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Article : Contact Center IVR Optimization For Personalized Customer Experience

#contactcenterworld, @ccs4cx

Author: Chidiogo Emmanue, Digital Communications, Call Center Studio

Avoiding common mistakes like too many menu options, poorly organized information, poor quality recordings, repetitive hold messages or music, and lack of caller’s information safeguard your business from losing customers.

According to a report, one in three customers has abandoned a business because its service lacked any sense of personalization. Identifying a customer through your IVR system allows you to route them to the appropriate agents to deliver a customized experience.

What is a Contact Center Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

IVR is an integrated telephony service of a contact center that interacts with callers through voice or touch-tone keypad selection and provides the appropriate responses in voice, text, callback, or any specified means by the software provider.

Contact center IVRs also collect data from callers and route calls to the appropriate agents for personalized responses.

Telephony equipment, software applications, a repository of information, and supporting infrastructure make up the IVR systems.

IVR is an effective way to maximize contact center efficiency and improve customer satisfaction by providing self-service, reducing call volumes, and increasing customer complaints’ quick resolution.

67% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative. By the end of 2020, 85% of customer service interactions will be automated.

IVR has grown to be a fundamental contact center technology, with 86.1% installation as of 2018 [callcenterhelper].

The Evolution of Contact Center IVR

In the 1930s, the Voder was the closest thing to the IVR. It was the first attempt to electronically synthesize human speech by breaking it down into its acoustic components.

With the recognized need for a Call Center, the technology evolved in the 1960s with a primitive IVR solution with a touch-tone dialing functionality. The aim was to interact with callers faster than ever before and reduce the time spent on lines.

The Voder was the world’s first machine that could talk

However, the vocabulary bank was still imperfect.

By the 1980s, computers’ popularity and relatively advancements in technology meant systems could cost-effectively store digitized speech, play it back, and understand a human response.

This opened the window to coordinating and integrating computer and telephone data on an IVR system.

Through the 90s, 00s, and present-day, IVR has improved tremendously. It’s almost impossible to imagine a contact center without IVR technology.

Its functionalities have expanded from just touch-pad tone dialing to include information gathering, automatic call routing, call tracking and reporting, payments, automatic messaging – all integrated into a straightforward technology.

How does the contact center IVR work?

There are three ways through which the IVR technology functions. The core is built on touch tones IVR from a telephone, known as DTMF tones.

Here, selecting a combination of available options through touching numbers on the phone navigates the caller’s desired information.

Pressing or touching a number creates a sound at a specific pitch recognized by the IVR system. An example of this is selecting a language.

Speech/Voice recognition IVR allows callers to speak in any language in response to a prompt, providing customers with easy navigation through the IVR menu and a better customer experience.

AI-powered IVR gives callers the freedom to speak without menu constraints and attempts to route callers to their needed information based on the recognized intent.

Combining highly accurate speech recognition with advanced processing and call history or account status, IVR & AI can determine caller intent more accurately. This processes callers requests faster, skipping some or all of the traditional phone menu.

Customers also enjoy a personalized experience from your contact center and privy agents to caller’s information as calls are routed to them.

Contact Center IVR Scripting

Your IVR script can sabotage your service delivery and lead to customers’ loss if not written appropriately.

61% of consumers think IVRs make for a poor experience. This is responsible for more than half (51%) of consumers abandoning a business because of an IVR system – resulting in companies losing $262 per customer every year.

Having a poorly written IVR script compound’s your business’ woes.

Below are a few tips for writing a good IVR script;

Check Your Flow: Before you start writing your script, have the end in mind, then script your texts towards that. You should have a clear view of what you need to register and how you need to write it, so the caller can reach the solution they require quickly and efficiently.

Having a flow diagram helps to map out the information your need in each prompt.

Write for Audio: Writing for audio is not the same as writing for print or video. It would be best if you wrote clearly, removing all jargon or ambiguous words.

The function goes first: Ensure that you give instructions before the operation. For example, "For English Press 1" and not "Press 1 for English".

Think about the customer’s call trigger: You need to consider what led the customers to pick up the phone and tailor the IVR script with actionable steps to deliver easy navigation for optimum service delivery.

Avoid repeating messages: Try not to repeat the same in-queue and on-hold messages. Customers often get frustrated, leading to call drops. Be innovative with your on-hold/in-queue messages or music.

Match your target’s persona: If your brand is niched, your IVR script should embody your target market’s personas. That should influence the language and tone of delivery etc.

However, a company that does not necessarily have a target market must ensure that it is appropriate for everyone.

Reviewing and Optimising Contact Center IVR

Reviewing your IVR is one of the best ways of optimizing your service delivery to customers. Customer needs are dynamic; hence technology needs to be optimized to deliver the best experiences.

