Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and keypad inputs. The blueprint for IVR began in 1961, when the Bell Systems developed a new tone dialing methodology. Bell unveiled the first telephone that could dial area codes using that technology at the Seattle World Fair in 1962.
Things have never been the same since.
IVR systems are typically used to service high call volumes, reduce cost and improve the customer experience. Call centers use IVR systems to identify and segment callers.
Interactive voice response can be used to front-end a contact center operation by identifying the needs of the caller. Information can be obtained from the caller such as an account number. Answers to simple questions such as account balances or payment due date information can be provided without live operator assistance.
IVR is sometimes criticized as being too drawn out and difficult to use due to poor design and lack of appreciation of the caller’s needs. Some callers object to providing voice response to an automated system and prefer speaking with an actual human.
Time was, when you called a bank, a government office or phone or cable company, a disembodied electronic voice told you to press one for this and two for that and three for something else. Now that voice wants you to say it.
That would be fine if the voice recognition software actually recognized your voice. Often, however, it doesn’t. Worse, as you penetrate the phone tree to the exact branch you’re looking for, the voice asks, “please explain your problem.” If your call doesn’t fit into a common category, like “account balance” or “make a payment,” you may find yourself saying help! The voice never understands that, and it usually asks you again. If it still can’t understand, it boots you back to the main menu where you have to start again. I have developed a work around you might want to try. Just pick any common category and then say Agent !
Another phone tree complaint is before you can speak to real live breathing agent, you must say your account number, sometimes your social security number or another bit of identity. You then listen to five or ten minutes of Muzak or infomercials interrupted by announcements such as: “please stay on the line, your call is important to us,” or “due to high call volume, our customer care representatives are answering other calls” or “we estimate your waiting time to be 15 minutes.”
Recently, after I was into the complex phone tree of a government office, the voice told me, “all our agents are busy now, the best time to call is between one and four. That was the time frame I was calling in. When you finally connect with the customer service rep, you are just jumping with joy.
What does he or she ask you?
- What’s your account number?
- What’s your social security number ?
Worse, when you reach a live person, they may not solve your problem. Time for another hold and being transferred. By now you may want to just hang up and try another time. Don’t, because it will be just like today.