We have all had those moments when we call a company only to be met with an IVR system, a barrage of options and then atrocious on-hold music. Not the most positive customer IVR experience. What goes through your mind right at that moment? I bet it isn’t complementary about the company you’re calling!

Considering IVR is supposed to enhance inbound calling while helping the business, too many companies seem to get it very wrong. That’s why I put together this quick guide to improve the customer IVR experience.

Effective call handling is an essential ingredient in any customer facing business. It can be the first interaction you have with a customer and it is your best chance of making a positive first impression. An IVR is an integral part of any inbound call centre solution and one that can either make or break the caller experience. The whole reason you invested in an Interactive Voice Response system in the first place was to improve call handling. Yet if not done right, it can have the opposite effect.

Here are some top ways to make sure your IVR has a positive effect on inbound call management.

Design your inbound call plan carefully

An IVR system is controlled by a call plan. It is a map of the exact route an inbound call takes and includes options, voice prompts, music choices, voices, time of day routing and lots of other features. A good inbound call plan keeps the options simple and the number of steps to the minimum.

Callers will soon get frustrated with multiple options as they will quickly forget them. Add too many steps and the caller will hang up before arriving at an agent. If ever there was a place for the KISS method, the inbound call plan is it!

Put your best first

If your business is large enough to use skill groups or competencies then you need to design your inbound call plan to keep your best agents the busiest. Having your best call handlers at the front of the queue means your customers get the best service and the person most likely to be able to help them. That has a massive effect on how you are perceived by that caller.

Designing your inbound call plan to target your leading agents first then moving outwards ensures your caller gets the best possible service from first contact. Often referred to as the bullseye method, this is a very effective way to align the needs of the customer and the business.

Invest in Music on Hold

Lots of companies use muzak instead of music and it isn’t a good move. In an ideal world, callers would never even hear Music on Hold (MoH) but this isn’t a perfect world. Make the music top quality and that will reflect directly onto your brand. Choose the tone and melody carefully and consider the psychological effect music has on people.

Fast music can make people energetic or aggressive. Repetitive music can frustrate or bore. A 10 second loop in a call queue that typically lasts longer than 30 seconds is quickly going to become tiresome. Give MoH the thought and investment it deserves and you quickly improve the mood and receptiveness of the caller once they arrive at an agent.

Voiceover artistry

The same goes for any voice you use in your IVR messages. You don’t have to hire a celebrity voice artist to record your messages but it should be someone trained in the art of the voiceover. That voice message is a digital ambassador for your company and should be given the same consideration a real ambassador would be given.

An IVR voice message should be professional, polite, upbeat and comforting. It should not be too repetitive either. Comfort messages can be repeated but not too often. There is nothing worse than being told your call is important while being kept waiting for five minutes!

Test, test and test again

It takes expertise to design a truly effective inbound call plan but that doesn’t mean it is perfect. It needs to be tested, refined, tested and tested again before it goes live. If that IVR doesn’t sound professional or the music tinny or the options don’t make sense, each customer IVR experience is going to suffer alongside your reputation.

Any time a change is made to an inbound call plan it needs to be tested. Any time a system changes, options are added or any change of any kind is made to the IVR or call centre, it needs to be tested. Investment in testing is worth every single penny if it can avoid you looking bad.

Customer IVR experience feedback

Initiating a post-call feedback system is also worth investment. All the designing, refining and testing in the world cannot replicate the real world. Asking callers to spare a minute leaving feedback offers vital intelligence into how well your call centre is performing, helping you provide a progressively better customer IVR experience.

Most IVR systems can be configured to initiate a post-call feedback system with a couple of meaningful questions. As long as there aren’t too many of them and they are simple to answer, they can gather a lot of useful information that can help you refine your inbound call handling.

Gradual improvements

Once your inbound call handling system is up and running and you are gathering feedback, it might be tempting to make massive changes to improve the customer experience as quickly as possible. Patience is a virtue. Change too much at once and it could all go terribly wrong.

Like any upgrade or service enhancement, make a couple of minor changes and let them soak. When they have bedded in and are working as intended, add some more improvements. Soak, monitor, rinse and repeat. Managing inbound calls is a strategy not a tactic and nowhere is this more true than service improvement.

Managing inbound calls is a complex task that requires you balance speed, efficiency, customer needs and productivity. It can be done and it can be done very well. If you need help building, managing or improving your own contact centre, it pays to work with the experts. Excalibur has built a reputation for delivering exceptional IT services to small to medium-sized businesses across the country. We would be more than happy to do the same for you.

Contact our team today to see how we can help.

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