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Implement a Transformative IVR Experience That Empowers Your Customers

Learn the strategies that will allow you to develop an effective interactive voice response (IVR) framework that supports self-service and improves customer experience.

  • Today’s customers expect a top-tier experience when interacting with businesses.
  • The advancements in IVR technology mean that IT departments are managing added complexity in drafting a strategy for a top-tier IVR approach.
  • Implementing best practices and the right enabling technology stack is critical to supporting world-class customer experience through IVR.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Don’t assume that contact centers and IVR systems are relics of the past. Customers still look to phone calls as being the most effective way to get a fast answer.
  • Tailor your IVR system for your customers. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach – understand your key customer demographics and support their experience by implementing the most effective strategies for them.
  • Don’t buy best of breed, buy best for you. Base your enabling technology selection on your requirements and use cases, not on the latest industry trends and developments.

Impact and Result

  • Before selecting and deploying technology solutions, create a database of common customer pain points and FAQs to act as an outline for the call flow tree.
  • Understand and apply operational best practices, such as ensuring proper call menu organization and using self-service applications, to improve IVR metrics and, ultimately, the customer experience.
  • Understand emerging technologies and evolving trends in the IVR space, including natural language processing and integrating your IVR with other essential enterprise applications (e.g. customer relationship management platforms).

Implement a Transformative IVR Experience That Empowers Your Customers Research & Tools

1. Transformative IVR Experience Deck – A deck outlining the best strategies and enabling technologies to implement in your IVR approach to improve your customer experience.

This storyboard offers insight into impactful strategies and beneficial enabling technologies to implement in your IVR approach to improve your customers’ experience and to reduce the load on your support staff. This deck outlines IT’s role in the IVR development process, offering insight into how to develop an effective IVR call flow and providing details on relevant enabling technologies to consider implementing to further improve your offering.

2. IVR Call Flow Template – A template designed to help you build an effective call flow tree by providing further insight into how to better understand your customers.

This template demonstrates an ideal IVR approach, outlining a sample call flow for a telecommunications company designed to meet the needs of a curated customer persona. Use this template to gain a better understanding of your own key customers and to construct your own call flow tree.


Implement a Transformative IVR Experience That Empowers Your Customers

Learn the strategies that will allow you to develop an effective interactive voice response (IVR) framework that supports self-service and improves customer experience.

Stop! Are you ready for this project?

This Research Is Designed For:

  • Business analysts, application directors/managers, and customer service leaders tasked with developing and executing a technology enablement strategy for optimizing their contact center approach.
  • Any organization aiming to improve its customer experience by implementing a customer-centric approach to over-the-phone service via an IVR system.

This Research Will Help You:

  • Adopt the best strategies for outlining an effective IVR approach and for transforming an existing IVR system.
  • Improve customer experience and ultimately customer satisfaction by enabling you to create a more efficient IVR call flow tree.
  • Select the proper IVR strategies to focus on based on the maturity level of your organization's call center.
  • Review the "art of the possible" and learn of the latest developments in successful IVR execution.
  • Learn IT's role in developing a successful IVR system and in developing a technology strategy that optimizes your IVR approach.

Executive Summary

Your Challenge

  • Today's customers expect a top-tier experience when interacting with businesses.
  • The advancements in IVR technology mean that IT departments are managing added complexity in drafting a strategy for a top-tier IVR approach.
  • Implementing best practices and the right enabling technology stack is critical to supporting world-class customer experience through IVR.

Common Obstacles

  • Many organizations do not have a clear understanding of customers' drivers for contacting their IVR.
  • As many contact centers look to improve the customer experience, the need for an impactful IVR system has markedly increased. The proliferation of recommendations for IVR best practices and related technologies has made it difficult to identify and implement the right approach.
  • With a growing number of IVR-related requests, IT must be prepared to speak intelligently about requirements and the "art of the possible."

Info-Tech's Approach

  • Before selecting and deploying technology solutions, create a database of common customer call drivers to act as an outline for the call flow tree.
  • Understand and apply operational best practices, such as ensuring proper call menu organization and using self-service applications, to improve IVR metrics and, ultimately, the customer experience.
  • Understand evolving trends and emerging technologies in the IVR space, including offering personalized service and using natural language processing/conversational AI.

Info-Tech Insight

Tailor your IVR system specifically for your customers. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Understand your key customers and support their experience by implementing the most effective strategies for them.

Voice is still the dominant way in which customers choose to receive support

Despite the contrary beliefs that the preference for phone support and IVR systems is declining, studies have consistently shown that consumers still prefer receiving customer service over the phone.

76%

of customers prefer the "traditional" medium of phone calls to reach customer support agents.

