Your IVR Is Still a CX Rock Star … Don’t Ignore It


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Nearly all customer experience leaders are chasing the same thing: Digital enablement. Service channels like .COM, m.COM and apps offer a multitude of benefits for both customers and companies: Fast self-service, no wait times, lower cost to serve and more. But many fail to deliver the breadth of capabilities needed to answer questions or complete transactions. When these channels break down, customers turn to the phone.

There’s a Gold Mine in Optimizing Your IVR

For the most part, CX practitioners have moved past channel expansion to channel optimization. To meet customers ‘where they are,’ more than 80% planned to invest in non-phone channels like social and digital. Growing channel availability isn’t enough; customer effort remains high with 25% still hitting two or more channels. The biggest culprit? Failed self-service.

With these pervasive shifts in focus, the IVR has virtually become the lost channel – ignored by most and dead to many. We’d argue this is a high-risk oversight. Although not as glamorous as a mobile-app engagement or video-enabled chat, a company’s 800 number often handles millions of callers in a single month … or even a single week. And every one of those callers hits the IVR first.

Applying a New Lens

Channel preference is largely dictated by resolution ease and speed. The more complicated the issue, the more likely customers are to pick up the phone. Yet research shows an alarming number of IVRs are neglected, so it isn’t surprising that most callers still find navigation to be cumbersome and confusing. The more unwieldy the platform, the more likely callers are to route themselves to your most expensive touchpoint – an agent.

Every IVR has two goals: Get the caller to the right place, and eliminate the need to talk to an agent. Higher-performing systems use both speech and touchtone, and many enjoy big savings by optimizing touchtone applications. Regardless of the technology you are using, take advantage of your IVR. Create a great first impression with your customers and solve issues. If self-service isn’t an option, give your customers an easy experience and route them to someone quickly. Hassle-free experiences provide tangible benefits to your customers and your bottom line.

The best approach to optimizing an IVR looks for clues across the entire customer journey. Applying a multi-dimensional approach to identifying and solving barriers to self-service is a best practice. Instead of limiting views to efficiency data, leaders grab as much information as they can and centralize it into an integrated analyzer. Call observations, customer surveys, agent interviews and behavioral pathing all provide context around what customers are trying to do and breakpoints along the way. Maybe your problem isn’t the IVR but instead the website; how would you know? You won’t, unless you expand your perspective.

By mapping the system from the customer’s viewpoint – looking at how hard they have to work and what they did before calling – your team will be far more informed about where things are broken and what to fix.

Personalizing the Customer Experience

Once you understand the customer journey, it’s time to take action—and personalization is a great place to start. Your IVR is a reflection of your company, and the experience the caller has with your IVR should be as personal as one with your highly trained agents. The key is using what you know about the caller.

Customers view their journey as one conversation. Having to repeat information is one of the most annoying aspects of dealing with a contact center. Today’s consumers often visit a company’s website before they pick up the phone. If your IVR asks callers why they’re calling when they just spent an hour looking at one of your products on your website, it’s causing frustration that could be avoided if you had omnichannel awareness of the entire customer journey. Solutions that provide this awareness give you access to historical, complete interactions, while also helping you take advantage of lucrative upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Proactive communications are another effective personalization technique that not only reduces customer frustration but also encourages self-service. For example:

    • Play commonly requested information, like account balances, automatically for all callers.

    • Address individual and segment-based caller behaviors. Automatically play payroll deposit information to customers who regularly call on payroll dates; play shorter prompts for healthcare providers than for members.

    • Combine past due account notifications with an option to make a payment, before the caller reaches the main menu.

    • Anticipate events that will likely result in a phone call, such as a claim being denied, and offer a simple yes/no question in the IVR. (“I see a claim that was recently denied … would you like to hear about that first?”)

    • Place automated outbound calls to notify customers about changes to their accounts, policies, and orders.

Concepts in Action

One of our healthcare insurance clients conducted regular IVR reviews but lacked customer perspective. The company began its customer-centric assessment at the call center by conducting focus groups and holding onsite interviews with agents and managers. They identified failure points and improvement opportunities through front-line call driver intelligence and listened to hundreds of calls to find out why customers contact customer support, and why they don’t resolve issues inside the IVR. This customer-centric approach yielded multiple KPI gains:

    • 56% increase in usage
    • 6% uptick in authentication
    • 9% improvement in containment


Putting these suggestions in place, your customers’ IVR experiences will become faster and easier. The right calls will go to the right agent the first time, and you’ll see gains in authentication, containment and satisfaction.

Image source: Thinkstock

Caren Burns
Caren Burns is Senior Director, CX Consulting at Concentrix. She specializes in helping businesses optimize self-service channels and customer interactions to deliver the best possible customer experience (CX). Caren has over 17 years of CX consulting experience. She is certified in organizational change management, and trained in Six Sigma and PMI methodologies.


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