Everybody Hates IVR

IVR Optimization Transforms a “Necessary Evil” into a Wellspring of Value, Customer Satisfaction

Everybody hates interactive voice response (IVR) systems. There. I said it.

Okay, maybe not everybody—one of our surveys pegged the number at about 82% of customers—but you get the idea, and can probably relate. You need assistance, so you call the number, and from the moment you hear “please press one for English,” you just know this is going to be a major pain in the you-know-what. It’s not going to get you the answers you need, and it’ll take both Sherlock Holmes’s deductive reasoning and a Tibetan monk’s patience to find your way to an actual human being who can give you what you’re looking for (and even then, be prepared to jump through ten more hoops just to prove you’re you).

By some estimates, 60% of callers bypass IVR self-service mechanisms to reach a contact center agent. It costs less than 50 cents to serve a customer when the interaction is contained to the IVR system; when an agent has to pick up the phone to get the job done, that cost balloons to well over $5. And when nearly three-fourths of contact center traffic is comprised of IVR interactions, the bottom line is clear: Ineffective IVR systems cost businesses a ridiculous amount of money. Therefore, a lot of businesses probably hate their own IVR, as well. And yet, according to J.D. Power and Associates, only 7% of organizations invest in improvements to their IVR.

Contact centers can take any one of these strategies when it comes to IVR:

  • Many take a “set and forget” approach, with no ongoing measurement of IVR performance or routine optimization. This approach essentially disregards any potential input from their customers, giving them the sense the business hates them nearly as much as they hate the IVR. Don’t be like these organizations.
  • Some will engage in superficial performance measurement, tracking IVR performance using high-level telephony metrics. It’s the least they can do. Literally.
  • Others will use best practice design principles, redesigning the IVR menu periodically using best practice fundamentals. Hey, at least someone’s paying attention.
  • Then we have research-based IVR optimization, using methods such as focus groups. Now we’re getting somewhere.
  • Beyond that, we have analytics-based optimization, whereby data analytics help to visualize and improve the IVR flow performance according to customer needs. At this level, it’s clear they care, and customer satisfaction should improve as a result.
  • The true standouts, the best of the bunch, will engage in continuous granular optimization and targeted promotion of IVR self-service using Big Data analytics. Be like these people.

IVR optimization solutions support best-in-class IVR strategies by providing these key capabilities:

  • Maintain up-to-date customer profiles, and identify IVR behavior patterns using any number of customer attributes.
  • Drill down and conduct root-cause analysis using customer data as needed.
  • Apply contextual analytics to call data, to conduct post-IVR journey analysis.
  • Integrate with other relevant systems, such as those predicting next best action, interaction analytics and voice of the customer (VOC).

Investing in IVR optimization is worth it. How worth it? Consider this: For a contact center that receives 100,000 incoming calls per day, a 1% increase in containment (i.e. the customer issue is resolved without speaking to an agent) results in an annual savings of more than $1.8 million.

Beyond saving the organization money, IVR optimization can help it not merely manage its customers better, but delight them, as well. By providing greater levels of insight and visibility to IVR journeys, the system’s logic can be tweaked to anticipate the caller’s needs and provide the simplest pathway to satisfying them. Something to think about: After several minutes of attempting to accomplish something without success, a frustrated caller might simply hang up (or the call might be dropped) without speaking to an agent. According to some organizations’ definitions, this would constitute “containment,” as the call was completed without reaching an agent; however, the caller would certainly not rate this as a positive experience, and might end up calling repeatedly. An optimized IVR journey would be more likely to avoid such an outcome.

Customers like to get what they’re looking for, and businesses like having more money. Everybody might hate IVR, but if optimized to serve the best interests of both the customer and the business, it can be a gold mine for both CSAT and ROI.