Optimize your Contact Center IVR to deliver personalized customer experiences

A study by Interactions & TheHarrisPoll on how customers perceived IVR channels revealed;

  • 94% of Americans have experienced frustrations when using IVR channels to communicate with a company.
  • 52% were frustrated at having to repeat themselves, while 49 percent hated waiting to be connected to a live agent while in a queue.
  • 47% were frustrated because they could not bypass the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to speak to a live agent.
  • 46% were annoyed having to listen to a list of irrelevant options presented by an IVR system.
  • 45% were frustrated to get disconnected from a call.

With these in consideration, is your IVR delivering the best experience to customers? How can you optimize your contact center IVR?

The best way to review your IVR system is to take a walk-through after a while. Often, the setup may be just perfect initially. Still, with changes in customer demands, it is necessary always to perform a review check to discover areas that require improvements.

Below are a few tips that will help in optimizing your contact center IVR;

Callback option:

If you don’t have this feature, it is necessary to have your IVR system updated.

A call-back feature is useful when your IVR system cannot solve a customer’s inquiry and cannot reach an agent.

Your scripting should include customers’ option to schedule a call back to the company later.

Navigation Time:

Having lengthy welcome and compliance messages can be frustrating to your callers.

While it is necessary and a requirement to have those lengthy compliance messages in some industries, there are ways around that – like only adding them to the required call queues.

Complement your brand:

Ensure the voice on your IVR matches your brand and values. You should always give your customers a 360 experience of your brand across touchpoints.

Avoid playing on-hold music that is boring, annoys callers, and doesn’t reflect your brand image.

Number of Options:

Don’t overload your callers with too many options – 8 to 10 per layer. Most will forget which number reflects which option by the time all are exhausted.

If, at the point of reading every option, the system says, "To speak to a representative, press zero," the customer is likely going to press zero and try to circumnavigate the whole system. The purpose of having a call center IVR set up to limit call traffic to agents is defeated.

Evaluate your primary menu options’ structure and determine if they are based on just internal departments or around customers’ queries.

Take a look at the options that customers select within the IVR. If the options aren’t matching up with call reason codes (wrap-up codes), you need to optimize the process by examining your IVR call-flows and messaging.

Number of Layers:

How many sub-menus do you have, and how many options have each sub-menu? If you have more than two sub-menus nested under one another, see if you can find a more logical way to structure your IVR.

If you have more than two sub-menus nested under one another, see if you can find a more logical way to structure your IVR.

Have various on-hold messages:

You should never have less than two on-hold messages, preferably three or more. Callers get frustrated listening to the same message every thirty seconds.

Spice up your IVR messages with a variety of on-hold messages.

One other thing that should not have in your IVR is apologizing for the delay on repeat. That’s a quick way to get your callers disgusted.

Look at your call queue wait times:

What do your IVR metrics say about your call wait times, call abandon rate, and the point where calls are dropping off.

At what level are customers abandoning a call within the IVR? You should figure out the reasons and have it fixed.

Update your callers about their position in the queue:

Keeping your callers posted about their position in the queue helps their patience and reassures them of progress.

Modern IVR technology can notify customers of their current position in the queue, how many callers are ahead, and how long they can expect to wait.

The Future of Contact Center IVR

The future of IVR is personalization, integrations, and enhanced self-service delivery.

IVRs will be better AI optimized to increase the first-time resolution rate and reduce call traffic to agents.

Some of the areas where IVR systems will experience significant improvements are;


Integrations to CRM systems will give context to calls and help deliver more personalization.

For example, when a customer calls, the IVR system searches through an integrated database using the contact number to identify the caller’s journey. It then predicts the likely intent for their call.

The caller navigates irrelevant steps with problem resolution in a shorter time.

Integrations with partner vendors and applications can unlock a host of ways for your IVR to route customers and provide a remarkable customer experience intelligently.

Multi-Channel Shift:

Customers would easily navigate a call to a website or any platform they are comfortable with just by the click of a button or voice command.

The reverse can also be set up where a click-to-call option connects customers from a webchat session or messaging bots to an IVR system.

Information Extensions:

IVR systems will be optimized to provide answers to common repetitive customer queries.

In industries with repetitive tasks such as cargo companies, fast food chains, and financial institutions, customers often call to know the status of their packages, orders, or account balances. AI-powered IVR takes care of this, thereby eliminating time-consuming tasks allotted to agents.

Also, IVR systems could identify FAQs from customers and responses curated, queued into information extensions for quick answers. This increases the First-Time-Resolution rate and customer satisfaction.

Agents have more time to focus on cases that require the human touch.

What’s next?

Your IVR system is one of the first touchpoints of your company and should receive much attention. You can either gain and keep customers or lose them, depending on how it is setup.

#contactcenterworld, @ccs4cx

About Call Center Studio:
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