IVR best practices

Modernize your IVR with 10 key considerations

  • Janet Alexander
    Janet Alexander
  • Oct 11, 2019

Bridge the gap between where your IVR system is today and where your customers are headed in the future with a progressive approach to developing your own modern IVR.

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Today, customer service is at the intersection of two important trends: customers want to be more self-sufficient, and businesses are looking to improve customer experience without increasing costs. 

A modern IVR system solves for both.

Since your IVR system is often one of the first contacts a customer has with your company, it provides an exceptional opportunity to deliver a customized experience. With the use of customizable phone menus and prompts, your enterprise can use the IVR as a critical element in your engagement strategy. Mapping your business logic to the natural customer journey will allow you to deliver an experience that is always reliable—and on-brand.

When an IVR system is designed with the customer in mind, your support process is more efficient and makes customers happier. Here are the top 10 features of a modern IVR you’ll want to consider: 

1. A visual interface 

Changing content and routing logic for an IVR can now be done visually rather than in code. For companies who do not have developer resources and/or want to get into production faster, a visual interface can allow every department within a business—including non-technical users in product, marketing, support, and engineering—to design, build, scale, and A/B test IVR interaction flows.

2. Speech recognition

Your customers don’t want to use cumbersome keypad inputs to navigate phone menus. They’re tedious, make it difficult to figure out customer intent, and result in long, deep menus that are unwieldy to maintain over time.

Speech recognition technology lets a caller respond to a prompt using spoken language, which can ease navigation through a menu. When done correctly, accurate speech recognition helps repeat callers find the right areas of information and minimize frustration. Using natural language is a better customer experience than overloading a touch-tone, such as requiring a caller to press ‘1’ multiple times while navigating to their final endpoint.

3. Natural language understanding

Parsing speech is no simple task. The newest addition to IVR is adding artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of natural language understanding (NLU). By combining highly accurate speech recognition with advanced processing and call history or account status, AI can more accurately determine caller intent. 

NLU can be used to help route callers to the proper destination quickly, skipping some (or all) of the traditional phone menu. Besides reducing caller frustration, NLU helps reduce the load on each live agent, allowing operators and sales agents to specialize and give better service.

4. Text-to-speech and multilingual capabilities

Ideally, your IVR should be able to support additional languages without having to rebuild complete flows. Ideally, text-to-speech capabilities should greet callers, speak prompts, or build confirmations into phone calls without any need to record the dialogue in advance.

5. Custom menus

Give customers access to the people and information they need with predictive IVR menus based on caller history and journey data from browsers or mobile apps. When your IVR is created with APIs, your phone menu can be as simple or as complex as you require. Since the menus are written in code that you control, rather than locked in proprietary hardware, they are flexible and completely customizable. A/B test different menus to see which performs better on metrics like first call resolution, or you connect your menu to other APIs.

6. Intelligent routing

With an intelligent routing engine, an IVR system can route your callers to the people and processes that can best handle them. In an age when  it’s crucial to create personalized experiences for each customer’s unique needs, intelligent routing streamlines your customer support process and delights customers.

7. Visual IVR

Visual IVR lets you expand the IVR experience by putting visually-guided menus on your website or a customer’s smartphone. With visual IVR, the caller navigates through your phone tree using visual prompts giving them the convenient option to interact with an on-screen menu while still connected to a call. Instead of second-guessing, “Do I press 9 for technical support or 6?” and getting lost in a phone tree, a visual IVR presents your navigation options clearly, which means happier customers.

8. A/B test and update on demand

In theory, existing IVRs should be easy to change, but the reality is it often requires updates from a provider, statements of work for professional services, and weeks of effort to make even minor changes to a legacy IVR system. 

When you’re held back by your provider’s roadmap, optimizing metrics and customer satisfaction can take a backseat. Instead, consider the power to continually adapt your IVR system to changing needs, with full control of your phone tree and routing logic. With APIs, you can A/B test as often as you want because you have the flexibility and autonomy to make changes quickly.

9. Easy to make it omnichannel

Your customers probably don’t talk on the phone with their family and friends as often as they connect by SMS, chat, and messaging apps. Chances are, they also want to connect with your business in the same way. 

Modern IVR systems offer customers more ways to receive service by including support channels such as SMS, chat, and video in existing IVR call flows. When you’re looking for the right IVR system for your company, look for the ability to connect with your customers via multiple channels.

10. Ability to incorporate automation and bots

Bots bring the power of innovative AI technologies to your IVR by helping customers before they reach an agent. Bots provide automated responses based on message analysis using technologies such as natural language understanding and intent extraction. New advances in bot technology means customers can accomplish entire tasks in an IVR, like booking flights or scheduling appointments, without the help of a live agent. Many IVRs use a human-assisted bot as a first- to-respond entity, which falls back on a human agent if it doesn’t know how to respond effectively. 

We’ve created an E-Book that shares a progressive approach to developing your own modern IVR through three types: Programmable, Conversational, and Omnichannel.

Download the ebook

3 progressive approaches to a modern IVR

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Janet Alexander

Janet Alexander

Janet has a decade of professional writing experience. With a focus on B2B technology, she helps Twilio's subject matter experts, product managers, and customers share their expertise, knowledge, and unique points of view through thought leadership, storytelling, and customer resources.