What is Interactive Voice Response?
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is an automated telephony system technology that interacts with the callers, gathers the required information and routes the calls to the particular appropriate recipient.
With modern, sophisticated IVR systems, you can gather the input and responses through spoken words with the voice recognition. Conversations are either pre-recorded or generated audio which assist, direct, or route calls automatically without a live operator.
Within these interactions, clients can communicate by using either the touch-tone keypad selection or voice telephone input. The responses take the form of voice, call-back or any other related media.
How Does an IVR Work?
For the end user, these interactive systems function in a way that allows them to navigate your contact center and find an appropriate solution quickly, using only their phone’s keypad. For your team, this means the customers themselves route calls to appropriate parties. Overall, this results in fewer incoming calls, lower operational costs, and increased productivity for your team members.
From a technical level, the IVR system consists of the following: telephony equipment, software applications, a database, and the support infrastructure. To start with, the computer is connected to the company’s telephone line.
IVR software has to be installed onto a computer, and a special piece of hardware called a telephony board, or telephony card, is required.
When, as a customer, you make a call to the company, the IVR software will respond by giving you a pre-recorded greeting and then asks you to choose an option from a set menu. For example: by pressing the ‘one’ on the keypad you will receive a given service.
Here are some details illustrating the requirements:
- TCP/IP network: This is the internet network that serves to provide Internet and intranet connectivity.
- VXML telephony server: a special server that serves as the interface between the phone and the internet network.
- Databases: real-time information that can be accessed by the IVR applications.
- Web/application server: this can be viewed as the home of Interactive Voice Response system software. One thing to note is that there are several different applications designed to perform various functions.
Interactive Voice Response Advantages
Below is a list of the advantages when adopting modern IVR capabilities:
Better Customer Service
By utilizing the IVR systems, a client will feel that he or she is being better attended to. With any question that a customer might have, a quick response is always available. The response is informative and time efficient, and all one has to do, is to follow the instructions from the set menu.
This means answering a call on the first ring, thereby reducing customer wait time and cutting call volume, and saving time for both the client and company.
Unlimited Customer Access
Customers can make use of the IVR systems at any time of their convenience as it performs its task 24 hours a day within 7 days a week. While office hours, holidays, and breaks dictate and limit employee availability, IVR systems are always at the customer’s disposal.
This then means that a customer can receive most or all the services whenever he or she needs it. While the option of having a live representative may still appeal to some, with the help of an IVR system, customers now have unlimited access to your company.
IVR systems allow for tremendous personalization that helps to create a better relationship with customers. Each IVR system can be modified and programmed with personalized greetings for the known callers. This is possible as the client or the caller ID information is available.
Besides addressing a caller by their name, the system can also identify and share any additional information specific to them. This could mean wishing the caller a happy marriage anniversary, or any other noteworthy occasion.
In addition to programming caller information, IVR systems come with several language options which are tailored to specific clients or callers. In either case, it will make the customer feel more comfortable in the long run. Also one can record any personalized greeting he or she may want and include the appropriate prompts to transfer callers to the corresponding department.
Create a Better Company Image
The IVR creates the illusion that your company is so huge; one receptionist couldn’t possibly manage your call volume. As for the smaller companies, it is highly advisable to have the automated system to establish their business’s image.
As for the bigger companies, these systems foster a professional image by maintaining consistency in customer service and call volume.
More Profits to the Company
Increasingly, a large portion of business deals and transactions take place over the telephone. Some of the companies lagged behind with the traditional way of having receptionists who respond to the customer calls.
IVR offers virtual receptionists and saves a lot on labor, utilizing in a better way the resources of the employer while meeting and serving the client’s needs. Since the IVR solution will work 24 hours even under high volume calls, profits will soar.
This is possible through call routing. Routing callers to the specific departments or staff member to address their needs means that there is a less time spent conferring with colleagues to find the right answer or transferring the caller around until they get what they need. This alternatively enables the business owners to prioritize calls and therefore increasing the overall efficiency.
With the IVR systems, your company will attend to a high volume of calls without long call wait times or even the stressed receptionists. This means that the clients will increase their volume of calls.
Using an IVR makes your entire process less error-prone, compared to relying on a traditional receptionist. With the high volume of calls, they will tend to be a burden to the receptionist.