50%

of customers across all age groups generally use the phone to contact customer support, making it the most-used customer service channel.

Your IVR approach can make or break your customers' experience

The feelings that customers are left with after interacting with contact centers and support lines has a major impact on their future purchase decisions

Effective IVR systems provide customers with positive experiences, keeping them happy and satisfied. Poorly executed IVR systems leave customers feeling frustrated and contribute to an overall negative experience. Negative experiences with your IVR system could lead to your customers taking their business elsewhere.

In fact, research by Haptik shows that an average of $262 per customer is lost each year due to poor IVR experiences ("7 Conversational IVR Trends for 2021 and Beyond," Haptik, 2021).

50%

of customers have abandoned their business transactions while dealing with an IVR system.

Source: Vonage, 2020

45%

of customers will abandon a business altogether due to a poor IVR experience.

Source: "7 Remarkable IVR Trends For the Year 2022 And Beyond," Haptik, 2021

IVR systems only improve your customers' experience when done properly

There are many common mistakes that organizations make when implementing their own IVR strategies:

  1. Offering too many menu options. IVR systems are supposed to allow customers to resolve their inquiries quickly, so it is integral that you organize your menu effectively. Less is more when it comes to your IVR call flow tree.
  2. A lack of self-service capabilities. IVR systems are meant to maximize customer service and improve the customer experience by offering self-service functionality. If resolutions for common issues can't be found through IVR, your return on investment (ROI) is limited.
  3. Having callers get stuck in an "IVR loop." Customers caught hearing the same information repeatedly will often abandon their call. Don't allow customers to get "tangled" in your call flow tree; always make human contact an option.
  4. Not offering personalized service. The inability to identify customers by their number or other identifying features leads to poor personalization and time wasted repeating information, contributing to an overall negative experience.
  5. Not updating the IVR system. By not taking advantage of new developments in IVR technology and by not using customer and employee feedback to upgrade your offering, you are missing out on the potential to improve your customers' experience. Complacency kills, and your organization will be at a competitive disadvantage because of it.

Implement a transformative IVR approach that empowers your customers

Call flow trees don't grow overnight; they require commitment, nurturing, and care

  1. Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree
    • Your call flow tree will only grow as strong as the roots allow it; begin beneath the surface by understanding the needs of your customers and the goals of your organization first, before building your initial IVR menu.
  2. Allow Customers the Opportunity to Branch Out
    • Empower your customers by directing your call flow tree to self-service applications where possible and to live agents when necessary.
  3. Let Your Call Flow Tree Flourish
    • Integrate your IVR with other relevant business applications and apply technological developments that align with the needs of your customers and the goals of your organization.
  4. Keep Watering Your Call Flow Tree
    • Don't let your call flow tree die! Elicit feedback from relevant stakeholders and develop an iterative review cycle to identify and implement necessary changes to your call flow tree, ensuring continued growth.

IT plays an integral role in supporting the IVR approach

IT is responsible for providing technology enablement of the IVR strategy

While IT may not be involved in organizing the call flow tree itself, their impact on an organization's IVR approach is undeniable. Not only will IT assist with the implementation and integration of your IVR system, they will also be responsible for maintaining the technology on an ongoing basis. As such, IT should be a part of your organization's software selection team, following Info-Tech's methodology for optimizing your software selection process.

  • With an understanding of the organization's customer experience management strategy and business goals, IT should be looked toward to:
  • Provide insight into the "art of the possible" with IVR systems.
  • Recommend enabling technologies relative to your call center's maturity (e.g. agent assist and natural language processing).
  • Outline integration capabilities with your existing application portfolio.
  • Highlight any security concerns.
  • Assist with vendor engagement.
  • Take part in stakeholder feedback groups, consulting with agents about their pain points and attempting to solve their problems.

Guided Implementation

What does a typical GI on this topic look like?

Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree

Allow Customers the Opportunity to Branch Out Let Your IVR Call Flow Tree Flourish Keep Watering Your Call Flow Tree

Call #1: Introduce the project, scoping customer call drivers and defining metrics of success.

Call #3: Discuss the importance of promoting self-service and how to improve call routing processes, assessing the final tiers of the IVR.

Call #4: Discuss the benefits of integrating your IVR within your existing business architecture and using relevant enabling technologies.

Call #5: Discuss how to elicit feedback from relevant stakeholders and develop an iterative IVR review cycle, wrapping up the project.

Call #2: Begin assessing initial IVR structure.

A Guided Implementation (GI) is a series

of calls with an Info-Tech analyst to help implement our best practices in your organization.

A typical GI is 5 to 7 calls over the course of 4 to 6 months.

