How to Optimize IVR for Self-Service

April 05, 2024
Written by
Alvin Lee
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How to Optimize IVR for Self-Service

Customer service is undergoing a significant reshaping, fueled by automation and AI. How modern businesses serve their customers is rapidly evolving, especially as more companies adopt user-friendly self-service options in their customer contact centers.

Interactive voice response (IVR) technology has played a key role in this reshaping. IVR does more than help alleviate long call wait times; it can deliver a streamlined and personalized experience. When companies design their IVR systems thoughtfully and strategically, they enhance customer engagement, scale to handle increased volume, and keep their costs low.

In this post, we’ll share some practical tips for modernizing your IVR system to improve customer experience and operational efficiency. With the wide availability of better build tools and AI assistance, designing a smarter IVR to better serve your customers is easy, and we’ll help you shape yours.

Before we dive into the tips, let’s do a quick review on IVR and customer self-service.

What is IVR self-service?

IVR self-service is a technology that enables customers to navigate phone systems with voice responses or keypad inputs, directly connecting them to the information or services they need without relying on manual intervention from a human support agent. The adoption of IVR transforms the call center experience, alleviating long wait times, the need for manual routing, and many sources of customer frustration.

The role of IVR in customer support extends beyond simple call routing. While call routing becomes much more efficient through its simple menus and interactions, IVR self-service is also crucial in the following ways:

  • Enhances customer autonomy

  • Enables swift resolution to most customer inquiries

  • Ensures timely and effective customer support

  • Reduces the burden on human agents, freeing them up to handle more complex queries

By prioritizing issues—and directing calls—intelligently, IVR systems ensure timely and helpful customer support, two outcomes that are essential in today's fast-paced service environment​. Of course, the effectiveness of your IVR system depends on your implementation. Let’s walk through some key considerations to make sure you get the most out of your IVR system.

Tips to modernize your IVR to improve self-service

Modernizing your IVR system is important for keeping your customer service operations in top shape. With the right approach and tools, you can transform your IVR from a simple automated answering service to a sophisticated, customer-centric solution. The following tips, each focusing on different aspects of the self-service IVR experience, will help you to achieve this.

Tip #1: Map out the customer journey

Before you dive into modernization, spend time analyzing and considering the customer journey. Identify the most common breakpoints so that you can determine the most common reasons why a customer will contact your business for help. 

Once you have a sufficient understanding of the likely speedbumps in the customer journey, then you can pinpoint the existing challenges within your current IVR system. This means:

  • Analyzing call patterns to identify areas ripe for automation

  • Identifying frequent customer complaints and areas where customers are abandoning the IVR in favor of live agent assistance 

  • Understanding where callers often get stuck or manually disconnect out of frustration

As you analyze your current system, some questions may surface:

  • Are there too many menu options?

  • Do the menu options adequately address the most common reasons why customers may be calling?

  • Is the wording used in the prompts unclear?

  • Do non-English callers suffer because their preferred language isn’t supported?

  • When a caller chooses an incorrect option, are there mechanisms to go back, or do they need to start over?

  • How easy is it for a caller to escalate to a live agent if they get stuck or lost in the menu?

Addressing these pain points is the first step toward improving your customer’s IVR experience. This process helps in both refining your current system and providing valuable insights for future enhancements.

Tip #2: Simplify your menus

A common frustration for callers is navigating through complex and lengthy IVR menus. To enhance their experience, keep your menus simple. Limit the number of options in each menu, and ensure each choice is clear and concise. Focus on the most common customer needs and arrange the menu logically.

When you simplify your IVR menus and appropriately anticipate their needs, you reduce the time customers spend on the call. This increases the likelihood of them resolving their queries independently, and this leads to higher customer satisfaction.

Tip #3: Leverage AI and automation

Integrating AI into your customer service and IVR system can significantly boost its capabilities. AI-driven IVR systems can understand and respond to natural language prompts. This empowers your customers to express their needs more freely, rather than being constrained by rigid menu options. As a result, you’ll see more accurate call routing, and your customers will experience a more personalized interaction.

When you leverage AI in conjunction with automation, then basic use cases—such as taking bill payments, gathering account information, or handling appointment scheduling—can be easily managed by your IVR system. This frees up your human agents while also providing your customers with a reliable and consistent experience that helps them accomplish the task at hand.

From an operations standpoint, you can also use AI to analyze call data. This will help you to identify trends and discover insights for faster improvements, making your IVR system smarter over time.

 Tip #4: Personalize interactions

Today’s consumers crave and expect personalized experiences. This includes the self-service IVR experience. By integrating your IVR system with your customer data, you can tailor interactions based on the customer’s history and preferences. When your IVR system recognizes a returning customer, it can offer them options based on their previous interactions. For example, imagine an IVR that begins a call like this:

Welcome back, Alice! The last time you called, you were asking about product support for your recent appliance purchase. Is your call today related, or are you calling about something else?

Personalized interactions can save time for your customers and create a more engaging experience. When your IVR system uses personalized greetings and can offer targeted assistance, the interaction will feel more supportive and less like a transaction. This goes a long way toward improving customer satisfaction while still leveraging automated self-service support options.

Tip #5: Integrate with your tech stack

IVR doesn’t need to operate in isolation. By integrating IVR with your broader tech stack—such as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a customer data platform (CDP), or other channels in your omni-channel customer engagement strategy—you can provide a more cohesive customer experience. Integration across your tech stack enables data sharing and offers a unified view of your customers’ journeys. This helps to ensure that any customer information gathered through self-service IVR interactions is used effectively across all customer touchpoints.

Tip #6: Testing and feedback

As with all other systems in your organization, continuous improvement is essential to maintaining a successful IVR system. Regularly test your system and solicit feedback from users. This includes technical testing for bugs or glitches, but it also involves usability testing to see how real users interact with the system. You can also follow up an IVR interaction with an automated survey via voice or SMS. Collecting and analyzing feedback helps identify areas for improvement, ensuring that your IVR system evolves with changing customer needs and expectations.

Modernize your IVR with Twilio

Modernizing your IVR system is a strategic step toward enhancing self-service capabilities for your customers. As you adopt the tips we’ve recommended above, you not only provide a more efficient and reliable self-service channel for your customers, but you also free up your human support agents for more complex, high-touch interactions.

Twilio's Programmable Voice is at the forefront of the IVR modernization journey. With no-code tools like Twilio Studio, even those without extensive coding knowledge can create sophisticated IVR self-service flows with ease. If you're looking to take the next step in enhancing your customer service operations through IVR, then contact Twilio today.