VoIP for Call Centers: Do's & Don'ts of IVR Menus

IVR menus have long held a poor reputation. Many customers become aggravated and choose to speak with a live representative rather than deal with poorly designed menus. Poorly designed menus can stem from focusing on keeping specific callers out instead of improving the customer experience.

Guy looking at his watch in a call center

Your company’s IVR menu is one of the first contact points between your business and your customers. This offers increased opportunities for engagement and improved customer experience. By following the rules outlined in this article, your organization will get all the benefits of enhanced customer experiences – ROI, brand awareness, customer retention, and overall satisfaction with your company.

Let’s start with defining IVR.

“IVR” or “Interactive Voice Response” is an automated receptionist that offers callers a menu to allow them to reach the correct department or destination. For example, the automatic receptionist will direct the caller to “press 1 for sales, 2 for customer service, or to dial the extension of the specific person you are trying to reach.” An IVR is a key VoIP feature for contact centers. 

IVR Do’s

#1. Let your customer know that you understand.

Your customers have taken time out of their day to call you, and their issue or question is essential. Their time and efforts are valuable. Support your customer every step of the way and do not further frustrate them with poorly designed menus. The IVR menu should be efficient, fast-paced, and time-sensitive.

#2. Design your menu FOR the customer.

An efficient IVR menu wastes zero time and gets straight to the point. Customers should be easily guided and sent to the specific destination they need to be received. The menu should offer choices that can swiftly get the customer to their designated contact without wasting time. A poorly designed menu would use many added, unnecessary aspects. This can further waste the customer’s time. 

The IVR menu should act just like a host in a restaurant. They are the face of the business and the first point of contact. It is up to them to create a positive first impression, establish a rapport and direct the customer swiftly and smoothly. Being efficient and effective for more specific contact with their desired department. The IVR menu should be built as “the world’s best host.” It is there to align the calling customer to their incredible team of representatives who will further uphold its image, purpose, and mission. 

#3. Cater to both existing and new customers.

Keeping loyal customers is important, but making new customers is also essential. Loyal customers often refer to new customers. Every effort should be made to cater to existing customers as well as new customers. New customers may need further direction; there can be an option for that. Existing customers should have the opportunity to bypass any directions they are aware of and get to their needed department faster.

Make every effort to support your caller, make them aware of your company’s eagerness to help, and make them want to return. They should never dread making contact with your business. Having them contact your business is the first step in creating a relationship with a client, and their experience should be exceptional from the get-go. A successful IVR menu should constantly guide them to the specific destination in the shortest time possible.

#4. Ensure that your menu is voice responsive.

Many IVR menus are only able to help by using keypresses, not voice commands. You can now design your menu to allow for the use of both keypresses and voice responses. AI intelligence and voice-powered assistants are becoming even more popular and assist companies in catering to clients. These menus should react accurately to voices, the tone of voice, and help as efficiently as possible. 

If your business’s menu only offers “press one for sales” versus “press one, or say SALES, to speak to a representative,” then you’re not delivering the best service to your callers and taking advantage of every opportunity.

IVR Don’ts

#1. Waste time.

Design your menu to be as efficient as possible. There is no need to provide unnecessary phone menu options. No one wants to listen to never-ending directory options; it’s frustrating. Simplicity and relevancy are key.

#2. De-humanize the process.

 Some callers are already in opposition to automatic phone systems. They can feel that these menus are more of an obstacle than a beneficial solution. You can overcome this by personalizing your IVR menu and adding some humanity into the system’s prompts. A little lightheartedness can go a long way in customer service and even put customers in a better mood while waiting for assistance. 

#3. Use a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

You should not design your menu as a “one-size-fits-all” type of system. Why? Because every customer is different and has their own needs. Some customers can become anxious or frustrated when they don’t hear a choice that fits their inquiry. Many end up making the wrong choice which could mean wasting more time and starting the entire process again. Make your menu reflect the most common queries and make the choices distinct. However, you should always give customers the option of going directly to a live agent if they aren’t sure of which option to choose.

#4. Send callers to voicemail.

Your customers are not calling to speak to a machine. They need help with something specific and are looking for guidance. Fortunately, you can avoid using voicemails by equipping your device with the following options:

  • Hunt groups: Build a list of employees to call for specific inquiries. The system will ‘hunt’ for those team members in that group and automatically go down the list until someone is available to answer.
  • Ring Groups: Multiple phones will ring simultaneously to answer calls by the first one available to take the call. This can be organized by department or in a specific way that works best for your business.
  • Presence across multiple devices: Connect office extensions to personal or business cell phones, softphones, desk phones, and more so that someone can always be reached. 

 IVR menus are a great way to engage with customers easily. If designed well, they can create a helpful and engaging experience for customers and get to the root of their call as quickly as possible. A poorly designed IVR menu can promptly lead to frustration and create a painful experience for both the customer and the agent who has to assist them amid their frustration. 

Since your IVR menu is at the forefront of customer service, it's essential to build your menu strategically and to the best of your ability. It is a rich source of information and opportunity for clients and your businesses. It is the first place to start when building loyalty, good relationships, and goodwill in your market. Strategizing can go a long way when it comes to IVR menus.

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