Last updated 4th of July 2019
Author Lisa Hartwell
Tips for Updating Your Automated Call Handling System
It’s not unusual for businesses with automated call handling systems (whether IVR systems that automate the whole customer journey or a simpler system that guides callers to the right department) to discover a need to make updates: internal systems and departments change, new processes need to be added, and feedback dictates adjustments.
Here are some of our top tips for updating your automated call handling system to make it more streamlined and avoid frustrating your callers…
Know Your Stats
This is probably the most vital yet overlooked aspect of updating or overhauling an automated phone system. Don’t make any changes without consulting your statistics for call durations, drop-offs, and complaints. If you don’t have these statistics, then start running tests and seeking feedback before proceeding with changes.
You may feel you know what’s best for your system, but your callers can feel differently. Statistics will show you where callers might become confused or frustrated, they will tell you if callers are becoming caught in a loop and not finding the outcome they require. Complaints and feedback will help you to determine why problems occur and what can be improved…or what should stay the same.
Re-Design - Don’t Patch
The temptation with making updates to automated call handling systems is to add a little here and there to the current system layout, especially if the person updating wasn’t involved with the original planning and design. You may feel that one or two changes won’t make much difference, but those changes add-up and can ruin the flow of the system and the customer’s experience.
Signs you should re-design your system (or a part of your system) rather than patch it up include:
- Having to add too many options to a prompt (some say 4 is a good limit but it also depends on the amount of information offered)
- Having to add longer and more complicated wording in order to explain what you want callers to do
- Creating unnecessary additional prompts in order to lead callers to a new part of the system
- Stats show a higher drop-off rate for callers at certain points in the system
- Stats show callers taking considerably longer within the system to reach their desired solution/outcome
Format Your Prompts for a Better Customer Journey
There are a number of ways you can ensure you avoid frustrating your callers and speed up their journey: keep the wording concise; put the most popular actions first in the prompt (for example, if 75% of people call to pay a bill, put that as the first option); and always offer options before actions, to avoid selection errors or callers having to re-listen to the prompt i.e. “for payment options, press one” not “press one for payment options.”
Create “Error” Prompts
If your callers don’t choose an option after 2 listens or they press an option that doesn’t exist, send them to a new prompt where the wording is slightly different, but the meaning is the same. If you make them listen to the same prompt again and again or immediately send them back to an earlier part of the journey, they are likely to make the same mistakes.
Offer the Option to Speak to a Real Person
The temptation with automated phone systems is to remove human interaction altogether or to allow it only after the customer has jumped through multiple hoops and still not found the solution they need. Allow callers to bypass the system early in their journey and ensure they are sent to the most relevant department. It may feel like you will save money by reducing the number of call centre staff you need to employ, but it can be a false economy when you weigh it against frustrated customers abandoning your business, and increased telephone line rental costs due to customers staying on longer than necessary.
If your original automated system has been working for you, maintain the same style and branding when you make changes. How often have you called a business and during the automated journey the voice has changed? Or the system starts off formal in style – “Welcome to XYZ Limited. To make a payment, press one…” – but changes to a relaxed or informal style – “Great! For credit cards, it’s one!” Often these decisions are made because it’s cheaper and quicker (in the case of using a different voice – often an employee) or a new manager has taken over responsibility for the system and has new ideas about how it should sound (changing style) or those making the changes simply haven’t taken the time to familiarise themselves with the style and branding of the current phone system.
Losing consistency will make your business sound less professional, as well as confuse your callers.
It Doesn't Need to be Profits vs Customer Experience
While automated call handling systems make good sense for businesses, never lose sight of the fact that they should be as much (or more) about providing good customer service and a great customer experience. And the benefits of designing your system for your callers will, in turn, profit the business by reducing line rental costs and decreasing your chances of losing customers who become frustrated and confused by your system.