Phase 1

Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4

1.1 Understand your customers

1.2 Develop goals for your IVR

1.3 Align goals with KPIs

1.4 Build your initial IVR menu

2.1 Build the second tier of your IVR menu

2.2 Build the third tier of your IVR menu

3.1 Learn the benefits of a personalized IVR

3.2 Review new technology to apply to your IVR

4.1 Gather insights on your IVR's performance

4.2 Create an agile review method

This phase will walk you through the following activities:

  • Building a database of your customers' call drivers
  • Developing IVR-related goals and connecting them with your key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Developing the first tier of your IVR menu

This phase involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Implement a Transformative IVR Approach That Empowers Your Customers

Step 1.1

Understand Your Customers

This step will walk you through the following activity:

1.1.1 Build a database of the reasons why your customers call your contact center

Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • List of your customers' call drivers

Help your customers get to where they need to go

Understand which questions customers need answered the most and organize your IVR menu accordingly

  • With any IVR system, your primary focus should be creating a simple, easily navigated call flow. You not only want your customers to be able to find the solutions that they are looking for, but you want them to be able to do so easily and quickly.
  • In order to direct customers more efficiently, you need to understand why they're motivated to call your contact center. This will be different for every organization, so it requires a deeper understanding of your customers.
  • After understanding the motivators behind your customers' reasons for calling, you'll be able to organize your call flow tree effectively.
  • Assign the most popular reasons that customers call first in your IVR call flow. Organizing your call flow in such a way will ensure a quicker turn around time for customer inquiries, providing callers with the immediate resolution that they are seeking.

"Call flows are the structure of a call center's interactive voice response (IVR). They define the path a caller takes to reach a resolution. The more efficient the flow, the quicker a resolution can be – thereby delivering a better caller experience."

Thomas Randall, Ph.D.
Senior Research Analyst
Info-Tech Research Group

1.1.1 Activity: Build a list of the most common reasons that your key customers call your contact center

30 minutes

  1. As a group, review the reasons that customers call your contact center. This includes reviewing which questions are asked most frequently, what services are most often inquired about, and what pain points and complaints live agents hear most regularly.
  2. Organize each call driver from most to least popular based on how often they are heard.
  3. Record your findings.
Input Output
  • List of common customer questions
  • List of common customer pain points/complaints
  • Database of customer call drivers
Materials Participants
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Project team
  • Customer service leaders/live agents

Info-Tech Insight

To understand why your customers are calling, first you need to know who your customers are. Improve your caller understanding by creating customer personas.

1.1.1 Activity: Build a list of the most common reasons that your key customers call your contact center

Example

Customer Call Drivers
Need to pay a bill
Complaints about an outage to their service
Inquiry about new plans
Need to update account information
Complaints about their last bill

Step 1.2

Develop Goals for Your IVR

This step will walk you through the following activity:

1.2.1 Outline IVR-related goals relevant to your organization.

Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Goals for your organizational IVR

Create IVR-related goals you wish for your organization to achieve

Organizations across different industries will measure success in a multitude of ways; develop goals that are relevant to your needs and desires

Based on your customer experience strategy and what industry you're in, the goals that you aim to accomplish will look different. A doctor's office will be more concerned with an accurate diagnosis and high first call resolution rate than low average talk time!

Setting business goals relevant to your organization is only half of the battle; it's just as important to hold your organization accountable to those goals and measure your continued progress toward meeting them.

1.2.1 Activity: Brainstorm a list of goals that you would like your organization to achieve when optimizing your IVR approach

30 minutes

  1. In two to three groups, brainstorm goals related to your IVR that are relevant to your organization.
  2. Classify these goals as being either quick wins or part of a longer-term engagement based on the time they would take to accomplish.
  3. Introduce your goals to the entire group, coming to an agreement on the top goals that the organization should aim to achieve through implementing a new/transformed IVR approach.
InputOutput
  • Customer experience strategy
  • Desired IVR-related achievements
  • Organizational IVR goals
MaterialsParticipants
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Project team

1.2.1 Activity: Brainstorm a list of goals that you would like your organization to achieve when optimizing your IVR approach

Example

Goal Designation
Lower the average queue time Quick win
Lower call abandonment rate Quick win
Lower customer attrition Long-term
Lower employee attrition Long-term
Increase average speed of answer Quick win

Step 1.3

Align Your Goals With Your KPIs

This step will walk you through the following activity:

1.3.1 Review your organizational IVR goals and connect them with your key performance indicators (KPIs)

Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Metrics used to measure organizational success related to your IVR

Ensure you are using the proper metrics for measuring the success of your call flow tree

You won't know if your IVR is operating successfully if you don't know what success looks like for you. It is important to align your contact center KPIs with your business goals so you can hold your IVR system accountable.

