I had to laugh when I read this Twitter post from Greg Levin –
“IVR: An electronic prison where companies house their least valuable customers.”
I can relate – I’m still getting therapy for a recent 12 minute incarceration in a cable provider’s IVR! I’ll bet you have had stinky experiences, too – unfortunately, they aren’t rare.
Even so, a majority of customers prefer using self-service systems for routine questions and requests. Examples are things like prescription refills, checking orders or flight status, account balance, store hours/locations, and tracking shipments. If customers are on a wireless phone, they’re even more amenable to self-service.
How can we have yucky experiences and still prefer self-service for lots of stuff? Well, there are advantages to well-crafted self-service solutions:
- The system is available 24/7/365
- Customers don’t have to wait in queue for an agent to get their answer
- Customers get their answers quickly with little delay
So, how can we design self-service solutions to help service providers and customers?
- Always give customers a way to opt-out to an agent, and share it with them. If they know they can always reach out to an agent easily, customers are more likely to try self-service. (In fact, 77% of customers say this is critical to a self-service system1.)
- Whenever possible, keep the IVR to three choices or less at every branch. This makes it possible for a busy caller to retain the choices upon first hearing and be better able to make the right selection the first time.
- Design the IVR with the customer in mind. How do they describe their questions/problems? Use words your customers use and understand.
- Always show the exit sign.
- Don’t create big forks in the road.
- Don’t make it hard to find the way.
Despite occasional crummy experiences, customers still find value in self-service. As service providers, our job is to make sure self-service is designed to encourage customer use and to help with common questions.
1Source: “Driving Consumer Engagement With Automated Telephone Customer Service,” Forrester, September 2009.