What to Look for When Buying an IVR

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Our panel of experts discuss each of the key product features that you should be looking out for when purchasing an IVR system.

Queue Updates

If the intent of your IVR is to get callers to the best available advisor as quickly as possible but you are seeing lots of transfers, it may mean that your advisors are taking on the IVR system’s responsibility, and that is definitely not a good thing.

Look for IVR features that advise callers of their spot in the queue and also provide an estimated wait time.

Instead, look for IVR features that advise callers of their spot in the queue and also provide an estimated wait time. This will help them to decide if a callback is the right option for them.

Just remember some other basics when it comes to IVR messaging. These include avoiding the same repeat message, customizing the voice for different call queues and achieving the right music to message ratio.


More businesses are helping their customers get on their way faster by automating routine interactions. This frees up capacity for advisors to focus on more involved, complex or higher-value interactions.

As a best practice, be sure that you provide your customers with a seamless way out of your automated system at any point.

Be sure that you provide your customers with a seamless way out of your automated system at any point.

For full context and personalized attention, integrate your CRM data to immediately provide advisors with all the data collected in self-service whenever elevation to live assistance is needed.

Letting customers request live assistance (at any point in their interaction) allows you to offer multiple resolution options for improved customer experience.

Conversational Capabilities

With the success and popularity of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, conversational AI is becoming all the rage – even within the contact centre industry.

Headshot of Tamsin Dolin

Tamsin Dollin

With today’s conversational IVR capabilities, there’s really no need for long complicated phone menus or voice bots that feel unnatural to interact with.

Look for integrated AI capabilities in your IVR, like automated speech recognition (ASR), text-to-speech (TTS) and natural language understanding (NLU) to make it easy for your customers to get the help they want, when they want it, by just saying what they need.

Thanks to Tamsin Dollin at Nice inContact

Identification and Verification Abilities

Recent innovations in IVR technology allow users to identify and verify customers prior to connecting them with an advisor.

These innovations help to reduce overall cost-per-call and increase efficiency, with higher overall levels of agility, performance and output.

A picture of a light bulb and the innovation concept

Innovations in IVR technology allow users to identify and verify customers prior to connecting them with an advisor.

As well as the value for money on the client side, the speed of the automated processes minimizes call times, cuts wait times and maximizes the customer experience.

Prompting Features

IVR systems that incorporate prompts enable you to target specific callers with specific messaging recorded in your corporate voice.

The system sources customer data – phone numbers, postcode, booking references – and uses the result to retrieve and play a specific prompt. This allows you to create relevant and personable IVR experiences, using a consistent voice for all types of scenarios.

A thumbnail photo of Juergen Tolksdorf

Juergen Tolksdorf

For example, a customer calls into their travel agent’s help line. They are prompted to key their customer ID. From here, the system can see the customer’s booking and identify their destination.

The IVR would then recognize this and the customer would hear a prompt asking: “Is this about your flight to Dubai?”

Thanks to Juergen Tolksdorf at Genesys

Automatic Callbacks

Automatic callback is when your IVR software recognizes that a query cannot be resolved through self-service so triggers an offer to have an advisor call the customer back as soon as they become available.

Having automatic callback within your IVR helps to avoid customers having to sit in a queue while being on hold…

Having this within your IVR helps to avoid customers having to sit in a queue while being on hold and is one way for businesses to acknowledge the value of their customers’ time.

The callback innovation within IVR software has helped many organizations to improve customer satisfaction, while it also has a positive impact on abandon rates and average wait times.

CRM Integration

CRM systems provide advisors with information on all previous contact with a customer, allowing them to pick up where they left off and offer a more efficient, relevant service.

A thumbnail picture of Daniel May

Daniel May

Linking the CRM to the IVR therefore enables contact centres to change standard greetings based on recent interactions.

But that’s not all. If the CRM contains details of a purchase from the day before a call, the IVR greeting can be personalized to something along the lines of: “Are you calling about your new product?” with the menu of options customized accordingly.

Thanks to Daniel May at Business Systems

Reporting Tools

A good IVR will include reporting tools that give insights into customers’ behavioural trends at each point through the journey and discern from the data any opportunities for improvement.

A good example of this might be to look at dropout rates at specific stages along the journey, as this might highlight points of friction, perhaps ambiguous language or jargon, that can be addressed.

Look at dropout rates at specific stages along the journey, as this might highlight points of friction, perhaps ambiguous language or jargon, that can be addressed.

Whether your business objective is call deflection, AHT reduction or CSAT improvement, analytics is the keystone to optimizing the IVR journey.

Many IVR platforms provide a level of reporting for each of your IVR applications. However, often it is the granular level of detail that can highlight problems you had no idea existed.

Personalized IVR Messaging

A simple way of meeting unexpected demand might be to place a message about the issue at the appropriate point in the IVR journey. This will explain the cause, impact and likely resolution time, and then offer a channel for further updates, e.g. a URL or customer portal.

