Interactive voice response (IVR) is technology that allows humans to interact with a computer-operated phone system. In telecommunications, IVR allows customers to interact with a company’s host system through a phone keypad or by speech recognition. The caller will be guided through a menu based on their IVR dialogue. IVRs can respond with pre-recorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct users on how to proceed. IVRs are sized to handle large call volumes. They are also used for outbound calling as IVR systems are more intelligent than many predictive dialer systems.
IVR systems can be used for banking payments, services, retail orders, utilities, travel info and weather conditions. A common misconception refers to an auto-attendant as an IVR. These two have similar concepts but are still different. The terms are distinct and mean different things to traditional telecommunications professionals. The purpose of IVRs is to take input, process it, and return a result. The purpose an auto-attendant is to simply route calls. Let’s take a look at the features and benefits of using an IVR call flow.
Using Your IVR Correctly
Businesses that use IVRs need simplified menus so that customers reach the right departments easier. When the map is clear and concise, the caller will have an easier time getting the results they want. Ideally, an IVR system should anticipate the needs of the caller before they get on the phone. Each menu has an IVR flow design that handles the most common scenarios first, which will improve the customer’s experience overall.
When you utilize your IVR correctly, it can often create drastic improvements for your overall caller experience. One thing that is very important when creating your IVR experience, is taking the proper metrics and building it around them. By measuring your call metrics, you can find areas of lagging performance. Let’s take a look at the metrics you should keep in mind while compiling IVRs for your call center.
Average Handling Time (AHT)
AHT is the average duration of a call transaction starting with the caller’s initiation through to call completion. While some tracking only measures agent time, this metric typically includes IVR navigation, IVR hold time and agent interaction. It’s important to understand that AHT will vary significantly by industry and call type. For example, a simply bill-pay transaction should be of much shorter duration than a support call (and if it’s not, you already know you have a problem).
A high AHT may indicate issues with the IVR, agent training or agent performance. AHT is an indicator of IVR efficiency and performance. However, AHT is not necessarily a strong call center agent performance metric, as it measures agent efficiency but not agent effectiveness. Your agent could be speeding through calls quickly, but not resolving the issues indicated, or taking far too long to resolve calls.
Call Abandon Rate
The call abandon metric is the percentage of inbound calls made to a call center or service desk that are abandoned by the caller before reaching an agent. It is calculated as total abandoned calls divided by total inbound calls. While higher abandon rates typically have a direct relationship to wait times, IVR performance can also have a dramatic impact on this metric. Generally, target call abandon rates for inbound call centers range from 5% — 8%. According to Help Desk Institute and MetricNet, the average call abandonment rate for all service desks is 8.7 percent. A high call abandon rate is often an indicator of frustrated, irritated customers.
IVR system performance has a direct correlation with abandoned calls. Lengthy wait times, confusing menus, and poorly tuned speech grammars all contribute to caller frustration and abandoned calls.
Call Containment Rate
The call containment rate is the percentage of inbound calls completely handled by the IVR, divided by the number of total incoming calls. It is a measure of the self-service provided by your system. Call containment is a measurement of caller self-service as provided by the IVR. A poor call containment rate indicates that the IVR system is poorly configured, has confusing prompts or is mishandling caller requests. The optimal rate can vary significantly depending on the type of service required by the caller. For example, a contact center supporting diverse and complex customer issues would expect to have a low containment rate.
Call containment performance can have a direct impact on call center operations costs. If callers have the capability, but yet are not successfully obtaining self-service, there is a direct impact on agent call load. That leaves agents diverting efforts to tasks that are not as important or not centered on income producing activities.
Issues With IVRs
When not done correctly, 61% of consumers feel that reaching IVRs actually makes for a poor experience. IVRs can sometimes fail to guide the customer correctly if mismanaged. When your IVR is ineffective, you’ll need to take a look at your call flow. Ideally, IVR menus need to be clear and concise so that the customer reaches the correct location without extended hold times. When hold times are excessive, or menus are confusing, callers hang up without a resolution. This requires them to call again at another time, or simply not get their issue resolved. If the menu is simplified, agents will be available at the end of each menu chain, and less misrouted calls will result.
How do callers feel about IVR?
Businesses need to be fluid with their IVR systems to excel. They need to be willing to make changes at a moment’s notice in order to optimize the customer experience and increase self-service rates. Poorly designed IVR flows reduce efficiency, tie up agents with needless calls, and can even drive customers away from your company.
The best IVRs are fluid, easy to use, and sound natural. Take a look at yours and make the changes you need to enhance your business’s first point of contact with callers. A well-functioning IVR system is just one of many integral parts of modern customer service, and when used right, can make a huge difference in your customer experience.