Top 9 IVR Issues and How Call Centers Can Avoid Them

Coworker pointing out IVR issues on screen
June 30, 2023
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An efficient and well-maintained interactive voice response system can be one of the most vital tools for a call center. That’s because IVR technology can save businesses time and money by automating processes that route customers to the right agents or resources.

But an inefficient or outdated IVR system can create a poor experience for customers and agents. Plus, it can affect your bottom line: 56% of customers admit they'll discontinue business with a company after a frustrating experience with customer support.

Understanding the most common IVR problems will help you provide a better experience for your customers—and agents. So let’s look at the top IVR issues and how to avoid them in your contact center.

1. Lengthy, confusing menus

Providing callers with abundant menu options may seem good, but this can lead to decision fatigue. Plus, long and confusing prompts can create an ineffective call flow that doesn't help customers find the information they need.

Additionally, lengthy menus can lead to a high call abandonment rate—the rate at which callers abandon a call before reaching a representative or resolving their issue—which businesses should aim to keep below the average rate of 6%.

So how do you avoid this issue? Create a simplified, intuitive menu that gives customers a clear path to the agent or resource they need in a matter of seconds.

For example, start by offering the most common options in the main menu:

  • Press 1 for scheduling
  • Press 2 for billing
  • Press 3 for all other issues

Then, use subsequent menus to further route customers. For example, if the caller selects Billing, they’d hear the following menu:

  • Press 1 to check your balance
  • Press 2 to pay a bill
  • Press 3 to speak to a representative

When crafting your menu, remember to put the most important information first. For example, if you create an IVR menu for a medical facility, the message “If this is a medical emergency, hang up and call 911” should be at the top of the recording.

2. Insufficient self-service options

Many customers call a business’ contact center with straightforward questions or actions they can solve with self-service. In fact, 81% of customers attempt to resolve their issues with self-service before contacting a representative.

So when you don’t provide self-service options, this can lead to unnecessarily long calls that frustrate customers.

For example, say a caller needs to pay a bill. It’s much quicker to have them use an automated self-service option than place them on hold, then connect them to an agent who has to take their payment information verbally. Other common use cases for self-service include:

  • Checking order status
  • Updating contact information
  • Checking account balance
  • Canceling appointments

In addition to meeting customers’ needs, automating these tasks can help your call center reduce costs. That’s because many contact center platforms have usage-based pricing models, so it's cheaper for your contact center when customers solve their issues quickly (and by themselves).

3. No clear path to reach a live agent

While some callers need quick self-service options, as we discussed above, others have more complex issues that only a live agent can resolve.

And these callers are bound to get frustrated when going deep into the IVR menu to find the option to speak to a representative—or worse, there is no such option.

So avoid this negative customer experience by including the option to reach a live agent at the end of every IVR menu. For example, prompt callers to press 0 or say “representative” to reach an agent regardless of where they are in the IVR menu.

4. Ineffective call routing

One of the benefits of IVR is routing callers to the right agent or resource without a human operator. But when call routing goes wrong, it can turn into a disappointing experience for customers quickly. Plus, it can cost agents time.

For example, say a caller selects the Billing option from the IVR menu but gets routed to a general customer service agent who can’t help them with billing issues. The customer has to provide all their information, only for the agent to transfer them to another department, where they have to start over again.

This is the type of experience that can hurt your contact center metrics and turn customers away from your business. So avoid it by auditing your IVR menu regularly to ensure it routes customers to the right department, agent, or resource.

5. Poor voice recognition and recording quality

Many IVR systems rely on voice recognition software to interpret the customer’s voice input and direct them to the appropriate resource. But when voice recognition is faulty, customers may end up repeating themselves over and over without success.

Similarly, if your IVR menu has a low-quality voice recording, customers may have a hard time hearing and understanding the menu options, leading to a poor experience. So invest in a quality IVR platform to give customers a positive experience that reflects well on your business.

6. No callback option or estimated wait time

Customers faced with a long wait time are likely to abandon their call. In fact, customers abandon their call after waiting for 2 minutes and 36 seconds on average.

To avoid a high call abandonment rate, offer callers the option to request a callback when it’s their turn in the queue. They may end up waiting longer than 2 minutes but won’t get as frustrated because they can carry on with other tasks until they receive a call.

Additionally, give customers an estimated wait time to help them decide whether it’s worth staying on the line or requesting a callback.

7. No omnichannel integration

Customers want to engage with businesses on multiple channels. But with disconnected channels, it can result in a negative customer experience.

For example, if a customer reaches out via live chat about an issue, then calls customer service about the same issue, repeating their information and problem each time can be exasperating.

With integrated channels, the context of every interaction carries through, allowing agents to see previous conversations and understand what the customer needs without asking numerous questions.

This results in more effective handover between agents and allows them to offer personalized support, which we’ll discuss next.

8. Lack of personalization

Customers today expect personalized support. In fact, over two-thirds of consumers admit they’ll stop doing business with a brand that doesn’t personalize their experience. So it can frustrate customers when they have to provide all their personal information before they can get to the reason why they called.

The omnichannel integration we discussed above helps agents create a personalized experience. Additionally, integrating data sources like your customer data platform with your contact center allows the system to pull relevant information and helps agents identify customers faster.

For example, when the IVR routes the caller to an agent, the agent can pull up the customer profile and verify a few data points (like name and date of birth) to identify the customer and offer personalized support.

9. Lack of testing and maintenance

Your business probably evolves constantly, as should your IVR. That’s because if you don’t test and maintain your IVR menu regularly, it’ll result in outdated messaging, incorrect routing, and other issues that irritate customers.

So to keep your IVR up to date, establish a regular cadence (like every 3 months) to test and maintain your IVR menu, prompts, and messaging.

Improve your IVR experience with Twilio

When you have a rigid or outdated IVR system, it’s challenging to make the necessary updates to keep up with customer needs. On the other hand, a flexible, scalable IVR system enables you to iterate and update your system to give customers high-quality support.

Twilio’s IVR solution is quick to deploy and allows you to iterate nimbly to craft a customer experience that meets their needs. Plus, it allows you to:

  • Integrate data sources and business processes using flexible API tools, enabling you to weave in context into every customer interaction.
  • Gather customer feedback and adjust your system accordingly.
  • Build voice assistants that guide customers through self-service options, reducing resolution times and costs.

Learn more about how you can create a better customer experience and maximize your IVR’s performance in our Playbook for a Modern IVR.