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Why Interactive Voice Response Isn’t a Necessary Evil

About Interactive Voice Response

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been helping airlines, banks, and other types of organizations lighten the load on contact centers dealing with hundreds of thousands of daily support calls.

But even if you work at a company that relies on IVR, we can be honest—these systems are brutal from the customer point of view.

Recent research found that of all customer service channels, IVR systems have the lowest consumer performance ratings. And worse yet, they spark anger, disgust, and frustration in the hearts of customers. For companies already struggling to match the customer experiences of digital natives like Airbnb, the last thing you want to do is trust IVRs with satisfying customers.

It’s time to stop spending millions of dollars maintaining an interactive voice recognition system that doesn’t work. We no longer have to view the IVR system as a necessary evil.

Customers Won’t Put Up with Interactive Voice Recognition Any Longer

While some companies use IVR to help route calls to the proper human department, many IVR implementations are evaluated based on their containment rates.

Containment rate is important when an airline or bank is hoping to reduce call volume by completely automating certain functions. For example, an airline might allow customers to check statuses by calling and reading a flight number. Or a bank might have customers provide yes/no answers to the automated system as they submit a claim for fraudulent charges.

In these cases, the containment rate is the percentage of customers who begin and end their calls within the IVR. But how many times have you dealt with an IVR and just started hitting “0” to speak to an agent? If your IVR is just driving people to want human interaction, what’s the point of having the expensive IVR system in the first place?

There are a few main reasons why customers so universally despise these IVR systems:

Lack of clarity through phone system: If travelers are running through a loud, busy airport trying to get a flight status, it’s unlikely voice recognition will work with 100% accuracy. Even if it’s quiet, customers might hit a dead zone with cell service and have to keep repeating their confirmation number until the IVR finally gets it right. And nothing is more frustrating than having to hang up and start the whole process again.

They don’t provide enough context: Customers often go through the IVR call routing system only to find they were directed to the wrong department. They answer questions for 20 minutes, get put on hold, and then get transferred to a new agent. But IVRs rarely carry the conversation’s context to the next agent, which means customers answer all of those questions again

Conversations are too impersonal: Customers can usually take care of simple issues on their own by researching online. This means that IVRs are left to handle more complex problems. However, IVR systems can’t understand the nuances of customer problems the way a human can. It’s great to automate customer support, but sometimes people need a personal touch.

The problem is that companies are spending millions of dollars trying to overcome these challenges. Instead of making minor upgrades to a broken system, why don’t we take a new approach altogether?

If large-scale changes aren’t made to frustrating IVR systems, traditional companies will continue to lose customers to more modern competition. It’s time to replace outdated IVRs with a mobile-first experience that interacts with customers where it’s most convenient.

The Advantages of Replacing IVR with Messaging

Who says IVR is the only way to achieve automated routing logic? That may have been the case a decade ago, but a mobile-first world requires a mobile-first communication system—messaging.

The key difference between messaging and IVR is that it makes asynchronous connections available whereas IVRs require all support to go through the phone. You can start using chatbots to answer generic questions and quickly establish connection with a human agent for anything more complex. Voice conversations are available in this kind of strategy—but they aren’t the primary (or only) means of communication.

Putting a messaging strategy in effect to replace IVR systems offer many benefits, such as:

Increased scalability for human interaction: When human agents are only able to speak over the phone, they can’t manage more than 1 conversation at a time. But with a messaging interface, they can handle 5 or 6 conversations without putting anyone on hold.

Real upsell opportunities: Automating through IVR means eliminating as much human interaction as possible. If a customer is told their flight was canceled, the conversation is over—they just hang up and move on. With messaging, flight cancelation messages can be followed by a new flight recommendation and discount codes for the nearby member’s club. Agents can provide value personalized to individual customers.

Integration with advanced technologies: When you move customer conversations from voice to text, you open up the opportunity to use machine learning and big data analytics to optimize interactions. You can continuously improve AI responses and adjust the customer experience based on positive and negative outcomes.

It doesn’t make sense to sink money into an IVR system that isn’t working. We need to get out of the mindset that IVR is a necessary evil. There’s a better way—one that can actually delight customers rather than frustrating them.

If you want to learn more about implementing your own, branded messaging experience, contact us today for a free demo of the Layer customer conversation platform.