3 New Ways to Improve the Customer Experience with Your IVR

Innovative companies are using IVRs as a powerful tool for customer engagement. Learn about three new ways you could be using your IVR.

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3 New Ways to Improve the Customer Experience with Your IVR

While interactive voice response (IVR) systems have traditionally been used as business optimization tools, modern IVRs are a powerful tool for customer engagement. When implemented correctly, IVR systems have allowed callers to resolve straightforward customer service interactions by themselves, over the phone, without ever having to speak to a live agent. Today’s modern businesses use their IVR systems for much more than routing a caller’s inquiry; they are now tasking them in entirely new ways.

Let’s dive deeper into three innovative ways businesses are reaching more people, more quickly, using the power of their IVR systems.

Call Deflection to SMS

Calls aren’t only more time-consuming for your agents, but for your customers as well. With call deflection, you can use your IVR to suggest that the interaction move over to an SMS. This lets you respond to customer needs immediately with automated, context-driven text messages.

“Call deflection” may sound like call avoidance, which isn’t the objective for a business that wants to retain loyal customers. Using channels like SMS intelligently helps your customers get a response faster, and your agents serve more people in less time.

According to consumer research conducted by Lawless Research, responsiveness is the number one factor driving customer perceptions of their overall communication experience with a company. They found that 96% of consumers say they want companies to be more responsive, and 97% will give more business to companies that respond quickly.

Meanwhile, 9 out of 10 people want to talk to businesses using messaging, with millennials preferring to receive messages from companies through social media, mobile apps, and messaging apps at more than twice the rate of older customers. Instead of keeping your callers in an IVR phone tree or transferring all incoming calls to an agent, you can reduce handling time while increasing customer satisfaction by changing the channel.

For example, retail businesses handle a high volume of routine inquiries. Customer satisfaction is the driving metric for these types of businesses, so they naturally want to create simple, intuitive experiences for their customers. Let’s say a customer calls the toll-free number from their smartphone to ask about the status of an order and is connected to the company’s IVR.

The IVR uses Twilio Lookup to determine if the number is a mobile phone number. If yes, the IVR responds, “I see you're calling from a mobile phone, do you want to start a text?"

If the customer says “yes,” the IVR triggers an SMS to the incoming phone number detected, and the interaction continues by text. An agent (or in some cases, a bot) can now provide the customer with the information they need via text, and the contact center experiences lower call volume. By automating and deflecting many common inquiries, an IVR that diverts to SMS can free up agents to work on the most complex issues.

So, from the customer’s perspective, the interaction looks like this:

  1. The customer calls the business to check on her retail order.
  2. The IVR asks the customer if she’d prefer to text.
  3. She loves that idea and says, “Yes.”
  4. The customer receives an immediate SMS message asking how to help.
  5. She can then either get the information she needs via text or be directed to the appropriate action, which initiates a two-way conversation with an agent.

Since the customer is served right away, she is happy with her experience. Meanwhile, the business is using SMS to increase agent efficiency and lower the cost per contact.

Dynamic IVR Surveys

Every customer is unique, and every call will be unique as well. A dynamic IVR system changes the call flow in real time, based on input or context from the caller. As the IVR gathers information from a customer using speech recognition or DTMF tones, it modifies the menu options accordingly. With a static IVR menu, the option a customer might require may be several items down the list. In contrast, a dynamic IVR is interactive; it personalizes the experience to handle customers faster.

Dynamic IVR systems can be linked to information about customer behavior on other channels, in previous interactions, or from your CRM, for example. By performing a data dip, the IVR retrieves the information it needs to accurately personalize the experience for your customer. Since they’ll hear the option most relevant to them first, a dynamic IVR allows customers to spend less time in your IVR system, leading to reduced handle time and increased customer satisfaction.

Let’s look at how a dynamic IVR can help organizations that conduct surveys. Surveys are an excellent way to garner immediate feedback and make informed business decisions based on customer input. However, some surveys require a different set of questions based on the type of input they’re receiving. By performing a data dip, a dynamic IVR can modify survey questions on the fly.

IVR-enabled surveys are often limited to just a few questions, with the most important question positioned early in the call to guard against customer drop off. With a dynamic IVR, you can modify your survey as the call goes along, so the most critical information is always being collected. For example, let’s say you’re sending out a customer satisfaction survey following a loan application with your financial services company.

With each question that your customer answers, the IVR will perform a data dip and serve up the following question accordingly.

Using an outbound IVR, this is how the interaction might proceed:

  1. The customer receives a phone call from the bank where she recently applied for a loan, asking if she’ll participate in a brief survey.
  2. The customer says “yes,” and the IVR asks “In what location did you recently apply for a loan?”
  3. The customer answers “San Francisco,” which triggers the IVR to access the relevant data for the San Francisco branch.
  4. The IVR pulls data that indicates the customer’s representative was Angie Lee, and asks, "How would you rate your experience for applying for a personal loan with Angie Lee from one to ten, with ten being the highest?”
  5. The IVR has all of the data it needs for this survey and thanks the customer for her time.

AI-Driven IVR

Artificial intelligence (AI) helps businesses engage with larger numbers of customers without sacrificing the quality of the interaction. By 2020, Gartner predicts that customers will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. With an AI-driven IVR, businesses can build more efficient customer journeys, enabling customers to solve their issues faster or independently.

AI-driven IVR systems take customer engagement to the next level. They provide intelligent responses to queries using APIs like Twilio Understand, which analyze text and determine intent during a live call through natural language understanding. Proactive companies are leveraging natural language understanding and sentiment analytics to create “conversational assistants” to help customers get the real-time information they’re seeking.

Imagine if you could order your favorite cup of coffee on the phone without talking to a human. This example is of a barista-ordering system via a bot which can manage the order end-to-end. The bot takes your order, shows the order to a barista, and sends you an SMS when your coffee is ready.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The customer calls an IVR phone number and is asked to say “latte, cappuccino, Americano, cortado, or cold brew.”
  2. The IVR converts the speech to text and sends the order to the barista.
  3. The customer receives a text message when his order is complete.

In this scenario, the bot, integrated with an AI-driven IVR, serves as an assistant to a barista. However, you could implement this use case in a variety of other ways.

Bots can also link to other apps, such as Facebook, to determine customer preferences and make suggestions for new items to try. This type of next-generation “conversational commerce” is easily facilitated with technologies like APIs from Twilio.

Learn More

Want to discover more use cases and learn how to build them? We highlight six key ways to reinvent your customer experience using the power of your IVR in this e-book. You’ll not only see how these use cases can apply to your business, you’ll also see just how easy it is to build them in Studio with actual architecture diagrams and workflow examples. By applying simple web application logic, you'll be building your IVR in no time.

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