Posts Tagged ‘IVR’

Effective Ways to Leverage Outbound IVR in the Call Center

Posted on: October 3rd, 2019 by Elemér Erdősi No Comments

Have you ever asked your customers what the first thing is that comes to their minds when they think of IVR systems?

Well, the bad news is that it’s probably the vision of never-ending calls, with an automated system playing annoying music in the background until they get transferred to a live agent.

The good news is that these days, thanks to rapidly advancing technology solutions, an IVR system can be used for a lot more than just routing callers’ incoming queries.

IVR technology can now also be used for outbound purposes as well, a well-constructed outbound IVR allowing companies to excel at some of the most important customer service activities.

Check out my article and find out what the most effective ways are to use an outbound IVR system in the call center!

Outbound IVR surveys

As we all know, customer feedback is vital to any business. On one hand, by collecting customer feedback, you can communicate that your customers’ opinions matters to you. On the other hand, customer reviews contain some of the most valuable information you can gather about your product, allowing you to improve your processes in the long run. After all, it is customers who use your products, isn’t it?

When it comes to collecting feedback, companies often send out mass SMS messages with a link that directs customers to a survey they can fill out. And while this is one way of collecting customer feedback, why not instead simply give your customers a call and ask them directly for their opinion?  

An outbound IVR can be used to proactively reach out to a large number of customers and conduct a survey with them over the phone. Customers can either use their dial pad to type their message or simply say their opinion out loud while the IVR system records it, and using speech-to-text these voice responses can be also saved as a text.

Luckily, outbound IVR survey calls can be personalized as well. By leveraging text to speech technology, for example, you can address your customers by name and further personalize the message by providing additional personal details in the conversation.

IVR for debt collection

One thing is certain, debt collection companies receive a lot of payment promises. There’s only one problem: these promises are not usually kept. When this happens, debt collectors have no other choice but to repeatedly call back customers and remind them of their outstanding debts. And of course, it is costly allocating some of your resources to repeatedly remind the same customers of their debts.

So, have you thought about launching an outbound IVR campaign that uses a recorded message to notify customers of their outstanding debts and due dates? For example, VCC Live’s outbound IVR feature can calculate and subsequently let customers know how many days are left until they need to settle their debts.

And if you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can even offer your customers the option of being transferred to a live agent or self-service to pay their debts during a call. How amazing is that?

Telesales and lead generation

Outbound IVR systems can also be used for telesales and lead generation purposes. Most companies have at least a few databases with extremely cold contacts who almost never pick up their phone.

Allocating members of your workforce to repeatedly call numbers that are unavailable for the majority of the time is unlikely to bring any return to your business. And this is where an outbound IVR campaign comes in handy: you can launch an outbound IVR campaign specifically for your cold contacts, and if any of those customers pick up, they can be automatically transferred to a live agent. By doing this, you can make the most of your cold contacts without having to waste your expensive workforce on them.

Furthermore, it is the main goal of any telesales department to prospect for qualified leads. Finding these qualified leads, however, takes a lot of cold calling, which is again very costly. An outbound IVR system, on the other hand, can greatly improve your lead conversion process by pre-qualifying interest.

In other words, you can start automated cold calls, play messages regarding your product, and then offer customers an option to be transferred to a live agent if they are interested.

Mass notifications with outbound IVR

Outages and service interruptions can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. In such cases, you’ll need to notify hundreds or even thousands of customers about the interruptions within the shortest possible time period.

But handling mass notifications in a call center greatly reduces productivity, as agents end up dealing with the notifications rather than handling customer queries. However, one effective way to easily communicate such interruptions with your customers is by sending out mass notifications through an outbound IVR.

Again, you can personalize your mass notifications by using a combination of pre-recorded audio and text-to-speech technology.

Of course, with an outbound IVR, you can communicate other important messages as well, such as letting your customers know of unexpected changes in your business, driving them towards last-minute sales, or reminding them of an upcoming appointment with your company. 

Outbound IVR systems can be greatly beneficial for any call center that deals with outbound customer activities. Make sure you also leverage it!

Major IVR Technology Mistakes Your Business Needs to Avoid

Posted on: August 17th, 2018 by dorarapcsak 1 Comment

Well-constructed IVR technology can be a great way to improve overall customer experience, allowing customers to efficiently contact specific departments and navigate to the appropriate agent. If you get it right, your customer service will definitely shine.

But if you get it wrong, the result will be a bunch of angry customers and a poor customer service reputation.

These days, it is common for companies to use IVR systems to more effectively handle their customer service traffic. However, many of them make simple but serious mistakes with their IVR, thus missing out on leveraging the technology to its full extent.

Of course, designing a well-constructed IVR that meets the needs of thousands of customers located around the world is no easy task.

