Interactive Voice Response systems (IVR) are pretty much a staple for call center phone systems. Press 1 if you have this kind of computer, press 2 if you have that model of toaster, press 3 if you speak another language, and that sort of thing. Nobody really likes these kinds of call management systems, but they’ve become a necessary evil for getting business done, insofar as getting calls routed to the right places. At least, that’s how they work for call centers.
IVR in Call Centers
And they work well for the contact center sort of business. They have a lot of power in that context. What if that power — to route calls, guide callers, and find information — could be harnessed for other businesses as well? After all, when a customer is calling your company, they are not obligating you to put one of your employees on the line. Typically all they want is some bit of information regarding their interactions with your company, be they past, present or future. If the customer can call and find the data they want in IVR, odds are they will hang up just as happy. If your IVR system is intelligent enough to know who the caller is, access your company’s database, then answer the customer’s query (such as telling them what the status of their order is, or letting them know where their package is), then there is no need to talk to an actual live person at your company.
Advantages of IVR
IVR systems have many other advantages as well. For one, they can improve your company’s image. If you’re a startup or a smaller enterprise, you can use an IVR system to make your company seem to be larger than it actually is. Even if there are only a few people in your organization, you can configure your IVR system to route callers to the correct department: marketing, sales, technical support, and so on. The IVR system doesn’t care if you have one person in those departments, or twenty. Regardless of the department chosen, the caller will be routed properly, and the presence of the IVR system will impress them with the professionalism of your company.
24/7, 356 days
Another advantage that IVR systems have is that they can act as a 24/7 receptionist. Perhaps your business is a bank, or another type of institution that issues cards. Unfortunate things can happen to people’s bank cards at all hours, and it’s necessary for them to call in as soon as they can to forestall any fraudulent charges on their accounts. An IVR system can take care of this for you, as there are many things it can do when it is connected to your institution’s database: It can deactivate a lost or stolen card, of course, or simply reset your PIN if need be. Under more benign circumstances it can arrange for card delivery, card activation, provide a history of transactions, or simply just give you your current balance.
IVR systems can also be configured for outbound proactive data collection, which has found to be quite effective. Although you can configure your IVR system to call your customers at any time, it’s typically best to have your IVR applications contact your customers immediately after an interaction with your company, when their memory is freshest. Response rates are typically high, sample sizes are larger, and are therefore more valid than other mediums of collection. Larger data sets mean more accurate data to be used for performance reviews, coaching programs, and employee compensation reviews.
Lastly, modular IVR systems can often be made more user-friendly by adding a speech recognition component — that is, allowing the user to speak “technical support” instead of having to pull back their handset, find the number 3, then poke it, and mash the handset against their ear again in hopes of not missing anything important.
About The Author
Michelle Patterson is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.