Interactive Voice Response (IVR): IVR is a technology that gained attention during the 1990s when call center companies started to invest in computer telephony integration (CTI) with IVR systems. When call centers wanted to deploy queuing and routing solutions, IVR acted as an agent gathering the needed information and routed to the corresponding agents. IVR can be explained as a technology that enables humans to communicate with computers either by using voice or dual-tone multifrequency (DTMF) keypads and provide responses via voice, call back, or email.
The best example can be the automated calls you make to a bank or a telecom company. Unless you are an elite customer, the calls are invariably answered by an automated voice system that provides you with a series of questions, and usually, the basic queries are answered, by choosing different options in your smartphone keypads. In cases, where an automated system is unable to provide a suitable response, it is then routed to an agent or customer care representative/executive.
IVR the unsung hero: Some of the fantastic customer service experiences shared by the customers of Panera’s holiday bread and Jet blue have made everyone forget the role played by an IVR which navigated the customers to the appropriate team with just a few keypad presses, after all, it’s a machine which doesn’t expect credits. Some of the key benefits which an automated IVR system can deliver are:
- Voice prompts to identify customers – (Press 1 for Credit Card Related Queries- credit card customers)
- Understand customer needs and provide better service – (By monitoring the calls, the company can comprehend the reason why customers are calling and provide better responses via IVR)
- Gather and provide information to help customers – (IVR systems can record customer’s details to provide a better customer experience and inform about the company’s latest products, offers, application updates, etc.)
- Manage high call volume (Any company would love to have more customers than the number of employees, hence, to address high call volume, the IVR systems answer the basic queries and navigate to the reps/agents at the final stage)
- Reduce operating costs, which includes staffing (This is a basic advantage for any company getting their business process automated)
- Better Customer Support: (IVR systems can help to provide surveys and feedback from customers from which the company can address their needs in a better way)
- Sales Automation: (If your company sells products or services which require reorders or renewal, then the IVR system allows the company to set reminders just by asking a few built-in questions like how many products, which products, and when do they need them, etc.)
These are just a few examples, where an IVR system can benefit the customers and company, depending upon the nature of the company, the system can be automatized/customized.
Five common mistakes to be avoided with Interactive Voice Response (IVR):
- Limited Information: An IVR system shouldn’t be fed with too much information. According to Customer think, a human mind would ideally remember up to 5 options, anything more than that would permit confusion and result in frustration.
- 24/7 service: Today, most of the customers have their smartphone with an internet connection, hence they look out for 24 hours customer support via all forms and IVR is no exception. Hence it is important to provide unlimited 24 hours customer support with IVR.
- Unclear Voice prompts: This is the case of small and medium-sized companies, in order to save cost, few companies opt for cheap IVR services where the vendor would install a poor-quality voice prompt, resulting in evasive circumstances for both the customer and company.
- Self-Service Options: In order to have an optimized IVR system in place, companies need to strategically think of keeping an IVR system that has multiple solutions – To choose options by the menu, call back, email, chat, link directing to applications, etc.
- No IVR system update: By monitoring the calls and previous interactions with the customers, the IVR system should be periodically updated to provide a better customer experience.
The second part of this blog will focus on text messages using the IVR system, as mentioned above an IVR system should be holistic in nature, trying to cover all possible means of communication with the customer. On that note, SMS or Text messages are another important way to provide better customer service. It can be broadly classified into two categories – a) Broadcast messages and b) Interactive messages.
- Broadcast messages: It is a bulk message service performed by an IVR system, where a predesigned text message is sent to a large number of customers usually with the link that directs to their product/service page, surveys, rewards, or awards, application update, etc. This service is generally used to keep the customers aware of what’s happening in their company and to gather information from the customers.
- Interactive messages: This is like Interactive voice responses, but instead of voice response, the system will interact with the customers via text messages. Bots will reply with text messages addressing the queries of the customers. Below is an example of interactive messages by an IVR system.
Text messages use cases:
- Rewards and Awards: Most companies implement rewards and awards as a part of their customer service strategy. It will be difficult to call all the customers and talk about its latest awards, rewards, and offers. Hence, Text messaging is the best way to reach a large customer base. Usually, links directing to their rewards page or application are pasted in the text message which directs customers to avail the latest.
- Example: “Hurry! Offer on groceries for this Deepavali only on Amazon, first 1000 customers to get an additional 20% discount. To know more click here”
- To create Campaigns: Companies can take surveys by text messages, usually, a link will be provided, which takes to the survey page and the customers are asked to provide responses for a questionnaire. Once successfully completed, the customer is provided with a gift voucher, or reward points are offered to redeem.
- Send Product updates and promotional offers: Companies send text messages whenever a new product is launched or if there is an update on their existing product or service. Also, as a push strategy companies send promotional offers during festive seasons. But customers don’t like to be bombarded with too many messages, hence the timing and frequency should be effectively managed.
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By adopting these basic strategies via Automated IVR and text messaging, your customer service capabilities can improve drastically. A company should always ensure that there is a 360-degree approach to its Customer Service competency.