IVR Blunders That Make You Want to Scream

It’s been a while since I’ve shared my IVR frustrations, so I thought I’d take a minute and recount some IVR blunders that I recently experienced. I was conducting personal business in my mobile office, AKA my car, and upon connecting with my service provider, I was presented with a greeting that announced I had reached them outside of their normal business hours. Then the call was abruptly disconnected. Really? If this is how your IVR currently works, think about the impression that gives to customers. I was left feeling frustrated because I wanted a meaningful interaction with my service provider and got none.

There are a couple of things wrong with this scenario. My service provider could have done a few things to make sure the experience hadn’t left me with a bad taste in my mouth. First off, why not educate your customers on your business hours so they don’t fall into the trap of calling back obsessively until your business opens?  (Yes, I admit I ended up doing that). Secondly, why not provide some alternative contact methods to your customers so they don’t have to make a repeat call? This could be addressed by a simple voicemail option, callback option, or even some self-service options that address your contact center’s top 3 call types. (That’s assuming your contact center has the business intelligence to report this data.) Or if you’re really savvy, tell the customer you have 24/7 support available via online chat. And last but not least, before I jump off this soapbox and move to the next, how hard is it to say thank you for calling before disconnecting the call? I understand that businesses are trying to cut costs, but there is a fine line between cutting costs and offensive IVRs.  We know the “little lady” talking is not really a human, but we still need her to be courteous.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest, let me share with you another blunder that really made my skin crawl.  After receiving an email about a change in a flight that I did not authorize, I called into a well-known airline. Apparently I called at a pretty popular time, because I was immediately prompted to leave a callback number rather than wait, but I chose to hold on the line instead. After entering the respective “2” to remain on hold, I expected the normal hold music or informational messaging about the airline, but no, I was left to a dreadful silence.

Everyone in the industry knows there is nothing more unprofessional and uncomfortable than a customer experiencing dead-air. So there I was, looking at my phone every 10 seconds or so wondering if the call had been disconnected.  To my surprise, despite the silence, the line was still active, so I waited. After a painstaking 5-minute hold listening to complete silence and me wishing I could retract my callback refusal, the call was finally answered. My first piece of feedback is that if you are going to offer a callback option for the customer, allow the customer to change their mind if they initially decline the feature. The customer may have a change of heart after a couple of minutes of hold time, which shouldn’t be accompanied by dead air. A better experience for a customer would be to have the control of knowing that they can press or say “X” at any point before the call is answered and opt for a callback.

Secondly, what’s up with the dead-air?  Is this company punishing callers that reject the callback? Is the cost for hold music on the rise?  Dead-air should never be an option. I remember this call center basic only too well from my outsourcing days. I instructed my contact management teams to tell call center agents they should never let more than 20 seconds go by without letting the customer know what they are doing (e.g. they are still researching the issue), the same applies during holds. Twenty seconds is too painful of a hold time to not have any distraction at all. The silence makes hold time seem so much longer, and what a missed opportunity to advertise company products, services, or features.  To make a long story short, there are two things  contact centers should always practice: professionalism and courtesy. Both are at the heart of the customer experience. 

What experiences do you deliver when your customers navigate your IVR?