lesser degree, the functionality (the configuration, if you will) of the system. Obviously, having a bright and cheery voice – remember that this is the voice of your business – that utilizes upbeat, positive phrases, such as “I’d be happy to help you with that today,” goes a long way to help make customers feel welcome when they call into your phone system.

Programming your system with cheerful responses to verify customer responses and actions (e.g. “Okay, so you want to transfer $115.97 from checking to savings, is that correct?”) can also go a long way to make your IVR system more “conversational” and “less boring” compared to other systems.

At the same time, you don’t want to incorporate verbiage that is too ornate or flowery – messages that are short and sweet, but delivered with “pizzazz,” are better than long drawn-out messages using uncommon words that will send customers hunting for the dictionary. makes state-of-the-art IVR software that is delivered to customers using the Software-as-a-Service model. The software comes with the company’s innovative Site Builder toolkit -- a Web-based “point-and-click” application that makes it easy for any user to design, deploy and manage a customized IVR system.

With this powerful, yet simple-to-use Web-based tool kit, companies can build their own fully-customized speech-enabled- self-serve systems from scratch and then manage them afterward. This gives companies the ability to differentiate themselves by creating their own unique caller experiences.

Best of all, you won’t have to rely on your (limited) IT staff to continuously monitor and tweak the system – nor will you have to go running back to a vendor every time you need a message or complex branching scheme modified. With very little training, just about anyone in your organization can learn how to make fine adjustments or even major configuration changes to the system with confidence. And by eliminating the need for voice XML code-writing experience or IT support, you can focus on more strategic and higher value activities.
The Site Builder toolkit significantly reduces the time, expense, and complexity associated with implementing and maintaining traditional voice applications. Using intuitive menu options, you can select a number of “voice pages” to build and direct your call flow. Each page represents a new action in call flow- and none require any coding or technical experience.

In addition, Site Builder lets you measure your efforts in order to further improve the caller experience. Define the variables you’d like to track and run real-time reports that help you maximize your application and drive caller satisfaction.

Then, maybe the next time the topic of IVR comes up at a party or social event, someone will surprise you and say: “Your company offers one of the most delightful and engaging IVR experiences I’ve ever had.”

And you can go home saying to yourself: “The world has truly changed.”

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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