So, to help you out, here is my list of the most common IVR technology mistakes I’ve seen during my 7 years’ experience as a customer service leader at a multinational company that provides customer service in 9 languages and deals with an average of 2500 incoming calls a day. Check them out and make sure your company is not also making the same mistakes. 

Mistake number 1: you don’t allow your customers to request a callback

Time is money – to your customers as well as your business. So, when customers call you, don’t make them wait on the line for too long, instead give them the option to request a callback.

One major IVR technology mistake is giving customers no choice but to wait on the phone until they are transferred to an agent, however long that takes.

Thanks to the latest technological advances, you can add and implement a callback function into your IVR system as an extra menu option. I’m pretty sure that whenever your customer service’s waiting queue is too long, your customers will appreciate it.

The benefit of implementing a callback function is that your customer service lines will be less burdened, and by covering the cost of callbacks, your customers will be able to see that you actually care for them. So you’ll be killing two birds with one stone!

Mistake number 2: you don’t inform customers of expected waiting times

Also in connection with queue waiting times, another major mistake many companies make is that they often do not inform customers how long it will take for them to be put through to an agent. As you can imagine, for customers it’s more than frustrating holding the line for an unspecified period of time, waiting and waiting…

But now there is virtual waiting queue technology to help you. Forward-thinking customer service lines are already leveraging this cutting-edge technology, which estimates the waiting time for customers and offers them the option of a callback when it’s their turn in the line.

And yes, it’s as simple as it sounds: a customer hangs up the phone and when the estimated waiting time is over, they simply receive a callback from your customer service. Amazing, right?

Mistake number 3: your IVR is too complicated or long – or both

In our fast-paced world, people want to have their issues resolved as quickly as possible. This is why making customers navigate through an IVR menu containing lengthy and complicated messages is probably one of the worst things you can do to your business.

If customers become confused or bored as your IVR repeats unclear or superfluous information, you can be sure that many of them will hang up.

Of course, the main goal of an IVR system is to direct customers to whichever department is appropriate for their issue, and as such larger companies often have no choice but to design an IVR system with a number of menu points.

However, in all cases try to ensure that your IVR messages are as brief and as simple as possible. It’s also a great idea to upload an IVR map to your website, as it helps customers gather the information they need without having to listen to your menu options one after the other.

Mistake number 4: your IVR lacks customer personalization

There’s no doubt that customer personalization is a hot topic in CX right now. Today’s customers are demanding, and expect tailor-made solutions to their problems. And, as they are paying for your service, they want that solution without delay.

One way of satisfying these customer demands is by utilizing customer personalization in your IVR. This will definitely help your business stand out from the crowd.

Let’s take an example: “For English version, please press……” is a common sentence we hear towards the end of IVR messages at companies for whom English is a secondary language. However, only sharing this information at the end is a huge mistake, because English speaking customers may have already hung up before getting to that option!

This is where customer personalization can help: it is now possible to filter calls based on callerIDs. By doing this, you can automatically switch customers calling from foreign numbers to your English-language IVR.

In addition, you can also use callerIDs to filter customers based on the region they are calling from. For instance, if your service is down in one region, it’s very likely that calls from that region will immediately increase. In such cases, you can simply filter calls from that region and display a message to them regarding the relevant issue.

Of course, there are other techniques as well to add a bit of personalization to your IVR system. For instance, you can filter incoming calls and direct customers to the appropriate agent based on customer identification numbers. Make sure to store all relevant customer information (in a GDPR compliant way!) in a reliable CRM system and make it available to your agents. Once your customers give their identification number, your agents will be able to deliver a more personalized customer service by using the customer information your call center stores.

Mistake number 5: you make your customers repeat the same information again and again

Yet another one of the most annoying IVR technology mistakes that drives customers crazy is when they are required to repeat the same information again and again.

Many times customers are asked to give their names and identification number in order to get transferred to a specific agent, and then when they are transferred, the agent asks for the exact same information again.

It’s difficult to win customers’ trust anyway, but if you make them repeat the same information again and again, they will feel they are not valued by your company.

My advice here is to keep and use customer information and make it available to all customer service reps, so that they have no need to ask customers to repeat information. As we all know, call centers accumulate an incredible amount of data, so here is a chance to use that data to leverage your customer satisfaction.

Mistake number 6: you don’t offer alternative communication channels for your customers to contact you on

Multichannel communication is becoming an essential part of our business world, so I trust your business is already utilizing it. By allowing your customers to use different channels to contact your customer service on, you can handle customer queries more efficiently and effectively.

As for IVR technology, it’s definitely a big mistake to make customers wait on the line without providing them with the option of contacting your customer service on another channel (as well as the option of a callback, as previously discussed).

Offering waiting customers, for instance, the option of contacting you via email or even webchat will help reduce wait times, increase efficiency, and again, improve your company’s customer service reputation.