Example

Metric Description Current Score Target Score [Date/Year]
First call resolution
Average abandonment rate
Customer attrition
Employee attrition
Average queue time
Service level
Average speed of answer
Average handle time
Average call transfer rate
Average talk time
Customer self-service resolution
Agent satisfaction
Customer satisfaction

1.3.1 Activity: Develop KPIs for your contact center and connect them to your organization's business goals

30 minutes

  1. As a group, establish the metrics or KPIs that will be used to measure your progress against the organizational IVR goals created in Activity 1.2.1.
  2. Take note of your current score for each of your organizational goals and determine your target score.
  3. Attach a deadline or target date by which you would like to reach your target score. Target dates can vary based on whether your goal is classified as a quick win or part of a longer-term engagement.
InputOutput
  • Organizational IVR goals
  • KPIs
MaterialsParticipants
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Project team

Step 1.4

Build Your Initial IVR Menu

This step will walk you through the following activity:

1.4.1 Develop the first tier of your IVR menu, determining the initial selections that customers will have to choose from

Focus on the Roots of Your Call Flow Tree

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Tier one of your IVR call flow tree

Keep your IVR concise – minimize the length of your voice prompts and limit the depth of your menus

You don't want to overload your customers with information. Providing your callers with overly detailed prompts and too many menu options will only lead to frustration, ultimately diminishing both the efficiency and the effectiveness of your IVR. Limiting the length of your voice prompts and the depth of your menus will lay out a clear path for your callers, increasing the likelihood that they are able to navigate your IVR accurately.

Each of your IVR menus should provide your customers with no more than five selections.

Your IVR should offer a maximum of three menu tiers.

Each of your selection "descriptions" or voice prompts should be no longer than four seconds in length.

Info-Tech Insight

According to a study by Telzio (2020), introductory IVR messages that greet your customers and identify your company should be under 7.9 seconds in length. Longer introductions will only bore, frustrate, and overload the customer before the call really even begins.

When developing your voice prompts, it is integral to speak clearly using simple and easily understood language

  • Speak clearly and stay away from industry-specific jargon to ensure that your voice prompts are widely understood by your customer base. This will allow callers to digest the information relayed through your IVR more accurately.
  • Part of increasing the retention of information communicated through your IVR is also ensuring that sufficient pauses are taken between each of your voice prompts. Just as you want to avoid overloading your customers with voice prompts that are too long and too detailed, you also want to give your callers adequate time to process the information that is being relayed to them.
  • Improving the ease of listening to your IVR will reduce the risk of overwhelming your callers and will increase the likelihood that they are able to follow along appropriately, directing themselves down the proper call flow.

Info-Tech Insight

Securing voice talent and be expensive and cumbersome. Consider using an automated voice through a text-to-speech solution for your prompts. This will ensure that all your prompts are consistent throughout your menus, and it also makes it significantly easier to provide crucial updates within your IVR system.

When sufficient pauses are taken between menu options, input errors can be reduced by over…

Source: Ansafone Contact Centers, 2019

1.4.1 Activity: Begin building your call flow tree by developing the initial selections that customers will choose from when dialing into your IVR

30 minutes

  1. Review the database of customer call drivers completed in Activity 1.1.1 to create the opening menu of your IVR call flow tree.
  2. Limit your selections/prompts to a maximum of five by grouping related questions, services, and complaints/pain points into broad categories.
  3. Organize your selections/prompts according to how often customers call in relating to that topic.

Info-Tech Insight

Remember: You don't need five selections! That is the maximum recommended number of prompts to use and will most likely be reserved for more complex call flows. More isn't always better. If you can limit your initial menu to fewer selections, then do so.

InputOutput
  • Database of customer call drivers
  • Initial IVR menu
MaterialsParticipants
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Project team

1.4.1 Activity: Begin building your call flow tree by developing the initial selections that customers will choose from when dialing into your IVR

Example

IVR Initial Greeting

1. For Billing and Payments

2. To Report an Outage

3. To Make Changes to Your Plan or Account

Phase 2

Allow Customers the Opportunity to Branch Out

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4

1.1 Understand your customers

1.2 Develop goals for your IVR

1.3 Align goals with KPIs

1.4 Build your initial IVR menu

2.1 Build the second tier of your IVR menu

2.2 Build the third tier of your IVR menu

3.1 Learn the benefits of a personalized IVR

3.2 Review new technology to apply to your IVR

4.1 Gather insights on your IVR's performance

4.2 Create an agile review method

This phase will walk you through the following activities:

