Paul English has recently listed major U.S. companies who, according to English, "design their IVR systems poorly and make it difficult for callers to speak with a live agent."
You scofflaws know who you are, no point further humiliating the guilty here. The good news is that there's a Cheat Sheet to help you, yes, you, avoid such a gruesome fate.
The IVR Cheat Sheet for Businesses
is "a listing of quick tips businesses can use to make their IVR systems more user-friendly and efficient," developed in response to English's listing, according to Michael Zirngibl.
"I applaud Mr. English's efforts because he obviously is acting with the consumer's best interests in mind," Zirngibl says, "but it is equally important to note that IVR, if used correctly, can often help callers resolve issues faster and more accurately than a live agent."
A quick summary of the tips contained in the Cheat Sheet:
Let callers know what to expect from the system immediately. This is a simple rule that applies to any customer experience -- "present a pleasant greeting and explain succinctly what the system can and will do for the caller." Don't hide the option for callers to speak with a live agent, because "no matter how useful your IVR system is for customers, there will always be a segment of customers who prefer to speak to a live agent to resolve their issue."
Whenever possible, give the caller an approximate time for the completion of the request. And if transferring to a live agent, let the caller know the expected hold time and provide options to go back into the IVR system.
Do not, repeat, do not make callers repeat information collected in the IVR to the live agent they are transferred to. This reporter has asked many an agent why he finds himself repeating information he's just given someone else and has never heard an intelligent answer. If you want callers to believe that the IVR can help them resolve a problem, respect the time they put into the IVR and don't ask for the same answers twice. If you don't you aren't reading this far anyway.
Always let the caller know what is happening: "Keep in mind that the IVR dialogue should be similar to a conversation between two human beings." The system should explain pauses with messages such as "Thanks for the information, let me look up your account" or "I am trying to find the most appropriate person to handle your request."
Oh, last but certainly not least: Provide courteous, smooth error-handling. Generic error messages that are not tailored to the caller's specific situation will drive callers away from the IVR. The system should always take the blame for errors.
Zirngibl is president and CEO of Angel.com.