Is your IVR still living in the 80s?

Spoken | November 18, 2014

Reality check: how user-friendly is your IVR?

80s-edit2Let’s be honest: there hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the world of Interactive Voice Response in the last 30 years. Sure, speech recognition has become common in IVRs since its telephone debut in 1984, and Siri, founded in 2007, wowed consumers with its ability to understand limited voice commands on the iPhone.

But despite the fact that 77% of customers cite the phone as one of their preferred communication channels with brands, many IVRs still act as if it’s 1984, with long menus, frequent re-asks and other user-unfriendly features that serve more often to send customers screaming to hit the zero key repeatedly than to provide effective self-service.

With the new year, why not take a step back and take a good, hard look at your current IVR. Check for the following:


Does the call flow respect the issues customers want to address? Many IVRs were designed years prior and were never updated to address changes in customer behavior. Don’t guess; use actual usage metrics to guide your revamp. If you don’t have any metrics on reason for call, average handle time or first call resolution, consider investing in a system that will help you track those metrics.

  • What are the top 20 issues customers call about?
  • How long does each issue take to resolve?
  • Which of the 20 are commonly resolved on the first call?
  • Are the top five issues the top five options on your IVR?
  • Could the IVR be revamped to make the top five issues easier to address via self-service?


22420447_sThe key to an IVR that customers don’t hate is simplicity: the ability to call and get a problem solved simply and directly, with no wait and no confusion. “Customers are impatient, and if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll bolt,” advises Fred Brown, CEO of NextIT, via Forbes.

  • FAQ modeling Keep the most common issues in your top menu
  • Language modeling Mimic customer language in that menu. If all your customers are asking for “billing,” and you’ve only programmed the IVR to respond to “account question,” it’s time to upgrade and expand your IVR’s speech recognition.
  • Limit menus If you haven’t yet adopted an open-ended question model, limit your top menu to five choices to avoid frustration.

Smooth call flow

In our recent Spoken Call Center Report 2015, we discovered that 77% of customers complained listed repeating information within the IVR as a top driver of a negative customer experience. IVR re-asks often leads to opting out (hitting zero) and therefore, a longer and more tedious caller experience.

To avoid opt outs due to IVR re-asks, consider updating your IVR to an open-ended format. In a recent study of Fortune 500 IVRs conducted by Software Advice, only two of the 50 IVRs offered open-ended questions. An open-ended format avoids the cumbersome menu tree and keeps the call moving forward, which provides a more empowering and positive customer experience for the caller. While the technology to support natural language speech recognition has been available for years, few brands have taken advantage of it to improve the customer experience. The good news is that brands that do implement this customer-friendly technology have a sharp advantage in terms of differentiation in the customer service space.

Why it’s worth it to revamp your IVR now

8265964_sWhile it’s easy to preach about improving the IVR and even easier for customers to complain about a poor IVR experience, even the best of brands sometimes flounder when justifying the time and expense required to upgrade and revamp the IVR experience. With an eye towards reducing cost and effort, consider the following positive benefits to revamping your IVR now rather than later:

  • Save costs by reducing agent time With an effective natural language IVR, agent time is often reduced and dedicated to trickier issues rather than repeating answers to the most frequently asked questions. One Spoken Smart IVR customer reduced AHT by 57 seconds.
  • Minimize busines disruption When implementing a new Spoken Smart IVR or other IVR implementation, customers can begin with fractional call volume as low as 10% of a single telephone number. The existing IVR needn’t be dismantled but can instead serve as a control group for evaluating the new IVR. Business disruption is avoided. Over time, additional call volume can be driven to the new IVR.

Your IVR is often the first voice your customer hears. Is that voice still from the 80s?

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