Your IVR system is often the first touch point your callers will experience with your business. Like with any aspect of business, first impressions matter. If what your callers hear doesn’t match with your business’s “personality” or brand image, you may be starting the relationship off on the wrong foot.
In the late 1990s when call centers first introduced IVR systems for universal queuing, routing solutions, and collecting customer data to enable routing, customer interaction with live PBX operators decreased dramatically. Customers quickly had to adapt to responding to prompts, providing account numbers, and navigating through multiple layers of a phone system before being able to speak to a call center representative.
While the switch to IVR systems has enabled call centers to operate far more efficiently, the level of customer service provided by these cost-effective solutions has often been less than consistent. One of the primary mistakes that businesses have made is not tailoring their IVR system to their customers and to their brand.
What Do Your Callers Experience?
To callers, your IVR system is experienced through greetings, prompts, and on-hold messages. The voice, the instructions, and the music all communicate important elements of your brand and dedication to providing service.
A company like Southwest Airlines that has a casual image uses their IVR system recordings to convey fun, friendly messages that are aligned with their brand. In contrast, a healthcare provider like Blue Cross needs a more informative tone for their IVR system with prompts that are easily understandable to a wide audience. A debt collector obviously needs a straightforward and serious greeting with a minimum of prompts to minimize the chance of dropped calls.
Unfortunately, IVR systems are not always appropriately configured for either the call center or the company’s brand. And this misalignment can heavily impact service and sales numbers. For example, a credit card company that navigates customers through too many prompts will see customers hanging up before completing the process of making a payment. Or a cable company’s support line with repetitive, robotic sounding on-hold music and no on-hold message will result in customers canceling their service and switching to the competitor. While these problems occur at the IVR system level, they are viewed as company-wide problems to customers. In the mind of a customer, a company that can’t figure out how to communicate effectively via the phone system is a company that doesn’t care.
So how can you match your IVR system to your business’s personality? Here are a few considerations:
Voice and Music
The voice chosen for IVR system messages and music can definitely set the tone for your customers’ experience. Consider the image you want to project and find a voice and music that effectively communicate it. For example, a serious older man’s voice sends a completely different message than a friendly young female voice. An English accent can covey sophistication while a Southern drawl can express down-home charm. Just as your business has a carefully chosen logo and brand colors, the sound is equally as important.
Brevity and clarity are fundamental to writing effective IVR system scripts. You cannot expect callers to be able to follow prompts and directions that are unclear or complicated. Callers could be dialing from a phone or while multitasking at work. So straightforward, simple options will always be more effective. Messages should also be courteous. It never hurts to say please and thank you or that you appreciate your callers’ business.
Most IVR systems enable you to set up different call routes for different customers. If you have these capabilities, consider tailoring messaging to specific targeted callers. This will enable you to give more relevant information before the caller reaches a live representative.
Call Path Flow
The call path flow is equally as important as what is heard. The level of difficulty and the steps required to navigate from your system’s initial greeting to reaching either an automated response or the help of a call center representative can speak volumes to your caller.
In the case of a healthcare provider, callers may be trying to quickly get information for a sick or injured loved one. The last thing they need is to have to listen to lengthy messages and navigate through five prompts before being able to speak to an advice nurse. This information should be accessible with a minimum of prompts and transfers.
For a utility company that takes phone payments, customers may prefer to not have to speak to a representative. They simply want to be able to enter in their account number, hear the amount due, and provide their payment details.
Conveying Customer Service
Does your business pride itself on providing great customer service? If it does, you can’t get away with having 20 minute on-hold times and circular call routing that never connects customers to a live representative.
If customer service is a focus of your business, your system must support this focus. In a perfect world, this would mean calls being answered without any hold time. However, few call centers can afford to have the necessary staff to accomplish this. One solution that does communicate better service is VHT Callback, which holds a caller’s place in a virtual queue or even gives them the option to receive a scheduled call back at a more convenient time. By giving the caller options, you can better align your system to your desired quality of service.
Putting It All Together
Like with any brand component, there are many elements to consider. While a logo includes design, typeface, color, and size, an IVR system consists of sound, scripts, and call path flow. How these work together can determine how well your system communicates your brand and business personality.