Regarding Your IVR: You’re Doing it Wrong

Regarding Your IVR: You’re Doing it Wrong

Think for a minute about the goal you want to achieve with your interactive voice response – IVR system. Are you trying to process calls as quickly as possible? Or limit the number of calls that go to a live customer service agent? If you answered yes to either of these questions, we have news for you: You’re approaching your IVR solution all wrong. In an attempt to meet those goals, you are inevitably missing an opportunity to better service customers and reduce your cost per agent. Let’s look at how modern IVR software is a critical piece of a true customer engagement platform and, therefore, transform the way you think about IVR.

The goal of traditional IVR technology is to process and address customer service calls as quickly as possible within the system. Given the limitations of traditional IVR systems, this goal makes sense. However, modern IVR services can perform exception processing. This changes the game by enabling personalization. Here’s how it works: After the caller is authenticated, logic within the IVR looks for specific triggers or variables within a customer’s account profile that indicate why the customer is calling. The customer is then offered, as the first menu option, a means of following up on that specific issue.

Take an example: It is very likely that a customer calling on the day her payment is due wants to submit a payment over the phone. The IVR system, through exception processing, can determine that the caller’s payment is due and prompt her with, “We noticed your payment is due today. If you are calling to make a payment, press 1.”

This approach to IVR utilization has several benefits, all of which point back to improved customer service and reduced cost per agent. Quite simply, meeting the customer’s unspoken needs is a good way to improve customer service in general. Many companies engage in voice of the customer (VOC) initiatives, and this is one way to satisfy the goal of giving credence to customer preferences by assuming their needs. However, you are also reducing the amount of time the customer spends in the IVR. A customer that doesn’t have to go through multiple menu trees (especially for a routine task) is a happy customer.

In some cases you may choose to identify callers you want to send directly to an agent. Perhaps there was a product recall and you expect an influx of callers. You have an option within the menu for customers to learn how to receive a refund, but you want to ensure that you don’t lose highly valued customers. You greet these customers within the IVR with a customized message: “We noticed you purchased a Doohickey. If you are calling regarding the recent recall of Doohickeys, please press 1 to speak to a customer service agent.”

The agent can then apologize to the customer for his trouble and offer a discount on another (perhaps more expensive) item. The personal touch helps with customer retention, and by identifying the customer’s need before he gets to the live agent you reduce the amount of time (and cost) associated with that call. But – we can take this even further. In this particular scenario you may actually increase your revenue per agent, because you are no longer sending a product refund, but potentially upselling the customer. Pretty neat, huh?

Exception logic processing can also help you improve your first call resolution rate and increase call avoidance. Take our first example of the customer who is calling to make her payment on the same day it is due. Chances are good that she will call back to ensure that the payment has been posted to her account. You can avoid this follow-up call by asking the caller (within the IVR) if she would like to receive an SMS message confirming that the payment has been posted. You’re better serving the customer (by saving her the hassle of calling back) and achieving first call resolution on a number of routine calls.

Personalizing your customers’ experience within your IVR system is beneficial on a number of levels, but as a customer yourself you know it isn’t a routine practice. The reason why is because it isn’t easy to do – unless your IVR system is built to facilitate this type of customization. You need to select an IVR provider that delivers a customizable platform – and that will help you achieve your goals. USAN is that provider. If you’d like to learn more, please call us at 770-409-2441 or contact us today. And, in the meantime, we want to hear your IVR horror stories. Submit your story to, and we’ll consider it for a future issue of our newsletter.