Most businesses rely on some form of auto-attendant to greet and process callers. An auto-attendant, also called IVR (interactive voice response), tells callers how to navigate a phone system. Through voice recordings, it describes the paths callers can take and prompts them to select a single destination.
A report from Software Advice illustrates the importance of well-structured IVR. Their research suggests half of US consumers prefer to contact new businesses by phone. However, if the IVR experience is poor, 42% of said callers would take their business elsewhere. IVR also influences customer loyalty, particularly for those over the age of 54.
But what constitutes a bad IVR experience? Software Advice identifies the common pain points, listing long introductions and menus at the top. Other common complaints include lack of prioritization and datedness.
How to Optimize Your IVR System
Successful IVR systems possess similar traits. Software Advice describes a few of these in their latest report:
- Introductions kept under three seconds
- Menus of five or fewer items
- Extensions by department instead of employee (i.e. dial-by-name directory)
- Total length of roughly one minute
- Sufficient context and description to instruct callers
IVR Menu Tips
When setting up a virtual phone system, plan for human error and dead-ends. Doing so prevents hanging up on callers. This is arguably the worst possible outcome for customers or prospects.
Some systems request callers come back later. Others take an additional step and suggest alternative methods of communication. Both are effective so long as the line remains open. Giving callers no choice but to end the call gives a negative impression.
When uploading audio recordings to the system, verify the scripts are also uniform. The language should remain consistent and conversational extension-to-extension. The speaker should not change either.
The Role of an IVR System
Ideally, an IVR system offloads many tasks a receptionist performs. With that said, it should not replace him or her. This is because users may still wish to speak with an operator when lost or confused. Even if unselected, having a default option is appreciated.
Even a voice menu both fast and easy-to-use likely has some undesirable qualities. Calls directed to the wrong place waste time for everyone. They also reflect badly on the organization. A receptionist's task could be to conduct usability tests to spot inefficiencies and correct them. He or she could also be the head of customer service, supervising other employees who receive the calls.