Chris Perez of Lifesize introduces us to the basics of interactive voice response systems (IVRs) and the benefits they can bring to the contact centre, when implemented well.
Customer support has been evolving lately, especially when it comes to contact centres. We’re now seeing innovative developments in IVR, automation, and even video call integrations.
These innovations are mainly a result of businesses realizing that quality customer service plays a major role in acquiring and retaining customers.
Fortunately, a majority of customers feel that customer service is getting better. A 2018 PwC study reported that customers will pay up to 16% more for products and services from companies that provide good customer experience.
Another 2017 study found that good customer experience is key to customer retention, and 44% of consumers become repeat buyers after personalized experiences.
Your call centre plays a critical role in a successful customer experience. If you provide personalized call centre customer service and a smooth, frictionless experience, you’ll more likely succeed in delighting your customers.
A great way to improve your call centre experience is with an interactive voice response (IVR) system. This software helps ensure that your customers find the information they need as quickly and accurately as possible.
Here are the basics of IVR and how it plays a significant role in providing top-notch customer experiences.
What Is an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System?
Interactive voice response (IVR) is an automated telephony menu system that interacts with callers and routes them to relevant recipients using voice commands or touchtone keypad selection.
Designed to assist customers or route calls without a live operator, these responses are either pre-recorded or virtually generated in the form of voice, callback, email, etc.
6 Things an IVR Does
An IVR system helps give your customers a superior experience in many ways. Here are some of the most important functions of an IVR:
1. Collect Customer Information
The first step to routing a call to the right agent is collecting information about the caller’s needs. An IVR gathers information about the caller, such as the particular product or service they need help with and the type of support they need.
2. Route Calls to Agents
Once the IVR collects the caller info, it can route them to the agent or department most qualified to meet their needs. This optimizes the performance of each call by separating the callers on the basis of their needs and then navigating the call to the right agent or automated response. This reduces customer wait times and ensures they’re routed to the right agent without error.
3. Answer Simple Questions
Not all customer issues or needs require human intervention. Basic things like account information, common details about your business, frequently asked questions, and more can be answered through pre-recorded responses. This reduces the load on your agents and frees them up to answer more complex issues, resulting in faster resolution and more efficient customer service.
4. Automate Customer Support
An IVR lets customers solve certain issues without speaking to a customer service agent. You can pre-record responses to FAQs and solutions to other common problems and the caller can navigate to a solution.
Allowing customers to get immediate solutions that don’t require an agent reduces wait times. Services that can be automated include FAQs, payments, tracking orders, and checking account status.
5. Conduct Surveys
Surveys are a great way to get feedback from your customers and make business decisions based on the input. An IVR can help you collect feedback in real time with simple surveys at the end of their interaction.
Keep IVR surveys short and ask the most important question first in case the caller drops off.
Also, many IVRs can record callers’ voices, so you can ask open-ended questions to get more detailed feedback.
6. Implement Marketing Promotions
Customer support is not the only benefit of an IVR. You can use it for market promotions and sales as well. When inbound calls come in, you can introduce special offers or promote new products or services while the caller is waiting to be routed.
Another innovative way to use an IVR is to leverage it in integrated marketing campaigns. Add an IVR phone number to an advertisement so prospects can call to enter contests, redeem an offer, or take a survey. Then relay your marketing message during the call.
9 Benefits of Installing an IVR System
IVR systems offer several benefits, from faster issue resolution to improving your brand image. Here are nine of the most useful perks.
1. Faster Response Times
Speed is a top priority for consumers looking to buy or ask a question about a product or service. 90% of customers consider an immediate response important or very important when looking for customer support.
An IVR system can speed up the support process with self-service menus. Reduce response times by automating answers to simple questions and accurately routing other callers to agents. They can even schedule callbacks so customers can skip the queue altogether.
2 More Accurate Agent Routing and Answers
IVRs prompt customers to specify their needs by choosing options from a menu using their keypad or voice. This helps accurately route them to the department best equipped to answer their questions.
For simple queries, the IVR can direct them to pre-recorded responses.
3. Lower Resolution Times
Customers increasingly expect an immediate resolution. 67% of customer churn can be prevented if their issues are resolved at the first interaction.
An IVR significantly increases the chances of fast resolution because callers are directed to the most appropriate agent or department, cutting down the need to transfer to another rep.
For queries that don’t need human intervention, pre-recorded responses and automation exponentially speed up the resolution.
4. Higher Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
An easy-to-use, reliable IVR ensures that customers are always directed to the right department or agent. This accuracy, combined with the IVR’s quick and automated responses, helps the customer feel well attended to.
