First impressions can make or break your brand’s customer experience. And often, the first touchpoint for customer support is an interactive voice response (IVR), which plays an essential role in preliminary interactions and ongoing customer engagement. It’s responsible for identifying, segmenting and routing callers to the most appropriate resource. To start customers off on the right foot — and guide them on a satisfying, seamless journey — you need to understand the basics of IVR technology and implement strategies to maximize its capabilities.
The ABCs of IVR
Initially introduced as a cost-efficient way to route customers to the right agent or department using customizable call flows, interactive voice response has become essential as a self-service channel. It provides users with menus of automated prompts to service their own inquiries by following an IVR dialogue.
While once only available for voice, visual IVR has taken hold with the proliferation of smart mobile devices. Bots now can respond to webchats and messaging apps with interactive voice response menus. Across nearly every industry and vertical, companies rely on IVR systems to support the foundation of their contact center routing.
Maximize the Value of Interactive Voice Response Technology
As one of the most essential technologies in a contact center, an IVR system delivers a range of powerful benefits that can drive an exceptional customer experience while lowering operational costs and increasing efficiency. Today’s conversational IVR, which incorporates artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and Natural Language Understanding (NLU), the benefits are growing. Conversational interactive voice response provides valuable opportunities to improve interactions with customers as they self-serve. Here are six primary benefits of a modern IVR solution.
- Stronger Brand Image
Callers experience an IVR system through greetings, prompts and, increasingly, through conversations. Like your logo or website design, the voice, music, scripts and tone you choose for your interactive voice response system conveys your brand and business personality. By having an IVR that’s aligned with other identifiable brand elements lets you create cohesion and consistency that builds a powerful image for your customers. Call flows also communicate volumes about your brand and dedication to the customer experience. For example, customers of a healthcare provider will appreciate an expedited path to speak to an advice nurse. Or, a mortgage lender that prides itself on simplicity might want to provide a streamlined self-service option for borrowers to make a payment, review their account status and connect with a representative when they need additional help with their loan.
- Greater Customer Insights
Delivering the best customer experience is possible only if you can continuously monitor what’s happening with your customers as they interact with your IVR. With an IVR that provides analytics with pre-defined dashboards and visualizations, you gain a full grasp of what’s happening in real time to make informative, timely decisions. Of course, insights are only beneficial if they can be used to make improvements. With a modern IVR, you have the power to adapt your system in response to changing customer demands. You also can make fast updates, rearrange call flows, build menus, create messages and greetings, and customize your customer experience as needed.
- Increased Operational Efficiency
Maximizing the efficiency of every agent and department is essential in today’s fast-paced, competitive business environment. For most organizations, it’s simply not cost-effective to have a team of agents handling every customer interaction. Yet, there is still the need for human engagement — especially when an interaction has escalated or is complex.Intelligent and intuitive IVR call center software can handle many types of interactions, saving time and effort while collecting information about customer needs for when a call requires additional assistance. The customer then can be connected to the most appropriate agent — who has all the necessary information collected in the interactive voice response system. This lets the agent manage the call as efficiently as possible.
- Reduced Costs
When you consider that every second a caller spends on the phone costs money, it’s easy to see that IVR optimization offers measurable savings. The more efficiently callers are routed to the right resources, the more savings you’ll realize. An interactive voice response system that’s powered by AI can seamlessly transition customers, along with all their relevant information and context, to the right agent at the right time. Completely eliminating the need for an agent also saves a substantial amount of money. This becomes crystal clear when you consider that a traditional voice interaction costs a company $15, on average. Compare that to a self-service interaction that costs less than a dollar. By adding self-service options to IVR, contact centers reduce handle times, increase customer satisfaction and save substantially.
- Personalized Self-Service
By combining self-service with personalization, your IVR system becomes a valuable asset to build customer relationships. AI-driven conversational IVR creates new opportunities for companies to deliver voice-driven, hands-free, self-service to give customers faster, more personalized interactions. With conversational IVR, customers don’t simply respond to prompts, they lead the conversation by interacting naturally in their own language and can use more complete phrases. Customers’ exact phrases are captured and provide insights into what customers want to achieve via self-service. This enables a process of ongoing improvement and refinement of the self-service experience. And, if a caller says something that the IVR doesn’t understand, the individual is seamlessly routed to an agent who can help.
- Improved Contact Center Metrics
In an information-intensive world, data matters. The most successful contact centers have the ability to measure exactly what they need to achieve success and how to use this information to continuously improve the customer experience. Often, the biggest gains in call center metrics happen with the deployment of a modern interactive voice response system. For example, an IVR that enables customers to complete transactions without live support reduces the number of callers who must be put on hold for simple issues — smoothing out spikes in call volumes. This also reduces abandonment rates. And rather than giving up and hanging up, customers can rely on intuitive self-service to eliminate their time on hold and speed up their journeys.
Maximize the Benefits of IVR
With so many benefits, it’s no surprise that IVR has become a fundamental system in nearly every contact center. Not only can it enhance the customer experience, it simultaneously improves agent success while reducing operational costs. To maximize the benefits of interactive voice response, choose a solution that enables you to capture and leverage customer information to deliver a seamless experience. And innovations in AI, machine learning and NLU continue to improve self-service — offering personalized, conversational interactions that meet customers’ rising expectations. Read this article to learn how AI can improve customer satisfaction and help reduce costs in your contact center.