Why Customers Hate IVR Systems

And What to Do about It?

Updated: December 21, 2015

Why Customers Hate IVR Systems

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency." - Bill Gates

There's nothing more irritating than speaking to someone who isn't listening to you. It's also agonizingly frustrating to listen to someone telling you information you don't need to know, or repeating something several times, while you are forced to powerlessly sit and listen to them. Even if your company has an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, you can probably relate to being on a call with what sounds like a robot. And being placed in a queue, without having any idea how many people are in front of you, with music you really don't like being blasted in your ear, is something that will test even the most patient individuals.

Why Use IVR?

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Why Use IVR?

An IVR system is an extremely effective method of processing inbound phone calls and efficiently routing customers to specific teams of in-house service agents or outside extensions. The end result allows customers to navigate their way through a huge company network to obtain the information they need, or speak to whomever they need to speak to, while saving the company vital human resources. The process is user friendly and cuts staff costs, thus saving money.

The benefits of an IVR system can be seen in statistics demonstrating that customers are more likely to stay with a company with good customer service and fast response times, and that IVR is a money-saving investment:

  • 79% of customers who have a negative experience with a company will tell others about it (Harris Interactive), indicating the importance of high quality of customer service.
  • 89% of consumers switched to a business competitor after experience a poor customer experience (Harris Interactive).
  • The average handling time is lowered and holding time is minimized for calls.
  • Customers are accurately routed to the right agent as quickly as possible.
  • Approximately 2 cents are saved per every 800 callers as customers utilize the IVR to complete their personal transactions.
  • According to Gartner, by 2020 approximately 85 percent of a customer's relationship with a company will occur without the customer interacting with a human.

However, despite its ease of use, it also risks destroying customer satisfaction. Is this worthwhile? Or can something be done to make IVR systems less of an irritation and become a true customer service benefiting both the company and the customer's nerves?

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Why Customers Hate IVR Systems - And What Can Be Done To Change This

Too Many Menu Options (and most of them have nothing to do with me)

When a customer contacts a company they'll have a specific reason for doing so, whether it's a query or a request for information. This means they'll be intending to contact a specific department or find a certain answer. Either way, it's personal, and quite deliberate. So when a customer is faced with a huge quantity of menu options, which all too often lead to yet another menu with even more options, customer might get very frustrated, hang up and take their business elsewhere.
Every time they phone the company, the customer is going to become irritated, bored or may simply run out of time. They might not even be sure of which department they need to contact. The solution? Keep your menu options simple, generalized and short. If that means pooling together information or in-house service representatives, so be it.

It Doesn't Recognize the Voice Commands

Automatic speech recognition (ASR) is a classic feature of many IVR systems and allows the customer to communicate with the IVR system by speech rather than by pressing telephone keys, which can be awkward to do for callers using mobile phones. But if the ASR isn't capable of recognizing what the customer is saying it renders the system frustrating and worse still, useless. Ensure your ASR is highly effective and operational to minimize customers giving up or becoming annoyed.

Irritating Menu Music

Possibly one of the most exasperating things to do when you've been put on hold to join a seemingly endless queue is to listen to music you don't like. And what could make this even more painfully infuriating is to listen to music you don't like being played in extremely poor quality. Music played via a phone is almost always exceptionally awful in quality and often will not appeal to the majority of customers, even if you choose to emit a calm classical piece or a chart single.
You're never going to be able to please every customer with the music you choose - so why play the music? Instead, let them listen to information they want to hear, such as their position in the on-hold queue. Give their ears a break and allow them to sit in peace and quiet. After all, if they really want to hear a song they can play their own music.

I Really Just Want to Speak to a Human Being (i.e. someone who is actually listening to me!)

The underlying and major problem with most IVR systems is that regardless of how useful they might be at providing all the possible options to suit a huge variety of customer queries and problems, most customers really just want to speak to a live person. Nothing will ever beat direct human-to-human communication. This may seem counter-intuitive if you're employing IVR systems to reduce human resources and staffing costs, but adding an option to speak to an advisor on the main menu without forcing customers to hunt through verbal mazes of menu options will keep most customers happier and less frustrated.

These are just a partial list of the main frustrations and concerns clients have with IVR systems, as well as some solutions. However, not all is lost. There is certainly a large financial benefit to utilizing IVR software, as long as it is used in the right way, which is with the customer in mind first.

For more information on IVR and Contact Center features, visit our Contact Center page or compare solutions with our Contact Center Comparison Guide.