Enterprises are increasingly turning to interactive voice response (IVR), a technology automating telephonic interaction enabling customers to retrieve data such as bank balances, flight schedules, product details, order status, movie show times from any telephone, says Dawn Wood, business unit executive at ATIO.  IVR can also be used to deliver or gather information for appointments, due bills and other time critical events and activities.

In order to reap the most rewards from the IVR system, companies must fully understand how IVR works. An efficient IVR system allows companies to provide customers with an invaluable interaction channel. Instead of always speaking to an agent, customers may alternatively obtain the information they require through IVR. Wood provides the following useful tips for creating a highly efficient IVR system.
* Leave simple, mundane and repetitive enquiries to the IVR: Calls related to frequent enquiries such as exam results, account balances and other account queries can be efficiently handled by the IVR system. Mundane tasks do not inspire or properly use an agent’s knowledge and cognitive skills.
* Check where and how the information is stored: Some technologies may not access customer or company information due to where and how it is stored. Ensure that the information in the database is accessible to the IVR technology in use.
* Find out if your target market is receptive of the IVR technology: Conduct a short survey with your customers on what they think of IVR. It is encouraging to note that around 80% of South Africans are already accustomed to automated voice service used on cellphones.
* Be available when your customers need you: If the service you provide is such that your customers may need to contact you at night, it is imperative that you at least have an efficient IVR in place, ensuring that your contact centre provides consistent and uninterrupted service.
* Use your IVR to prompt for a message and respond promptly: Not responding in a timely manner will affect the company’s credibility and discourage people from using your IVR technology as they will deem it a waste of time.
* The application must narrow down the search as much as possible: Customers are not interested in listening to the automated voice for too long before being assisted. You need to prompt the callers for what they specifically require by being product or service specific and less generic.
* Provide no more than four options: Minimal options make it easier for customers to remember all available options.
* Present the most frequently required options first: This will save your customers more time as they won’t have to listen to all the available options before making a selection.
Taking heed of these tips will make your IVR system user friendly and allow your company to reap maximum benefits from the system, says Wood.