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Time to Switch off the IVR

Over the last couple of days, I've had occasion to phone a couple of companies that use IVRs, and it has reminded me just how awful the experience is.

In both cases, I had to go through 4 or 5 levels before I got what I really wanted (and needed) - which was to speak to a real-life person.  You end up with the impression that speaking to their customers is the very last thing they want to do, which is surely madness.  I complained about the IVR to one of these companies (a mobile phone operator) who was helpful enough to tell me, for future reference, how to mess up the choices at the first level badly enough to drop me to an operator straight away - very helpful, but equally mad...!

The worst I've ever had was in trying to get through to one of the gas suppliers on an 0800 number.  I went through 7 - yes, seven - levels, before I got to a message telling me I had to redial - an 087 number (which I thought was a real cheek).  Consequently, I redialled the 0800 number and went back through the IVR, picking a choice (this time at level 6, I think) that got me to an operator, who then had to transfer me to the department I really wanted.  You can imagine what kind of a mood I was in by then, and how the call went as a consequence.

Sometimes, you also get so many choices on one level - my record was 8 - that it's so difficult to remember what the choices were and you have to go through them again.

These people that devise IVR menus probably think they are being clever, in coming up with such intricate designs.  Surely they don't use IVRs themselves; either that, or they have some kind of problem...

Contrast that with another call I made the day after to a book seller, to query the progress on an internet order I'd made.  The phone rang only twice and was then answered - by a real person.  She was very efficient and dealt with the issue with courtesy and competence.  You can imagine the contrasting impression that left me with.

Those companies using IVRs presumably do so to save money, but probably don't attempt to place a value on the financial consequences of the poor customer service that IVRs provide.  It's time to kill off IVRs, which would enable companies to a) provide proper service that would probably generate sufficient business to cover the additional costs and b) put more bums on seats, which would help the economy as a whole.

I don't know anyone who has used an IVR and liked it.  Why can't the corporate world see that and react accordingly?

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Comments: (2)

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 25 October, 2008, 11:19Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I hate IVRs too. The only thing I want is to speak to a real person, but i had to push buttons for 2 minutes to do it. Banks in the CEE region are trying to push this channel, but customers - for logical reasons - are reluctant to use it.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 04 November, 2008, 07:41Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Hi Roger myself also hate the IVR's.

But what I feel is the problem is not with the technology or the people supporting it. The problem is, with the way, the manner in which many organisations deploy it.

The IVR can be made customer friendly by giving customers the option to do human interaction  with a lag of 60-90 seconds if the call center operators are busy. Here the customer can be awarded with some points if he uses the IVR options where menu options are simple, properly laid down and easy to complete that is actually human support is not required to close the customer querry.

And then the customer who is familiar with the menu options should be able to directly go to the option desired by him/her.

The IVR should not be dumb to un-necessarily pronounce the full menu.  Many times customers though they have done/know the selection, can't proceed ahead in the IVR because the selection is allowed only after the menu is completely described which is an pathetic thing to face.

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