However, an even more user-friendly solution is to recognize when a customer is likely to have been impacted and only play the message to them. This can be achieved if we recognize their phone number through caller line identification (CLI) and can associate it with a unique customer record.

A thumbnail photo of Adam East

Adam East

For example, if you work in the energy sector and there is a power outage in Manchester, you can recognize each customer who is based in the Manchester area and create an IVR message especially for them, updating them on the situation. This might remove the need for the phone call.

To take this even further, certain brands ask customers to opt in for SMS updates and push notifications via the SMS channel if required.

Thanks to Adam East at Noble Systems

Call-Flow Customization

Historically, contact centre customization — whether that’s changing the agent interface, building custom dashboards or integrating systems for improved context or process automation — has been a hassle.

We want solutions that are easily customizable – especially the IVR. With this type of IVR, we can build menus to deflect common questions related to cancellation policies or service continuity, as well as handle frequent requests such as booking cancellations.

In order to achieve this quickly, it helps to harness the power of a flow builder with:

A headshot of Christina Gates

Christina Gates

  • A visual interface that allows for DIY design using intuitive methods like drag-and-drop
  • Extensibility to integrate with any of your systems through simple configuration
  • Complete flexibility to customize flow actions and events

These features will help you rapidly adapt your IVR to meet evolving customer needs, while ensuring an intelligent, efficient and friction-free customer experience.

Thanks to Christina Gates at Talkdesk

Call Deflection

In addition to its traditional role, an IVR can deflect calls to automated channels such as SMS.

The IVR triggers a text message encouraging customers to continue the conversation over SMS. This is particularly valuable where there’s a large volume of calls with a high cost to serve.

A thumbnail picture of Ken Reid

Ken Reid

IVR-driven, intelligent call deflection can reduce inbound call queues and associated long wait times for customers, so improving their experience.

Deflection of this type requires minimal caller intervention. Out-of-hours callers can be directed to automated channels.

The IVR can also be integrated with natural language call steering (NLCS) solutions to direct calls to live agents or automated services based on intent.

Thanks to Ken Reid at Rostrvm Solutions

IVR Command Optimization

This feature of an IVR is an automated service that monitors the use of each dialled option by all callers and prioritizes the most popular ones for new callers.

A thumbnail photo of Neil Hammerton

Neil Hammerton

The benefit of this is a more flexible and efficient service because only the most commonly selected options are offered first, resulting in a much lower average wait time and happier customers.

Also, it is able to keep up with changing consumer demands, meaning the prioritized options will adjust according to customer habits in real time.

Thanks to Neil Hammerton at Natterbox

Visual Capabilities

Many IVRs are now visual, using technology to guide callers to the most appropriate advisor or channel that may help them get the answers they need faster than traditional IVR.

This type of self-service assistance allows the caller to explore the next best actions. This is great because they’ll likely want and need clear guidance and understanding when anxiety is running high.

A headshot Kumaran Shanmuhan

Kumaran Shanmuhan

Visual IVR will also help deflect calls when call volume is high, leaving advisors available for when a call escalates.

As visual IVR continues to simplify the customer journey, customers are more likely to provide information and select the correct menu option.

Thanks to Kumaran Shanmuhan  at Jacada

Journey Analytics

By integrating analytics on top of any IVR and routing platforms, contact centres can gain an improved view of how customers navigate through the IVR system.

Coupling this with speech analytics, contact centres can also better understand the context and sentiment of any subsequent interaction with an agent.

A thumbnail picture of Matt Reading

Matt Reading

Contact centres will then find themselves with a comprehensive picture of the IVR customer journey, enabling them to act on pain points and deliver efficient and timely improvements.

Ultimately, integrating analytics into IVR systems will enable contact centres to deliver quality customer experiences and maximize the IVR’s effectiveness.

Thanks to Matt Reading at NICE

Context Preservation

Most of the time, companies want to contain customers in the channel they’ve started their conversation on. It’s the best chance to ensure the customer is able to accomplish their goal, and very convenient to the customer.

Yet sometimes it’s necessary to ask the customer to call or for you to call them directly when they’ve visited your website or have complicated or multifaceted transaction requirements.

The IVR should… ensure that a customer can pick up where they left off without having to repeat themselves.

The IVR should therefore ensure that a customer can pick up where they left off without having to repeat themselves.

Caller Intent Prediction

If integrated with other contact centre solutions, the IVR should know who the caller is and what they’ve been working on prior to that call, the “What, When and Where.”

Also, it means that the IVR will take those factors into consideration and offer to help finish that task, with a prompt like: “I see you’ve been trying to complete a funds transfer; would you like to finish that now?”

A headshot of Zach Morrison

Zach Morrison

Continuity is an important contribution when creating a personalized experience for customers.

With this in mind, your IVR should be able to predict and conform not only to user intent, but to user preferences, frequency of use, and user speed in order to improve customer experience.

Thanks to Zach Morrison at Aspect Software

For more technology advice from our panel of experts, read our articles:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 6th Apr 2020 - Last modified: 14th Jun 2024
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