IVR stands for interactive voice response. Companies and other organizations use it to route incoming calls. Contrary to what the name might imply, IVR systems don’t necessarily rely on prompts spoken by callers to route their calls. The term also means routing calls based on keypad presses.
With IVR, recorded prompts ask a caller to state why they’ve called or press a number corresponding to that reason. Behind the scenes, the IVR system routes the call to a pre-defined extension or contact center agent.
IVR technology helps businesses manage a large number of inbound callers by routing them to the right place automatically instead of relying on a receptionist who may struggle to handle peak call volumes. At the same time, callers get to the people they need to talk to more quickly.
That’s why IVR done right can improve the experience of customers and employees while helping companies stay on top of call volume and manage call center costs. Customers don’t wait as long or get transferred from department to department, and agents get to speak with customers whose issues they can solve, increasing job satisfaction. In that case, IVR can represent a win for everyone.
On the other hand, according to McKinsey & Company, IVR deployed with the single-minded purpose of driving down call volume can lead to customer frustration that’s bad for business.
Instead, McKinsey analysts suggest, businesses need to adopt IVR strategies that put customers first. “Leading companies are now adopting a customer-centric approach that treats IVR as a central part of their overall customer-care offering,” says a recent McKinsey report on customer service and IVR.
Here’s how companies can use IVR to strike the right balance between efficiency and providing good experiences that will keep customers coming back for more.
How Companies Use IVR
In the not-so-distant past, companies needed to install and maintain their own IVR software along with dedicated hardware to host and implement it. They also needed specialists to set up and maintain the systems. All of which made IVR inflexible, difficult to scale, and financially out of reach of smaller organizations.
Today, modern contact centers use cloud-based IVR services that don’t depend on on-premises infrastructure. Companies pay as they go, scaling up or down as needed to handle call volume, adjusting features and capabilities as they go.
Such systems are simple to use, simple to set up, and easy to integrate with existing technology such as headsets and customer relationship manager (CRM) systems. They’re also ideal for distributed workforces handling calls remotely.
Flexibility is a hallmark of cloud IVR systems. For example, GoToConnect includes a Visual Dial Plan Editor that lets call center staffers create auto-attendants by dragging and dropping elements such as voice prompts and extensions onto a canvas. Agents and supervisors can customize it with their own sound clips and menu options without any specialized knowledge.
It’s that kind of intuitive configuration that gives users and callers alike benefits that are unavailable with older, on-premises systems.
Realizing the Benefits of IVR
Modern, cloud-based IVR systems feature automated answering and call routing just like older systems. But they also allow customization on the fly.
For example, supervisors can place calls in a queue during busy times, forwarding automatically according to changing conditions, such as the number of previous calls taken by each agent.
On the customer side, modern IVR can give customers the freedom to choose what kind of service they want. It can even let them resolve billing and account balance inquiries without live agents, freeing up call center time and giving customers faster service.
Another critical customer service innovation available through cloud-based IVR is integration with popular CRM systems such as Salesforce, Zoho, and Zendesk. Now, agents can get a complete customer view at a glance without switching back and forth between applications or fumbling for information while customers grow impatient.
With a contact center, modern IVR can even give customers the option to request a return call to avoid waiting altogether, giving them perhaps the ultimate customer service experience.