Is your IVR responsive enough?

Posted on January 2, 2014 by

In a recent post about all the things you need to know about your VoIP system before it’s your VoIP system, I talked about the importance of getting your IVR right. Your Interactive Voice Response structure is usually the first point of contact many of your customers have with your company. Get it wrong and you risk turning away new and existing customers. Get it right, and you can create loyal evangelists, and save big bucks through increased productivity.


US Airways does a great job of enhancing their customer experience with a well put together IVR system. Ashley Verrill recently wrote all about how US Airways leverages their IVR to dazzle customers in a blog post for Hello-Operator.

Here are the points the article makes, in smaller bites, with a little context and some practicality thrown in for good measure.

Step 1: Create a List of Top Reasons Customers Call You

To make sure they made the right options available to callers, US Airways went through months of call recordings and listened in to live calls to catalogue all the reasons customers call them. If you have recordings and a few weeks or months to spare, maybe that’s a good way for you to go too.

Otherwise, you’ve got a few options.

Talk to the people who answer your phones. Your reps will have a good idea what the most common reasons for calls are. Also, if you already have an IVR system in place, take a look at historical data (assuming you’ve stored it away somewhere). If you don’t have IVR data, start collecting it.

You’re looking for buckets here. Not a list of 37 things. Maybe start with the top five.

Step 2: Plot Your ‘Top Reasons’ Along the Customer Lifecycle

When your customers are calling is a good indicator of why they’re calling. If you’ve got their phone number on file, you can quickly check the number against activity on their account and make some educated guesses based on all that historical data you just plowed through.

In the example of US Airways, if a customer was calling a month to two weeks before a scheduled flight, there was a good chance they wanted to make a change to their reservation. If the call came in a week to two days before a flight, the call was usually to check baggage allowances. And so on.

This provides the opportunity to bypass anyone or thing standing between your callers and the information they need, and deliver it to them without much interaction (especially costly human interaction) at all. You reduce call wait times for those customers whose issues require real interaction and create fast, efficient experiences for the customers with easily predictable concerns.

Step 3: Program Your IVR to Deliver the Right Solution Based on Customer History

This requires a bit of smart thinking on the part of your IVR backend.

  • It has to recognize if it knows the number.
  • If it does, it needs to know your last interaction with that customer.
  • Based on that last interaction, the system can suggest a reason for the call.
  • If the number isn’t recognized, ask the caller if they’d like their number remembered for next time.

Step 4: Measure Success Rates to Continually Fine-Tune IVR Rules

Kind of a no-brainer here. But there are number of metrics US Airways looks at such as Transfer Rate, Repeat Information Rate, and IVR Exit Rate, to measure the performance of their system and make any refinements on an ongoing basis. You might like all of theirs, or maybe there are others that make more sense for you based on how you setup your system.

Your IVR is so much more than an answering machine with options. It’s a sales funnel and a customer solutions machine that makes life easy for you and your customers. But only if you get it right.

Basically, it comes down to knowing your customers, what they need, and why they call, so you can proactively address issues (in some cases before they’ve even told you it’s an issue) and deliver answers in a more timely fashion.

To go more in depth, read the full article on Software Advice‘s Hello Operator blog.