  • Completing the second tier of your call flow tree
  • Completing the third and final tier of your call flow tree

This phase involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Implement a Transformative IVR Approach That Empowers Your Customers

Step 2.1

Build the Second Tier of Your IVR Menu

This step will walk you through the following activity:

  • 2.1.1 Complete the second tier of your call flow tree, branching out from your initial menu

Allow Customers the Opportunity to Branch Out

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Tier 2 of your IVR call flow tree

An IVR system should empower your customers to solve problems on their own

Integrate business applications into your IVR menus to enable self-service capabilities and automate processes where possible

  • An IVR system should assist your customer service team while also empowering your customers. This can be accomplished through offering self-service and using automated messaging via a broadcast messaging system.
  • Some common self-service practices include providing callers with the ability to check credit card statements, pay bills, and track shipments.
  • Automated messaging can be used to address common customer questions. For instance, if a company-wide issue exists, an automated message can outline the issue and highlight the approximate time for resolution, providing customers with the answer they were seeking while eliminating the need to speak to a live agent. This technique is commonly practiced by internet providers during outages.
  • Providing callers with the opportunity to find a resolution for themselves through self-service and automated messaging not only improves the customer experience but also frees up your customer service team for more pressing matters.

73%

of customers want to be provided with the ability to solve issues on their own.

67%

of customers prefer to use self-service options over speaking with a customer service representative.

Source: Raffle, 2020

2.1.1 Activity: Grow your call flow tree! Begin branching out from your initial menu options and develop the second tier of your IVR system

30 minutes

  1. Branch out from your initial IVR menu created in Activity 1.4.1. Get more specific in your prompts, branching out from the general groupings you have created.
  2. Consult with your database of customer call drivers created in Activity 1.1.1 to organize your subgroupings, again prioritizing the services most sought and the questions, complaints, and pain points most frequently heard.
  3. Limit each subsection to a maximum of five prompts.

Info-Tech Insight

Always provide your callers with the option to go back to a previous menu or to have menu options repeated.

InputOutput
  • Database of customer call drivers
  • Initial IVR menu
  • Second IVR menu
MaterialsParticipants
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Project team

2.1.1 Activity: Grow your call flow tree! Begin branching out from your initial menu options and develop the second tier of your IVR system

Example

This is an image of the sample flow tree from Activity 2.1.1


Step 2.2

Build the Third Tier of Your IVR Menu

This step will walk you through the following activity:

2.2.1 Complete your call flow tree by branching out your third and final tier of menu options.

Allow Customers the Opportunity to Branch Out

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Third and final tier of your IVR call flow tree

Provide your callers with the option to speak to a live agent – but not too soon

While promoting self-service and automating certain processes will improve the functionality of your IVR, it is also important to realize that some issues will ultimately require human intervention. An effective IVR system harmonizes these concepts by making human contact an option, but not too early in the process. You need to find the right balance!

When organizing your IVR call flow tree, you need to be conscious of sending clients in an endless "IVR loop." You should never have your IVR continually repeat its menu options. Customers will abandon an IVR if they are stuck in an IVR loop, being forced to listen to the same information repeatedly without having a way to reach an agent.

If a problem cannot be solved within three steps or by the third tier of your IVR menus, callers should be provided with the option to speak to a live agent, if not automatically routed to one. By providing your callers with the option to speak to a live agent on the third tier of your IVR, you are still offering ample time for customers to discover an avenue to solve their issue on their own through self-service, without frustrating them by losing them in an endless loop of IVR options.

30%

of customers say that not being able to reach a human agent is the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer service experience.

Source: ProProfs Chat, 2022

Info-Tech Insight

Consider routing callers to a live agent not only on the third tier of your IVR menus but also after three input errors. Multiple input errors can show an eagerness to speak to a representative or a strong misunderstanding of the IVR offering.

How you direct a customer to a live agent can make all the difference

Don't think that just offering your customers the option to speak to a live agent is enough. When aiming to significantly improve your customers' experience, how you direct calls to your live agents plays a major role. When a call is being directed to a live agent, be sure to:

  • Optimize your call routing and minimize call transfers. Use skills-based routing to direct your incoming client calls to the most suitable agent to resolve their issue. Inaccurately routing callers through your IVR leads to having to transfer the customer to another agent, which is a major contributor to a negative customer experience.
  • Include wait-time expectations and call-back functionality. There is no denying it: Waiting on hold can be a real pain. If a customer needs to go on hold, inform them of where they are in the queue and what the approximate wait time is. A little transparency can go a long way. You should also provide customers with the option to have a representative call them back. This greatly improves the customer experience, particularly when wait times are long.
  • Play useful on-hold messages. If a customer does decide to wait on the line to speak to a representative, ensure your on-hold messaging doesn't negatively impact their experience. Always have multiple songs and messages available to cycle through to limit customer annoyance. For on-hold messages, consider mentioning self-service capabilities available on other channels or providing company news and information on special promotions. Know your key customer demographics and plan your on-hold messaging accordingly.