Because they’re automated, IVRs always answer on the first ring and are available 24×7, even during holidays and breaks. All this makes for improved experience and satisfaction.
5. Lower Operational Costs
IVR systems perform numerous repetitive tasks on their own, cutting down on the number of support reps needed.
Increased efficiency through accurate call routing and reduced waiting times cuts operational costs drastically, both due to higher productivity and fewer employees.
In fact, a recent report by ContactBabel showed that six or seven self-service IVR calls cost about the same as a single person-to-person call.
6. Better Customer Service Efficiency
With an IVR, customers can be directed to highly qualified agents with specific skill sets and expertise. Through data collection, call routing can be customized and agents are less likely to transfer the call to another agent.
7. 24×7 Availability
Always on, IVRs allow customers to contact your customer support at any time. Even if you don’t have live reps available, customers can still contact your IVR and get answers to simple questions or even schedule callbacks with agents. This helps during non-office hours, holidays and breaks.
8. Greater Personalization
IVRs can improve customer relationships by giving them a personalized experience. Program it with unique greetings for known callers, addressing them by name, or even wishing them a happy birthday. IVR systems come with multi-language capabilities you can customize.
9. Improved Company Image
Small businesses can use IVR to appear larger than they really are. Automation helps build a professional image for your brand. For larger businesses, an IVR shows stability and consistency in customer support. The more intuitive your IVR is, the more impressed some customers will be.
The IVR Flow: How a Call Gets Answered
IVRs work just like any phone call. The only difference is that it’s automated and allows for self-service options. Here’s what a typical IVR flow looks like:
- A call comes in.
- The IVR answers with an automated welcome message programmed on the backend.
- After greeting the caller, the IVR provides them with a series of menu options.
- The caller then chooses from these options to get connected to the answers they’re seeking, either through pre-recorded messages or by routing to a customer service agent in a specific department or area of expertise.
- If there’s a queue, the customer may be put on hold briefly. Wait times are typically low due to the efficient call routing algorithms.
- The customer is routed to the correct agent.
- The call centre agent helps the customer with their question or issue resolution.
- If applicable, the IVR asks the customer to complete a short survey related to the quality of the call.
Enter Conversational IVR
The emergence of AI and machine learning technology is bringing a new standard to common customer service interactions, particularly in the call centre.
Conversational IVR is one of the many innovations you’ve likely experienced from the accessibility of natural language processing in critical business products.
With the ability to architect more human-like interactions and logic sequences in customer support channels, conversational IVR gives customers the opportunity to self-serve and find answers more quickly – raising expectations for the types of experiences that customers want and that product managers want to provide.
How Conversational IVR Is Different From Standard IVR
Conversational IVR differs from standard IVR in many important ways for both the consumer and the customer service manager.
At the solutions level, a conversational IVR system allows an operations architect to create workflows beyond the barriers of a traditional menu system or logic tree.
In practical terms, this means a customer doesn’t have to answer a set of menu questions to find the answer to their issue or get routed to a particular department, but can instead respond to prompts similar to a live agent.
For instance, conversational IVR can be configured to work with more open-ended questions, such as: “What can I help you with today?” Or: “Tell me what issue you are having.” It’s like Siri for your contact centre.
Conversational IVR can also provide new levels of insight beyond what a traditional IVR system can provide. By allowing customers to engage more naturally with you, and removing the bonds of leading questions, you empower your customer service department to learn more about your customer needs in relation to time, season, and product releases.
The contact centre manager can then prepare, adapt, and scale service accordingly to ensure the best experience for your customers.
Is IVR the Same as ACD?
No. Interactive Voice Response is different from Automatic Call Distributor (ACD). IVR is a technology that helps customers get information from a phone system without an operator. ACD is a system that routes callers to agents based on preset rules.
So when a customer calls a contact centre, the IVR takes their information and directs them to the answer. If they need to speak to an agent, the ACD system will help route them to the right department.
IVR and ACD are not the same, but they work together to provide a smooth experience to the caller.
Is IVR Better Than Placing Customers on Hold?
People don’t like to be put on hold. Nearly 60% of consumers hang up if they’re put on hold for one minute or longer. An inefficient IVR is no better.
A conversational, intuitive IVR, however, gives customers a good experience. Quality IVRs should be capable of routing calls accurately to the right agent and include benefits such as callback.
If you want to boost your customer satisfaction and retention while keeping costs down, an IVR system is an essential call centre strategy. But it has to be intuitive and reliable. Optimize your IVR and update it regularly to deliver superior customer service consistently.
This news story has been re-published by kind permission of Lifesize | Serenova – View the original post
For more information about Serenova’s contact centre solutions, visit: www.lifesize.com