Even for experienced support agents, answering all calls in a timely manner is nearly impossible. But with the help of Interactive Voice Response systems, call centers can both improve their customer experiences and free some of their agents’ time. What exactly is Interactive Voice Response and what are the benefits of it? Read more to find out!
Ever had a situation when you called a company with a question or issue, only to be moved around departments until you finally got to the right person? That doesn’t make a good impression, does it.
And today, making a good impression on your callers is more important than ever. 54% of all consumers say that they have higher customer service expectations than they did just one year ago.
Now, even one wrong response to a call can cause your customer satisfaction to plummet. Not only do customers not want to wait on a busy line, but they also don’t want to explain their problem to several agents - they want to be immediately directed to the right person, who will have an instant answer to their question or issue.
But is it possible to know with what problem a customer is calling about and which of your agents should answer the call? Yes, it is - if you use an interactive voice response system.
What is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?
IVR is an automated, self-service menu that interacts with a caller:
- it gathers information about their reason for phoning
- it helps route the call to the correct person or department for their issue, before the caller has even been in contact with an agent
When calling the company phone number, the caller is asked to pick one of the available options by pressing a specific number on their keypad or saying it into their microphone. After choosing an option that matches their needs, the caller is automatically connected to the right agent or department.
Using IVR, customers can also get answers to frequently asked questions, about the status of an online store order for example, without needing to contact an agent in person. It can be regarded like having a virtual receptionist that works 24/7 and doesn’t miss a single call.
IVR can act as an extra customer support worker
And at a time when your customers don’t want to wait for more than 1 minute and over 70% of customers get ‘extremely frustrated’ when waiting on hold, IVR can act as an extra customer support worker that will smoothly move the caller to the right agent or help with finding an answer to a simple request.
That way, not only will an IVR system reduce your response time, but also lower average handle time by connecting callers to the service reps who are best suited to resolve their cases.
Compared to old automatic response systems that couldn’t offer much besides recording voicemail, IVR systems have several incredibly useful features to help call centers increase their productivity and efficiency.
What are the most useful features of Interactive Voice Response?
#1 Customized greetings
You can record a customized greeting that your callers will hear when calling the company. The messages might differ depending on the time the customer is calling or the number of people in queuing, etc.
#2 Caller information
Using IVR, your agent can gather information about a customer and determine their problem before the call starts.
#3 Automated customer service
Not all customer issues require speaking to an agent. By offering your callers a self-help option and means to resolve problems themselves, you are both lowering your agent’s workload and boosting customers’ confidence.
#4 Route callers to the right agents
One of the most essential IVR features is automatically segregating callers depending on the option they pick and then connecting them with an agent or department that can best help with their issue.
#5 VIP call routing
You can set specific clients as VIP customers and prioritize them to ensure that even during busy hours, their calls will be answered.
#6 Automated call redirection
Even if your agents are busy or unavailable at a given moment, your customer can reach your company through call redirection to a selected phone number or numbers.
What are the benefits of getting IVR for your business?
IVR might have a number of powerful features, but you still might be wondering how exactly an IVR system can benefit your company. We’ve picked 5 ways in which IVR can work to your advantage:
#1 Improves customer service
Improving customer experience is one of the most significant benefits of Interactive voice response systems. Through a call flow of your own design, you can automatically route a caller to the right agent. That way, customers don’t have to waste time (and nerves) on being moved from agent to agent, as they are immediately connected with the right person. This also increases the chances of a problem being solved on the first call.
IVR can also boost your customer satisfaction by giving callers a way to do what they need themselves, without directly contacting a support agent. Such systems can...
- answer several frequently asked questions (“what are your working hours?”, for example)
- help customers with simple issues such as checking order status or appointment confirmations
And that’s with no hold-time - customers can get their answers immediately, as IVR can handle multiple callers at any one time.
#2 Builds a strong and positive brand image
IVR is the first touchpoint your callers may have with your company - and if designed well, its automated menu can boost your brand image and show your professionalism.
How? First, by creating a straightforward call flow through which your callers will find the information they need to contact the correct department or agent related to their issue. But that’s not all.
You can customize almost every aspect of the IVR menu to fit your company perfectly and show off your brand persona...
- create customized greetings for your callers depending on the situation (like calling after business hours)
- show different offers to different groups of callers, or using varied on-hold music and messages
For example, let’s say that all your agents are currently busy - instead of having a caller stay on the line for several minutes, you could play a message telling the customer that no agent is available at that moment to pick up the phone, and ask them whether they would like to stay on the line, leave a voicemail, or receive a call from an an agent when one becomes available.
And as 75% of consumers prefer the option of a call-back to waiting on hold, what’s a better way to build a customer’s trust in your company than by showing you are valuing their time and choices?
#3 Gives more insight into your customers
Ever wished you could know with what issue or question a customer is calling about before picking up the phone? Now that’s possible. By looking at which options the caller chose during their interaction with the IVR menu, you can determine what type of issue or question they have and how you can help them.
You can also use the IVR menu to get all necessary customer information, such as ID or login data, before they are connected to an agent. That gives your agent time to find the customer’s profile in the database and provide a tailored offer or recommendation.
But that’s not all - IVR is armed with multiple reporting and analytics tools with which you can analyze every step the caller takes while using your IVR menu. The more data you have on how your customers are interacting with IVR, the easier it is for you to improve the call flow based on those insights.
- If, for example, you see that your customers often get stuck at a certain point in the menu, you can create a message that will play precisely at this point and explain what to callers what they can do next.
- You could also add or remove parts of the menu based on the analytical data, or even rearrange the call flow entirely.
#4 Eases your agents’ workload
Nothing can beat a friendly and helpful customer support agent. But answering lots of calls can be a challenge even for seasoned center workers. Especially when many calls are related to simple questions or issues such as business hours or billing information.
The call might last only a minute or maybe even less, but add those minutes together, and you will see just how much time your agents are wasting a week on such trivial issues when they could use that time for customers with more complex problems that can’t be solved with self-service.
Why not add those frequently asked questions or requests to IVR? That’s a win-win for both your customers (as they can get an answer to their questions or solve issues themselves, without having to wait for an agent) and agents (as they will have much fewer calls to answer and can focus only on the more complicated requests or issues, which visibly improves their productivity).
IVR also boosts agents’ confidence, as they get questions related to their field of expertise without the need to tell the customer awkwardly that they have to be transferred to another agent. What’s more, your agents can look up the caller’s data before answering, which both saves their time and reduces stress, as they can get fully prepared for each call to provide exceptional customer service.
#5 Saves time and money
While on the topic of productivity, you know full well that every call costs you money. If you could move some of the calls that don’t require agent assistance to IVR self-service and let your agents focus only on callers with more complicated issues, how much money could you save?
Routing callers to the right agents or departments can also substantially lower your spending and reduce handle times while increasing customers’ (and agents’) satisfaction.
An Interactive Voice Response system can be one of your company’s best assets, as it can both help both your customer experience and reduce your monthly costs. But you need to remember that IVR is not here to replace your agents - it’s to make their work faster, more productive, and less stressful.
After all, when it comes to fixing a complicated technical issue or calming down an upset customer, nothing beats a friendly customer support agent. And while your agents are helping a customer with a billing problem or a system error, why not task an IVR system such as our CloudTalk platform with making sure everything runs smoothly?