Over time, customer demands and language change. For a contact centre agent, adapting to these changes is a natural process, but what about your IVR? Is it frequently updated in line with new expectations, or has it simply been left to rot?
IVR rot is one of the most common problems we come across when looking at ageing, failing systems. As the business has matured, additions to the IVR have either been added sporadically, leaving a patchwork experience, or ignored altogether leaving callers with outdated options—not exactly a relevant and satisfying experience.
No IVR is immune to it. Even the most beautifully-designed customer experiences start to rot if they aren’t properly maintained, so frequent updates and maintenance are essential if you want to keep delivering the same great experiences as when the system was first launched.
But updates alone aren’t enough to completely ward off IVR rot. To keep the system operating as well as possible, those updates need to be produced and implemented to the same standards of the original design. The key is remaining as vigilant about the quality of your IVR experience as you were on day one.
Spot the rot
A rotten IVR can be seriously damaging to your brand, and has a huge impact on the quality of customer experiences you deliver. Fortunately, a rotten IVR is relatively easy to spot. Some of the key things to look out for are:
Different voices: Male, female, loud, soft, fast, slow – patchwork IVRs are hard to understand, sound unprofessional, and most importantly, research shows they erode customer trust. A caller may hang on to confirm a transaction because they didn’t trust it went through or weren’t certain they heard it correctly. These calls unnecessarily end up with an agent.
Confusing options: Rotten IVRs tend to have extra options tacked onto the end of menus. Look for non-sequential options in DTMF systems, e.g. “For X press 4, or for Y press 9”. In speech systems, look for options that are confusing or overlapping.
Long pauses, ring-tones, repeated prompts: IVRs cobbled together from lots of different systems or designs do things like repeat welcome messages or legal blurb. Sometimes you’ll hear long pauses or ring-tones as one system hands over to the next. In the worst cases, the system can just hang up. This is more than just annoying. Repeated prompts cause users to turn off their attention, so when they are asked for input, they might not be listening.
Protecting your company, and your customer experiences
Bad IVR experiences can be jarring to the caller, reflect badly on your organisation, and slow down interactions. Luckily, they’re also all easy to avoid with the right processes, documentation and governance.
If you want to keep your IVR fresh and professional-sounding, you need to:
Appoint an IVR czar: Many of today’s most customer-centric IVRs are managed by a dedicated ‘gatekeeper’. This person is responsible for gathering requirements, prioritising them and identifying and resolving conflicting requests. Nothing gets changed in the IVR without their knowledge.
Maintain decent documentation. Too many IVRs have no documentation (or at least none that anyone can put their hands on). Keep a central spec and update it with every change, with version control so changes can be rolled back if necessary.
Recognise BIG changes: For small changes, you just need to get the IVR czar’s blessing, record the change in persona and update the documentation. But BIG changes must be recognised as such, and either tested as a prototype or A-B tested against the current design to ensure nothing bad happens.
Get good at reporting: You need to know your IVR is still working after every change. Get the right metrics and tools in place to monitor usage, pinpoint any problems (e.g. bottlenecks, drop-offs or caller confusion) and get them fixed quickly. For more on this, see Principle #8.
With watertight processes, documentation and governance, your IVR can continue to deliver the same fresh and relevant customer experience as it did on day one. But IVR rot is an ever-present threat, so it’s a good idea to routinely call your own IVR, run through some common customer scenarios and check for the symptoms outlined in this blog. (And, of course, fix anything rotten that you come across.)