Mistake number 7: your IVR doesn’t help customers outside opening hours

Technologies change in the blink of an eye, and so does customer behavior. While not so long ago customers relied on customer service phone lines when they needed help, today they prefer to solve problems on their own rather than contacting customer service departments.

In such an environment, one of the most common IVR technology mistakes I have experienced many times during the years is having IVR messages outside working hours that say “currently we’re not open, please call us back tomorrow at …”.

And to be honest, such messages are of no use at all to customers. If they want to know your opening hours, they’ll simply check your website.

Furthermore, depending on your business, your customers may not even need to speak to your customer service reps in order to solve a particular issue. For example, if you run an airline, you can allow your customers to check their flight number using only their phone: there really is no need for a customer service rep in such a situation.

The best way to try and satisfy these increasingly-common customer demands and expectations is to design and implement an IVR system with self-service options. It’s definitely not an easy task, but it’s worth the effort in the long term. And, as I already said, it’s fast becoming the norm.

Mistake 8: you don’t ask for feedback

Chances are that thousands of customers use your IVR system on a daily basis. And as we all know, however well-designed you think your IVR menu may be, there’s always room for improvement. And who better to help you improve than your customers!

However, another major IVR technology mistake companies make is that they commonly forget to ask their customers to provide feedback. To make sure you don’t make the same mistake, I would recommend adding an assessment menu option to your IVR.  

These days, customer reviews have great power, and since it is customers who use your IVR system, it is important you provide them with an opportunity to offer their valuable insights.

Another great idea is to send an SMS right after a call and ask customers to assess the quality of the interaction they just had.

Testing an IVR is always an essential part of implementation, but gathering real-time experiences from your customers will provide you with the most valuable insights regarding the quality of your customer service.

Mistake number 9: your on-hold music does not reflect your brand image

It’s always a tricky question: should you have some on-hold music or simply leave the phone ringing until an agent becomes available?

Although the choice to have some on-hold music may be the better option, my experience through the years is that decision makers sometimes base their choice of on-hold music on their own personal preferences, rather than something that reflects the company’s brand image. I’ve heard on-hold music that included Rolling Stones and other 80s hits, just to mention a few. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t like Rolling Stones, but is on-hold music really the best place to display your personal music tastes?

Probably not. Instead, try and go for on-hold music that reflects your brand image.

Another great idea could be going for a mix of on-hold music along with some of your current offers or recent news regarding your company. By doing this, you provide your customers with an interactive waiting time, and even promote your products or services.

Mistake number 10: you think your IVR is perfect

Test, measure, improve! That’s definitely the “Holy Trinity” of IVR solutions.

Even if you spent a great amount of time designing and implementing your IVR system, bear in mind that there’s always room for improvement.

In fact, your IVR menu should never be considered finished! Customer behavior and technologies are constantly changing, and what was a great solution in the past can easily become outdated.

Make sure to monitor customer trends and always think of your IVR as a process of continuous improvement, rather than a finished product.

Do you know other IVR technology mistakes businesses definitely should avoid? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

Top 5 customer service mistakes you need to avoid

Posted on: June 12th, 2018 by dorarapcsak No Comments

Customer service is the backbone of every successful business, and for good reason: these days, providing excellent customer experience makes all the difference between your company having customer satisfaction or poor brand reputation.

This is especially true for call centers, whose core activities center around customer service. Customer service agents receive many phone calls during an average day, and the customers on the other end of the line expect prompt, efficient and effective telephone service.

It’s definitely not easy mastering the way to provide excellent customer service, and of course, there will always be ups and downs on your journey.

So, to help you out, here are five common customer service mistakes, together with our tips on how you can prevent them. Check them out now, and make sure your call center is not committing these major mistakes!


1. Over-promising

Keeping promises is the basis of building trust with customers. There are few things more annoying than a company that doesn’t keep the promises it makes to its customers

Unfortunately, our experience tells us that this is not unusual. In fact, it’s a common customer service mistake that businesses make promises they cannot keep.

An example: recently, our team tested customer service quality at 10 African banks. They contacted them via various channels, including phone, email, forms, and chat. Out of the 10 banks, only one promised to send an email with the information they needed. Believe it or not, many weeks later, that email still hasn’t arrived…

Nowadays, when customers have an issue, all they need to do is to simply fill out a form or send a message via Facebook. In return, they expect a quick answer from the company’s customer services and expect these customer services to always be available 24/7.

As a result, many companies, desperately trying to meet customers’ expectations, over-promise in order make it appear that they really are available 24/7. However, the problems start when they find they simply cannot fulfill their promises.  

Our tip: don’t bite off more than you can chew! If your agents promise a call-back to your customers within two hours, then try and ensure that they stick to it. Remember, your customers may organize their daily activities around your phone call, so don’t waste their time!  

