Is Your IVR A Good Host?

When a call comes in, your IVR is like a conference host. It greets attendees, uncovers their needs, and handles as many issues as possible on the spot. When it can’t, it takes customers to the right booths and breakout sessions.

Here are five of the reasons IVRs do a lousy job as host—and how they can do better.

They Throw People Out of the Conference

An attendee is just about to dip his shrimp in the cocktail sauce when he’s suddenly picked up and tossed out on his ear. By mistake.

This goes straight to the issue of quality of system, of network, and of gear: dropped calls must be down to zero. And when something does happen, your IVR needs to be able to pick up instantly where it left off when the customer calls back.

They Don’t Know Your Attendee’s Names

Your conference attendees have name badges. Your host ignores them and asks everyone their name. 

For your IVR, that name badge is their Caller ID. (I know, sometimes people block theirs—just as some people won’t wear their name tag.) Your IVR should be able to recognize the CID and instantly match it to your customer database, your sales rep database, your geographical database. And more.

They Don’t Know Anything Else About Them Either

Your attendees identify themselves, but your host—every single time—draws a blank. “Are you a customer?” “Do you want to talk to a sales rep?” “Are you an Earthling?”

Databases reach across your business, including accounts, loyalty status, orders in the pipeline, product availability, recent purchases, inventory levels and so on. Connecting to all those channels significantly accelerates the time to resolution, since the IVR can eliminate irrelevant options and cut right to the customer’s chase. If the call is from a first-time customer, that information lets the IVR route the call to the correct regional sales office, and connect the right shippers, warehouses and more to the conversation.

Think of all the menu trees you’ll save when your IVR knows your customer.

They Don’t Introduce Your Customers

Hosts should facilitate connections between people. But instead of introducing people, and providing background, your host just points across the room and says “That lady. Over there.”

When your IVR transfers a customer—whether it’s to another automated function (for instance, to reorder product) or to a live agent (for instance, for technical support)—it has to transfer all the information about that customer, all the time. That will include not just their identity, but their reason for calling, previous case notes, order history, and more. If your caller has to repeat anything but authentication codes, your IVR has dropped the ball.

They Can’t Understand What Your Customers Say

Your host only knows a couple of dozen words in any of the languages your attendees speak. 

Natural language engines remove a lot of the frustration with IVR interaction. They allow your customers to use their own vocabulary in their native language. Often, they recognize the language by listening to your customers speak. One other thing: once your IVR identifies your customers’ language preferences, it should remember them on the next call.

It’s your show. Don’t let your IVR ruin it.