When customers call your company, how they are greeted and how long it takes to get answers determines how satisfied they feel when the transaction ends. Customers who are able to quickly complete a transaction or resolve a problem hang up knowing that their time and patronage are of value to you. In contrast, a labyrinth of confusing pathways creates irate callers who are either angry when they finally reach an agent or furious enough to abandon the call.
As a result, a well-designed interactive voice response menu is a critical component. It creates a smooth customer journey that keeps customers happy. The best IVR menus are built on what customers need to accomplish. When you consider who is calling and why, then you are able to deliver faster, tailored services.
Building these eight strategies into your company’s IVR system will turn your automated technology into a customer-friendly tool that exceeds expectations:
Answer Customers’ Questions Immediately
Today’s customers expect instant service, so your company’s top priority should be immediately giving them the information that they need. You can simultaneously satisfy customers and reduce live agent assistance by designing menu options based on callers’ frequently asked questions. Pair the interactive voice response program with caller recognition software. It can deliver personalized automated information about nearby branch locations and hours, account balances or upcoming due dates. Incorporate seasonal information, recent news or special promotion announcements into the greeting message to make it friendlier and more relevant. To prevent overloading customers with marketing messages, provide a prompt that allows them to learn more about how to respond.
Offer Self-Service Options
Self-service tools empower customers to solve their own problems quickly and at any time. These proactive services also free up agents to handle more complex queries. When the interactive voice response system integrates with the CRM system, customers can help themselves. They can conveniently schedule payments, pay bills, book appointments, track order shipments or open service tickets. Companies that receive large volumes of IT requests can use the automated platform for self-service troubleshooting. Such as offering guided instructions for resetting passwords or rebooting applications. A problem that cannot be resolved within three steps should be directed to a live agent for more personalized attention.
Keep the Prompts Concise and Clear
Interactive voice response menus have a bad reputation for forcing customers to wade through a confusing maze of options. They often deliver them to the wrong department or dead end which forces them to start the call all over. A simplified system reduces accidental inputs when navigating the IVR tree. The ideal length of each menu option is four seconds. This is to avoid forcing customers to listen to drawn-out descriptions as they search for the right service pathway.
Best practices suggest limiting top menu options to five selections by bundling services into broad categories. The tree can then branch out to more specific situations. Experiment with option locations to determine if higher placement increases call volumes or lower disconnects. Pacing is just as important as conciseness. Prompts must be spoken clearly so that callers can follow along. Adding sufficient pauses between prompts can reduce input errors by more than 60 percent.
Don’t Force Callers to Zero Out
Not every problem follows a straight pathway, and live assisted service is often the reason customers are calling. When customers do not hear an option for their issue, they immediately want to speak to an operator. It is a balancing act. Providing this opportunity too soon, increasing agent-caller interactions versus allowing customers easy help when they have trouble navigating the system. Industry surveys indicate that the sweet spot is in the third tier of options. The menu should never “zero out” a customer by disconnecting or endlessly repeating menu options when they select the zero button. Rather than kicking out unpredictable callers, have your system automatically direct the customer to an agent after three input errors.
Automatically Verify Callers
Customers frequently cite the identity verification process as the most irritating aspect of the call center experience. On the menu, systems typically prompt callers to key in or speak a list of details to prevent unauthorized access. Details such as account number, zip code, social security or a PIN. Customers appreciate thorough authentication to prevent identity fraud. However, their frustration grows when they share their information with a machine and then repeat themselves to a live agent. Eliminate these cumbersome steps by integrating an automatic verification process into the IVR system. Advanced tools support a smoother customer journey. These tools include device recognition, phone printing, and voice biometrics. They are more secure, less time-consuming. At a minimum, customers expect a greeting by an agent who knows who they are and why they are calling.
Play Useful On-Hold Messages
While no one likes being put on hold for long, companies can capitalize on the captive audience by programming the system to share important messages. Use this dead time to promote upcoming events, share promotional offers or disclose legal notices instead of placing these lengthy recordings at the top of the menu. Rather than repeatedly playing a generic message about their call being important to your company, which actually fuels frustrations, provide customers with updates on their estimated wait time in the queue. This strategy significantly lowers abandonment rates since callers know what to expect. If it is an extensive delay, then the menu can invite customers to utilize self-service options within the IVR system or online. It can even suggest a time to call back, estimating when call volumes will decrease or provide a callback option that allows them to record their name, phone number and reason for calling.
Route Calls to the Right Problem Solver
An estimated 9 in 10 customers pick up a phone only if they need to discuss their issue with a company representative. From the customer’s perspective, the only thing more important than reaching a live operator quickly is connecting with the right problem solver to settle the issue during the first contact. Implementing a skill-based routing system into your tree ensures that the most qualified person, rather than the first available agent, is the one who answers the call. With the right programming, your menu can qualify, filter and route calls to the appropriate team member. Implementing a dynamic interactive voice response system, which adapts to each caller’s individual needs, can help you anticipate where customers are best served. You can direct frequent buyers to the sales department or immediately send those who have past due balances to the billing department.
Create a VIP Service Line
Reward regular, high-value clients by providing VIP queuing that prioritizes their calls in the system. When a specific phone number is dialed or an account number is entered, the caller jumps to the front of the line or connects directly with a dedicated department, service rep or upper management employee. This IVR strategy boosts your ability to close pre-qualified leads, lock in premium membership renewals and cross-sell products to returning buyers because your best customers are receiving quality service from well-trained agents. Advanced queuing can also be used to quickly connect with key customers who are responding to a marketing campaign or have indicated they are dissatisfied with a product.