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Plan IVR Auto Attendant by Customer Intent

Plan your IVR Auto Attendant around the customer intent to help ensure improved call center performance and enable increased conversions.

Configuring your IVR Auto Attendant from a business administration hierarchy point of view might produce a well-organized and fully functional call center that is easy to staff and manage, but that could drive prospective customers away, and frustrate existing customers.

For example, if you set up your IVR Auto Attendant to offer a four-level hierarchy of keypress options based on departmental and functional assignments, it might enable the most diligent customers to navigate their way to the person or desk that could help them with their purchase or service inquiry.

However, recognize that you are not in business to provide a challenging maze of keypress options to entertain your existing or future customers.  Likewise, your callers have no interest in testing their mental acuity and have no patience for delays.

What Customers Dislike

1. Customers dislike mentally and physically engaging in distractions that are tangential to or unrelated to their intention.

This can result from menu sequences that require the customer to listen closely and make decisions over an extended period of time. This includes the classic “Please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed”.  Whose menu options haven’t recently changed? Customers hear this rude message as a condescending lecture and useless waste of their time. It’s a sour note in the sales and service process.

2. Majority language speakers dislike having to press a key to continue in the predominant language of their region.

Customers in Quebec don’t want to be asked to press 9 to continue in French, and London callers won’t want to be asked to press 9 to continue in English.  You can program your IVR to leave extra keypress to less popular languages to avoid this.

3. Customers hate answering 20 questions, only to find that the “system is down”.  Many companies don’t bother to update their welcome message to warn that critical systems are down. Successful companies that care about their customers do so. Not bothering says “we’re too lazy to care about you”.

4. Twenty seven menu options are too many.  Customers hate having to face so many keypress options that they have to take notes.  If you have more than 4 or 5 options, you have too many possible services piled up on one phone number.  Use separate phone numbers for sales, service, functional departments, and inbound campaigns.

5. Asking for account numbers that have to be requested again later when customer service is reached really annoys customers.  Why do I have to enter a customer account number on the keypad when you ask me for the same number again?

6. Music interrupted by apologies and snarky “did you know” FAQs are despised by customers globally.  It’s annoying enough that you’re on hold forever.  At least you can close your eyes and get a quick cat nap while waiting for the next available agent.  The soothing music is playing.  But no, every 45 seconds it’s a loud and insincere apology for the delay, or it is a blaring announcement covering some FAQ that is completely unrelated to your problem or question.

7. Customers dislike being passed around, department to department, and having to explain their request or question again and again.  Customers hate ending up with no answer or a referral to a poorly recorded “thanks for calling” message.  This happens most often when your IVR configuration and business processes are not set up to align with customer intentions and needs.  It also happens when companies don’t care enough to test customer intentions against their IVR or to update their IVR regularly.

Five Steps to a Great IVR Auto Attendant

There are four steps you should take to configure your IVR auto attendant so it will help you retain existing customers and gain new customers.

  1. Segment Your Customers
  2. Allocate Telephone Numbers
  3. Plan by Customer Intent
  4. Test by Customer Intent

1. Segment Your Customers

Review your list of “who calls”. Divide your list up into logical groups that share common intentions. This is easy and obvious, but don’t skip it.

For example, your inbound call list might be just these:

  • Existing customers with a service problem
  • Existing customers with a billing or method of payment problem
  • Existing customers who’d like to renew or upgrade
  • Vendors, job seekers, employees, friends and family
  • Building management calling to warn about the broken water pipe above your data center
  • Buyers shopping for one of your products or services
  • Buyers responding to a digital campaign (web, PPC, email)
  • Buyers responding to a print or media campaign
  • Buyers returning a sales call, nearly ready to finalize a sale

2. Allocate Telephone Numbers

Now that you’ve identified the types of callers, recognize that these callers need to speak with different people at different numbers. I f you try to have all these persons call the same number, the IVR auto attendant options menu structure you’ll have to build will be overly complicated for all concerned. It will be a disappointment to each customer, current or prospective.

To avoid this, choose a “reasonable” number of individual phone numbers for use as general support, and sales numbers, and then let your marketing team come up with campaign-connected toll free numbers.

With this, all your IVR auto attendant menus are going to be very simple and easy to maintain. With very few menu options, callers will get to their answers quickly.

By allocating telephone numbers to broad groups of similar intention in this step, we are halfway done with the next step.

Configuring Your IVR Auto Attendant.

Configuring Your IVR Auto Attendant.

3. Plan Your IVR Auto Attendant by Customer Intent

Now plan your successful IVR auto attendant implementation, but don’t start by getting a fresh copy of your company org chart. And don’t start by letting a programmer in IT make all your menu choices!

Instead sit down with your list of customer intentions and a list of departmental business functions. Map each of the intentions to the parts of your company where those intentions can be satisfied. If you find that an ordinary customer intention maps out to multiple parts of your company, it may be time for you and a business analyst to make out a new operational organization to present to your COO.

Once you’ve arrived at a streamlined map of customer intentions to departments, meet with the department heads to ensure that you’ve got it right. They may have additional business rules that will impact your design.

Meet separately with your marketing team. Only they will know all the campaigns and campaign phone numbers they are using, along with types of tagging or tracking information that customers will bring with them. Beware that some campaigns are already running, and some of the campaigns will have advertised certain phone numbers or menu instruction. You may have to postpone or phase in your new IVR auto attendant menus.

Check your menus to ensure that you’ve arranged the simplest answer to each customer intention. If there’s some customer intention takes a lot of work on the customer’s part, revise your menu design to remove unnecessary steps.

4. Test by Customer Intent

  1. Start with your list of customer intentions from the previous step.
  2. For each intention, make a one page list of questions and answers that the customer with this intention might have.
  3. Use your list of intentions and questions and answers to test your IVR auto attendant menus and options.  At your desktop, walk through each step as if you were the customer or caller.
  4. Make corrections and revisions as you go, working toward the best customer experience possible.  When you’re done, you’ll have a good IVR auto attendant configuration to try.
  5. Deploy your new menu system, and re-test from your list of intentions, questions, and expected answers in production.  Make sure that you reach the solutions and answers your customers want, covering corporate and vendor calls as well as customer support and sales calls.  Work with your marketing team to ensure that all the campaigns are getting to the right numbers as well.

Remember, even after testing and rolling out your new menus, you should still gather feedback and continue testing in production.  Gather customer complaints and questions and use these to refine your configuration.

All the steps you’ve taken will ensure that you configured a customer experience-centered IVR Auto Attendant.

For even more good ideas, including “Always Provide an Out”, see our post   Cloud IVR – How to Make it Effective, and visit the references listed below.

Customer Experience Centered IVR Auto Attendant – References

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce Brownlee

Bruce Brownlee is AVOXI's Digital Marketing Director. Bruce's background includes lead generation, SEO, web analytics, and web development for AVOXI. Bruce has an engineering, telecommunications, and software development background, working with Lotus Development, Blackstone & Cullen, EMC, Cox Communications, Travel Channel, Brand Fever, and AVOXI.
Bruce Brownlee
Bruce Brownlee

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