72%

of customers view having to talk to multiple agents as poor customer service.

Source: ProProfs Chat, 2022

33%

of customers highlight waiting on hold as being their biggest frustration.

Source: EmailAnalytics, 2022

2.2.1 Activity: Complete your call flow tree!

30 minutes

  1. Branch out from the second tier of your IVR call flow tree created in Activity 2.1.1, connecting relevant prompts with self-service applications and automated responses. Keep in mind, most of your frequently asked questions can and should be directed toward an automated response.
  2. Direct all remaining prompts to a live agent, ensuring each selection from your second-tier menu is capped off appropriately.

Info-Tech Insight

Remember: Your IVR system doesn't live in isolation. The information offered by your IVR, particularly from automated messages, should be consistent with information found within other resources (e.g. online knowledge bases).

InputOutput
  • Tier 1 and 2 of your IVR menus
  • Completed IVR call flow
MaterialsParticipants
  • Whiteboard
  • Markers
  • Project team

2.2.1 Activity: Complete your call flow tree!

Example

This is an image of the sample flow tree from Activity 2.2.1

Phase 3

Let Your IVR Call Flow Tree Flourish

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4

1.1 Understand your customers

1.2 Develop goals for your IVR

1.3 Align goals with KPIs

1.4 Build your initial IVR menu

2.1 Build the second tier of your IVR menu

2.2 Build the third tier of your IVR menu

3.1 Learn the benefits of a personalized IVR

3.2 Review new technology to apply to your IVR

4.1 Gather insights on your IVR's performance

4.2 Create an agile review method

This phase will walk you through the following activities:

  • Reviewing the benefits of offering personalized service
  • Reviewing new technologies offered in the IVR space

This phase involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Implement a Transformative IVR Approach That Empowers Your Customers

Step 3.1

Learn the Benefits of a Personalized IVR

This step will walk you through the following activity:

3.1.1 Review the benefits of offering personalized service, namely by connecting your IVR system with your customer knowledge base

Let Your IVR Call Flow Tree Flourish

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Understanding the importance of offering personalized service

Personalizing service is integral for improving your customer experience

Integrate your IVR system with your customer relationship management (CRM) system or customer knowledge base of choice to provide support to your customers on a personal level.

The integration of your IVR system with your CRM or other applicable knowledge base allows for customer data (e.g. customer history and previous interactions) to be accessible to your staff during calls. Access to this data allows for a deeper understanding of your customers and for personalization of service. This provides immediate benefits to your contact center that will improve your customer experience.

When you inevitably do need to transfer a customer to another agent, they won't have to repeat their issue to a new representative, as all their information will now be easily accessible. Being forced to repeat themselves to multiple agents is a major cause of frustration for customers. This integration would also allow you to route callers to the previous agent that they dealt with whenever possible for the purpose of continuity, and it would enable you to implement other beneficial technologies as well.

One such example is "agent assist." Agent assist is an AI bot that listens in on calls, learning customer context and automatically searching knowledge bases to help resolve queries without the agent having to put the caller on hold to manually perform that work themselves. Not only does agent assist improve customer resolution times, but it also ramps up onboarding time, allowing for new agents to enter the workforce and perform with confidence earlier.

76%

of consumers expect personalized experiences.

71%

of customers expect internal collaboration so that they don't have to repeat themselves.

Source: Zendesk, 2019

Personalization can empower your IVR in many ways

Personalizing your IVR does much more than just provide your customer service representatives with conversational context. Personalization enables your IVR to recognize callers by their phone number, or even by voice via biometric authentication technologies.

This advanced level of recognition allows your IVR to greet your callers by name, speak to them in their preferred language, send follow-up correspondence to their preferred method of communication (i.e. email or SMS), and even provide them with contact numbers and addresses for your organization's physical locations that are closest to them.

An example of a more advanced functionality is having your IVR call flow personalized for each customer based on their call history. As customers call in, their data is collected, ultimately improving your IVR's ability to predict and understand caller intent. This makes personalized call flows possible. If customers typically call in to make payments, your IVR can logically deduce that their next call will be for the same reason, and it will alter the call menu to direct them to that functionality more efficiently.