Furthermore, you don’t have to have a presence on every channel just because your competitors do. It’s better to have less customer service channels that actually function well, than delivering poor customer service because you cannot handle the number of channels you utilize. See section 5 below for more on this.  


2. Negative IVR experiences

All of us have ended up dealing with an IVR system with long wait times when trying to get information, resolve an issue or request a service. Although the main aim of an IVR, in theory, is to decrease customer wait time and improve customer experience, in practice this type of technology has become fairly unpopular among customers. It’s true that a well-designed IVR can boost productivity and improve customer experience, but, unfortunately, it’s easy to get it wrong.

When it comes to IVR technology, one major customer service mistake often made is that an IVR system’s menu is simply not easy to navigate, and instructions are not clear. When using an IVR, customers will expect to have to navigate through the system in order to reach a customer service representative. However, going through a badly planned menu with unclear instructions will quickly make them more than frustrated.

A bad IVR experience will definitely encourage people to spread negative comments about your company. And as we already talked about in a previous article, you should never underestimate the power of online reviews.

So, make time to assess your own IVR system. Our tip is to always review an IVR system before you allow your customers to use it. In particular, check if the menu is easy to navigate and that all instructions are clear and simple to understand.

If anything is not clear to you, then it is likely that your customers will also have the same problems, and will struggle with your IVR system – which will only lead to negative feedback.


3. Information not being available

According to a research by Gartner, by 2020 85% of customers will manage their brand interactions without speaking to a single human.

In fact, today’s “connected” generation already prefers to communicate via text rather than voice. They increasingly search a company’s website for information and only contact customer services if they are unable to find the information they need.

It’s no surprise then that businesses have started to utilize self-service options on their websites for customers to try before they get in contact with customer service. Self-service options have become ever more popular over the last few years, as it means companies can set up a knowledge base or an FAQ on their website, which is far simpler to manage than other methods.

However, self-service is only efficient if you make sure you include all the necessary information required by your customers. A common customer service mistake is that companies encourage their customers to visit their website to get the information they need, but the information is either unavailable or difficult to find.

Our tip: Give self-service a try and you’ll soon see how much it can help your customers. However, when creating a self-service option, always make sure to provide useful FAQs for your customers that are easy to access. Navigating through messy web pages will quickly make visitors lose patience.

Moreover, only direct your customers to your website to get information if you have high-quality resources that help them resolve their issues. Again, a badly written knowledge base that lacks necessary information will drive your customers crazy.


4.  Transferring customers between channels

The time when you could contact customer services on a single channel is long gone. These days, multichannel customer service allows customers to select from a number of channels – including phone, online forms, email, SMS, chat – while promising the same level of service. But do customers really get the same level of service when using multiple customer service channels? Unfortunately, often the answer is no.

A major customer service mistake is that they want to be present on several channels, but are unable to perform equally well on all of them.  Instead, to make up for their shortcomings, they keep transferring customers to other channels, hoping that the customer service reps responsible for those channels can resolve their issues. However, customers easily get frustrated when they are transferred through several customer service channels while having to repeat information over and over again.

Our tip: Instead of using every possible channel, try and focus on channels your customers actually want to use. Always make sure that agents provide the same quality of customer service on each of your channels. Furthermore, if you have to transfer your customers from one channel to another, ensure that there’s an exchange of information between your channels. You’ll see, it will make all the difference.


5. Untrained call center agents

Going back to our story about the African banks, 9 out of 10 banks did not manage to find a way to provide us with the information we needed, and the only bank who offered to send an email never did. Quite frightening, right?

What this example makes clear is that the success of your customer service depends hugely on the performance of your team. If your agents are not properly trained and motivated, then you can be pretty sure that the quality of your service will suffer greatly.

However, yet another common customer service mistake is that businesses often see training as an expense, rather than an investment. Untrained agents, however, will lack the knowledge that enables them to help your customers, which will, inevitably, lead to poor customer experience.

Our tip here is to allocate enough time and money to train your agents properly. Instead of forcing them into situations they are unable to handle, give them plenty of time to learn their duties and get comfortable in their role. Furthermore, give your experienced agents free hand to make their own decisions when necessary. By doing this, you’ll empower them to resolve issues more efficiently on their own, and as such be able to provide exceptional customer experience. Finally, don’t forget to offer them feedback. As we already wrote about in a previous article, valuable feedback can have a great impact on your employees’ performance.


Sum up

Nobody likes waiting for a call that never arrives, or being transferred around departments, or dealing with untrained call center agents. While you may think you are doing your best to deliver exceptional customer experience, it’s easy to get things wrong. So, use our examples above, and make sure your call center is not committing these customer service mistakes.