As a result, among the hundreds of calls, tens end up at the wrong place in addition to the long waiting time. With the IVR auto attendant, therefore, one will enjoy this extra gain.
From the benefits, some of the people who ought not to fail to consider IVR include customer service managers and VP’s, Customer experience managers and VP’s and contact center managers among others.
Some of the applications for the IVR include:
- Call center forwarding
- Office calls routing
- Bank and stock account balances and transfers
- Surveys and polls
Here are some real-life applications that can benefit your business.
Improved Customer Experience Through an Integrated IVR
Customer experience is the client’s perception of their rational, physical, emotional, subconscious and psychological interaction with any part of the organization. To sustain the growth of your company, you need to consider effectively managing the customer’s experience. This is majorly through automation, and that’s the reason you have to consider IVR technology.
This, in the long run, will build trust and put a smile on the customer’s face.
It is also possible to use the IVR system in the collection of responses from your customers and facilitate two- way dialogues. Finally, you can create customized IVR applications for specific purposes. This will help the customers have quick access to the right information.
Call Center IVR
Through the IVR services, call centers can enjoy the increased first contact resolution of customer issues and inquiries. A customer may choose either a self–service or call an agent for inquiries. This will turn out to even improve the customer’s experience as they will all use the same interface with cloud IVR.
For customers who are not in the position to wait in a call queue, there can be a callback. Also, a scheduled call back service is possible within the IVR phone system depending on the customer’s requested time.
As a brief description, the following are the four major ways to which IVR contributes to improving the customer experience in the call center.
Efficient Call Routing
The built-in call control features of IVR technology initially gathers the information from the caller. This is then followed by routing the call to self-service steps or to the call center rep who will address the issue accordingly. As a result, the holding time can significantly reduce with a well- designed IVR. At the end of the day, the quality of service and impressive response time of an IVR will satisfy all customers.
Self-service acts as one of the main pillars of improving customer service. This means cutting short the long slots of music during waiting times, and the customer can receive the service needed in a faster manner. The self –service is possible at any time of the day, and hence a customer can make inquiries at his or her convenience. Also, the customers can enjoy the easy menu options available.
Advanced Speech Recognition
IVR recognizes more than just single words. The caller can use voice prompts to explain the issue he or she has or the type of service required and attain a fast track and quick response on his or her issue. In combination with the directed speech and button pushing, IVR platform will direct inbound calls in an optimized manner.
Personalized Caller Information
A well-designed IVR works similarly as a well-trained call center rep or even in a much efficient way. This way, the customer can learn about any special offers or upcoming sales through the use of IVR. Lastly, it can address the client’s specific potential need, improving customer satisfaction.
IVR and Customer Service Managers Make Optimizations
These managers have a bucket full of benefits to gain from the use of voice response systems.
Lowered costs for customer service
It seems Chat and SMS interactions amount to one-tenth the cost of IVR. On the other hand, they amount to one hundredth the costs of live agent phone calls. If the managers provide their customers with options to meet their specific needs, automation rates and self- service adoption will be on the increase.
As a result, the number of customers to seek agent assistance will go down. Again, proactive outbound messaging offers an efficient alternative to prevent spikes in the inbound call volume.
Streamlined business processes
The outbound notifications system can deliver actionable reminders to the customers. The reminders are vital as they enable the customers to carry out the different transactions or services offered by the company through the voice response system or a mobile web application.
Tips and Best Practices to Improve Your IVR
Research your audience to find IVR platform optimizations
This involves determining the customers who are likely going to use the automation and bear this in mind when you develop your persona.
Use a survey to improve customer IVR experience
This is imperative to know the extent of satisfaction which your automated application provides to the customers. Do not listen to the comments from the customers as they will mislead you. The information tends to be biased since most customers won’t rail against a service which the agents have offered them.
Natural language speech recognition for your voice response system
You need to review the opportunity that natural language speech recognition provides touchtone-based IVR. Speech recognition is important to help the company automate many transactions than is possible with the touch- tone interaction. This permits the launch of more flexible and complex applications.
Keep a simple IVR menu above all else
For call steering, keep any menu options to four or less, and don’t have more than two levels of options. In the case of self-service applications, start with the easiest, high volume services and build up from there. Don’t try and automate complex transactions but instead, pass these calls to an agent.