Step 3.2

Review New Technology to Apply to Your IVR

This step will walk you through the following activity:

3.2.1 Review new technologies offered in the IVR space and understand their impact

Let Your IVR Call Flow Tree Flourish

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Understanding of key technologies

Let your customers tell you exactly what they need

Use natural language processing and conversational AI to further advance your IVR offering

Instead of making your customers work their way through your call flow tree to find out what they need, why not just ask them? Conversational IVR, also known as an "intuitive IVR system," makes this possible.

Think Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa. Your customers can simply tell you what they need and your conversational IVR, using the advancements in natural language processing and conversational AI, will take it from there, directing callers to the resources needed to resolve their issues.

Powerful enough to understand full sentences and not just select words or phrases, the increased intelligence of a conversational IVR system allows it to handle complex customer inquiries. Leveraging machine learning capabilities, the system will only continue to improve its ability to understand caller intent, ultimately leading to increased call routing accuracy as it fields more and more calls.

Info-Tech Insight

Remember: Your customers want fast and easy, not overwhelming and confusing. Some customers who are greeted with an open-ended question from a conversational IVR may not be sure how to respond.

Understand your key customer demographics and act accordingly. It may be beneficial to provide your callers with guidelines of what to say. Outlining appropriate responses that will guide your customers to their desired department quicker will boost their experience with your conversational IVR.

There are a lot of benefits to implementing a conversational IVR

  • Putting your callers in control and offering a more humanized approach, conversational IVRs are the preferred first point of contact for customers.
  • Conversational IVRs reduce the time required to reach resolution and can handle more calls than a standard IVR.
  • Conversational IVRs allow for the collection of more relevant data. By not limiting callers to predetermined menu options, you can track the reasons behind customers' calls with more accuracy, using this data to drive future IVR developments.
  • Conversational IVRs are more cost-effective than standard IVRs. According to a report by IBM, companies world-wide spend over $1.3 trillion to address 256 billion customer calls annually. This means that each call a live agent addresses costs an average of $30 (Cognigy, 2020). With a conversational IVR, that cost can be reduced to one-eighth (ETCIO.com, 2020).
  • Conversational IVRs can be handle calls in multiple languages, offering improved scalability for companies operating multi-nationally.

60%

of callers will bypass the pre-recorded messages in a standard IVR to reach a human voice.

Source: Cognigy, 2020

66%

of requests can be resolved faster by a conversational IVR than by a live agent.

Source: Cognigy, 2020

Despite this, only...

28%

of IVR systems contacted use voice response as their primary input method.

Source: Telzio, 2020

How do you know if a conversational IVR is right for your organization?

Large, enterprise-level organizations that field a high volume of customer calls are more likely to receive the benefits and higher ROI from implementing a conversational IVR

Instead of updating the entire IVR system and implementing a conversational IVR, smaller and mid-level organizations should consider attaching a natural language processing front-end to their existing IVR. Through this, you will be able to reap a lot of the same benefits you would if you were to upgrade to a conversational IVR.

You can attach a natural language processing front-end to your existing IVR in two ways.

  1. Use an API to recognize your customer's voice prompts. Greet your customers with a question, such as "what is your reason for calling," as your initial IVR menu, and when your customer answers, their response will be sent to your selected API (Amazon Lex, IBM Watson, Google Dialogflow, etc.). The API will then process the customer's input and direct the caller to the appropriate branch of your call flow tree.
  2. Use a conversational AI platform to field your calls. Implement a conversational AI platform to be the first point of contact for your customers. After receiving and analyzing the input from your customers, the platform would then route your callers to your current IVR system and to the appropriate menu, whether that be to an automated message, a self-service application, or a live agent.

Phase 4

Keep Watering Your IVR Call Flow Tree

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 4

1.1 Understand your customers

1.2 Develop goals for your IVR

1.3 Align goals with KPIs

1.4 Build your initial IVR menu

2.1 Build the second tier of your IVR menu

2.2 Build the third tier of your IVR menu

3.1 Learn the benefits of a personalized IVR

3.2 Review new technology to apply to your IVR

4.1 Gather insights on your IVR's performance

4.2 Create an agile review method

This phase will walk you through the following activities:

  • Understanding the importance of receiving feedback from relevant stakeholders and the best practices for obtaining feedback
  • Understanding the best practices for developing an ongoing review cycle

This phase involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Implement a Transformative IVR Approach That Empowers Your Customers

Step 4.1

Gather Insights on Your IVR's Performance

This step will walk you through the following activity:

4.1.1 Understand the importance of receiving feedback and review the best methods for obtaining it from your clients.

Keep Watering Your IVR Call Flow Tree

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Understanding of the importance of receiving feedback and how to obtain it from customers

Elicit feedback from your employees and from your customers

Your live agents are on the proverbial front lines, fielding calls from customers daily. As such, they are the prime stakeholders for knowing what kinds of calls the organization receives and how often. Their input on the most frequent reasons that customers call, whether it be to address common pain points or to have FAQs answered, is invaluable. Ask them regularly for their feedback on how the IVR system is performing and which updates should be implemented.

