Press one to hear our hours of operation. Press two for our address and location. Press three if you know the extension of the person you’re trying to reach.
Sounds familiar, right? That’s because we’ve all interacted with an IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, menu before. Most businesses will set these up because they often save time and resources. In fact, in some settings, a good IVR menu can replace the functions of a human phone operator.
However, from the customer’s perspective, an IVR can often provide a negative experience. Poorly constructed IVR menus can make customers feel “trapped” in an endless series of choices, with no clear option to speak to a human being.
So, how do you take advantage of the benefits of an IVR, without frustrating your callers? Here are five tips to help you build the perfect interactive phone system.
- Reduce the time your callers spend listening to irrelevant information. The best way to do this? Start by determining the most common reasons that customers call your business, in order to streamline the options available up front. If the majority of your callers are reaching out to ask if you’re currently open, offer an option to hear the hours of operation first, and not after eight other keypresses that are rarely chosen.
- Don’t leave your callers languishing in an endless chain of menu options. It’s crucial to ensure that no matter which choices a customer makes in your IVR menu, they’re able to easily speak to a human being when necessary. Frequently offering the option to speak to a live agent during operating hours, or at least leave a voicemail after hours, will help prevent your callers from feeling like the IVR is a system they need to “beat”.
- Draw out a visual “map” of your IVR menu to ensure there are no dead ends. There’s probably nothing more frustrating for a caller than to reach the end of a menu branch, exhausting their available choices, without ever reaching an option that feels appropriate to their needs. Without a path back to the broader set of choices available in an earlier part of the menu, they might be forced to hang up and start the call all over again. Imagine how irritated that caller would be once they finally got on the line with a live agent! It would be nearly impossible for that experience to end well, for both the caller and the unwitting agent, no matter the level of service ultimately provided.
- Ensure your IVR system is actually voice responsive. This may seem like a basic consideration, but despite the terminology, many IVR menus are only set up to react to keypresses, not voice commands. Voice-powered virtual assistants have surged in popularity in recent years, so consumers have grown to expect digital systems to react—and react accurately—to their voices. If your menu only offers “press one for sales” versus “press one, or say SALES, to speak to a salesperson”, then you’re not delivering the best service to your callers.
- Before your callers even reach the IVR menu, consider how efficiently they’re being routed there. For example, technology like GeoRouting can dynamically route your incoming calls to the location that is closest or most relevant to that specific caller. You could also utilize Smart Routing to direct callers based on criteria such as the last page they visited on your website, or the demographics detected by enhanced caller ID software like Caller Insights. These tools will route your callers automatically, saving them multiple keypresses and transfers once they reach your IVR menu, thereby improving their overall experience.
With strategies like these, your business could save time and resources by directing callers through an IVR menu before they interact with any live agents—without putting them through the headache of wading through irrelevant options and dead-end menu branches. Plus, with the addition of intelligent call automation software, you can improve your customer’s experience by instantly routing their calls to the most appropriate number before they even reach an IVR menu.
Let’s get back to the basics: the goal of any sales or service operation is to reduce overall airtime, while satisfying the needs of callers. The best way to achieve that? We think the answer is an optimized IVR menu boosted by efficient call routing. With these five methods, your callers will do more than slog through your phone menu… they’ll love it!