Not every customer-service interaction requires a live agent. Some of the more simple inbound requests, such as inquiries about your business’s address or the customer’s order status, can be handled by a helpful robot, otherwise known as an interactive voice response (IVR) system.
But don’t worry, you won’t be automating the entire process. People still often need the helping hand of an agent. That’s why the IVR also comes with routing capabilities. It’s like a robot receptionist that can direct the customer to a live service agent or department based on the customer’s responses to the robot’s questions (e.g., “press 1 if you need help with billing”).
Not only does IVR save your contact center precious time. It also dramatically improves customer satisfaction. Buyers experience shorter wait times and faster resolutions, and they don’t have to talk with an agent if they don’t want to.
But these are just some of the benefits businesses can expect from using an IVR system in your contact center. In this article, we’ll share some more ways that businesses use this technology and provide you with a basic understanding of what contact center IVR is and how it works.
Interactive voice response (IVR) is a business phone system feature that enables customers or employees to interact with a business’s computer-operated phone system through voice and touch-tone dialing. The feature is often found in cloud contact center solutions and telephony software.
When a business uses IVR, inbound callers are greeted by an automated voice message that walks them through a menu of options by saying such things as ”please say or press 1 for billing, 2 for product questions, etc.”
The caller responds based on their needs, and the system reacts accordingly, asking them more questions or providing the information they want until the issue is resolved or the customer is routed to an agent or department best-suited to help them.
Resolutions can take various forms, from getting the answer to a question, like “when will my shipment arrive?” to actually paying a bill through the IVR system.
What customers can do through IVR will depend on which software you use. Some are more advanced than others, offering AI capabilities like natural language processing, which can interpret more complex open-ended questions.
Regardless, even the most basic IVR system can do wonders for your contact center by automating mundane tasks like call routing or answering simple questions.
Best of all, IVR improves the customer experience via shorter wait times, faster resolutions, and the option to self-serve.
Businesses need IVR for various reasons, the first being that their customers want them to have IVR. According to a customer experience study, 69% of respondents said they wanted to resolve issues themselves without needing assistance from a human.
The study also found that 63% of customers start by searching for solutions via a business’s digital channels before calling its customer support line. From this stat, it can be reasonably inferred that many customers view talking to a customer service agent as a last resort.
That means businesses, in order to satisfy customers, should view it as a last resort as well, and provide other means of resolution, specifically self-serve options like IVR.
And even when your customer reaches the end of their self-service options and has to speak with a live agent, they’ll find the experience productive and personalized, because the IVR routed them to the person or department best equipped to help them with their specific issue.
Businesses also need IVR because it frees up time for their agents to handle more important tasks, like handling complex customer issues or focusing on top-paying clients.
Without IVR, agents may have to spend time answering easy questions, intaking customer data, or routing calls. Although always suboptimal to automation, manual call fielding can work for a very small business, but when that business grows, this system becomes increasingly unmanageable.
In order to handle all the inbound calls and limit customer wait times, businesses then have to hire, train, and pay for more agents, which can cost a pretty penny.
In short, a business can create a faster and smoother-running contact center if they use IVR, and this leads to lower workforce costs, higher productivity, and an enhanced customer experience.
These days, many businesses choose to use a cloud-based contact center solution that comes with a pre-integrated interactive voice response system.
This is by far the easiest way to set up a contact center with IVR functionality because it doesn’t require you to buy and integrate the separate components of an on-premise IVR-equipped contact center, like the following:
Instead, all of these elements are already available and unified within the contact center software, which a business can subscribe to and use for an affordable monthly or annual price.
For example, Contacto allows you to easily deploy an AI-powered multi-layered IVR system in a matter of days. And because the IVR is integrated with all the other data in your contact center, it will pull customer data like past orders or delivery status directly from the relevant database, so that customers experience personalized and fast resolutions.
And unlike call center software, which would only access data from phone calls, a contact center solution’s IVR can use data captured from all supported customer service channels, including messaging, live chat, and email.
Having an IVR system in your contact center furnishes your business with countless benefits that include shorter wait times for customers, higher agent productivity, reduced operational costs, and more.
Overall, an IVR-equipped contact center will help you grow your business and take on more customers without necessarily having to expand your customer service team.
Imagine an ecommerce business is set to double its client base over the next six months but is worried about its customer service team’s ability to handle the influx of new customers because the team is already feeling the pressure.
Suppose that most of their customer questions are about delivery status and other recurring questions that could easily be answered by an automated voice message. This business would benefit tremendously from adopting IVR, as it would greatly reduce their growing pains.
Another example of a business that would benefit from IVR is a retail store that is growing only slowly but still dealing with customer experience issues. They have a boatload of unfavorable google reviews citing long wait periods and uninformed customer service agents as common faults.
Implementing IVR would solve both of those problems. Their customers could get answers to their questions quickly through the IVR, without having to talk to an agent.
And because so many customers are being serviced by the IVR, the wait times would in turn decrease for those who really do need an agent's help. Best of all, thanks to intelligent call routing, the IVR would direct callers to the department or agent most relevant to their needs.
A final example is a business that would benefit from IVR is one that is involved in a disaster, perhaps a hurricane, where no one can be at the office. Instead of missing all of their customer calls, they can quickly adjust the IVR settings to send callers to an alternative contact center outside of the disaster zone.
Or, better yet, if the business is using a cloud contact center with IVR, their agents can field calls as usual from their home computers. These are just a few of the many IVR use cases that help your business grow and function effectively.
When customers call into an IVR-powered contact center, they have a more personalized experience. This is especially true if you’re using an omnichannel contact center platform.
In that case, the IVR system will draw data from various databases and channels — text, email, your CRM. — and that data informs it on how to interact with each specific customer.
For example, an AI-powered IVR can be configured to do things like connect customers with the last agent they’ve interacted with or with the customer service rep assigned to their account.
This way, customers spend more time talking with agents who already know their situation and history with the company. They spend less time re-explaining their issues or scenarios, which they find quite annoying. Instead, the brand seems to them like a great listener with a wonderful memory who is dedicated to their success.
Wondering if your business needs an IVR-powered contact center? There are some questions you should ask yourself to figure out if it’s worth the investment:
Fortunately, investing in an IVR-powered contact center solution is rather affordable, with prices typically falling somewhere between $35 and $100 per user per month.
Not all IVR-equipped contact center solutions are built the same. As a best practice, it’s important to find one with the following key IVR features:
Aside from these IVR-specific features, an IVR contact center solution should also give your IVR access to data from multiple customer service channels, especially messaging, phone, and email. This data sharing enables the IVR to use the customer data you collect to provide more personalized experiences.
IVR leads to increased contact center productivity and an enhanced customer experience, both of which support your efforts to reach your business goals.
If you need to quickly implement contact center software that comes with an IVR system, look no further than Contacto, an intuitive cloud contact center solution equipped with many other useful features, like chatbots, agent dashboards, and real-time analytics.