While improving the agent experience is a driver behind adopting an IVR system, the focus should always be improving your customer experience. So why wouldn't you ask your customers for their feedback on your IVR offering? Most customers don't only want to be asked to provide feedback, they expect to be asked. Have your agents ask your customers directly about their experience with your IVR or use the functions of your IVR to offer automated end-of-call surveys.

Info-Tech Insight

Many IVR systems are capable of recording calls. Listening back on previous calls is another great way to further understand how your IVR is performing, and it also can provide a glimpse into your customers' experience.

Surveys provide great insight into your customers' level of satisfaction – not only with your IVR but also with your live agents

Customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is a great way to determine how happy callers are with their experiences with your organization. CSAT surveys ask your clients outright how satisfied they are with their recent interaction and have them rate your service on a scale. While straightforward, the feedback received from CSAT surveys is more general and can lack depth.

For more detailed responses, consider asking your clients an open-ended question as opposed to using a rating scale. This will provide you with a more specific understanding of your customers' experience. For this, an IVR system that supports voice transcription is best. Automated speech-to-text functionality will ensure rapid results.

Another option is to offer a survey that includes skip logic. These multi-tiered surveys, much like an IVR call flow tree, direct your callers to different follow-up questions based on their previous answers. While capable of providing more insight into the customer experience, these surveys are only recommended for more complex service offerings.

Customer feedback is vitally important

Asking for feedback makes your callers feel valued, and it also provides your organization with extremely useful information – including an understanding of what you may need to change within your IVR

90%

of consumers believe that organizations should provide them with the opportunity to give customer feedback.

Source: SmallBizGenius, 2022

41%

of customer support professionals say that CSAT is their team's most important KPI.

Source: Hiver, 2022

Step 4.2

Create an Agile Review Method

This step will walk you through the following activity:

4.2.1 Understand the best practices for developing an ongoing review cycle for your IVR approach

Keep Watering Your IVR Call Flow Tree

This step involves the following participants:

  • Business stakeholders (business analysts, application director/manager, customer service leaders)
  • IT project team

Outcomes of this step

  • Understanding of the importance of IVR maintenance and of the development of an iterative review cycle

Create an agile review method to continually enhance your call flows

  • Track items
    • Elicit feedback from your key stakeholders (i.e. live agents) as part of a regular review – every month, two months, six months, or year – of your call flow tree's efficiency. Delve into the feedback elicited from your customers at the same intervals. Look for patterns and trends and record items accordingly.
  • Manage backlog
    • Store and organize your recorded items into a backlog, prioritizing items to implement in order of importance. This could be structured by way of identifying which items are a quick win vs. which items are part of a more strategic and long-term implementation.
  • Perform iteration
    • Record key metric scores and communicate the changes you have planned to stakeholders before you implement items. Then, make the change.
  • Be retrospective
    • Examine the success of the implementation by comparing your metric scores from before and after the change. Record instances where performing similar changes could be carried out better in future iterations.

Summary of Accomplishment

  • Knowledge Gained
    • Benefits of enabling personalized service
    • IVR-enabling technologies
    • Methods of eliciting feedback
  • Processes Optimized
    • IVR voice prompt creation
    • IVR voice prompt organization
    • IVR review cycles
  • Deliverables Completed
    • Database of customer call drivers
    • Organizational IVR goals and KPIs
    • IVR call flow tree

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Guided Implementation #1 - Focus on the roots of your call flow tree
  • Call #1 - Introduce the project, scoping customer call drivers and defining metrics of success.
  • Call #2 - Begin assessing initial IVR structure.

Guided Implementation #2 - Allow customers the opportunity to branch out
  • Call #1 - Discuss the importance of promoting self-service and how to improve call routing processes, assessing the final tiers of the IVR.

Guided Implementation #3 - Let your IVR call flow tree flourish
  • Call #1 - Discuss the benefits of integrating your IVR within your existing business architecture and using relevant enabling technologies.

Guided Implementation #4 - Keep watering your call flow tree
  • Call #1 - Discuss how to elicit feedback from relevant stakeholders and develop an iterative IVR review cycle, wrapping up the project.

Author

Austin Wagar

Contributors

  • Valeriy Frants, IVR Developer, Metrolinx
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