December 18, 2020

Use Texting In Your IVR to Deflect Contact Center Calls

In a previous post talking about texting best practices, we highlighted call deflection using texting within your IVR. However, it merely scratched the surface of what texting can do to help alleviate call volumes and ultimately what it can do for the customer experience. It’s time to go a little deeper into understanding how texting in your IVR can help your agents while also making customers happier.

Understanding IVR

Commercial availability of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) began way back in the 1970s. Everyone old enough to call a business has encountered an IVR in their life. It works like this:

  1. A customer calls a business.
  2. The business’s phone system automatically answers the call and the IVR begins.
  3. The IVR requests information from the caller.
    • E.g., Preferred language, account number, caller name, etc.
  4. The caller either enters the information using their keypad or verbally.
  5. The IVR processes the information and asks more questions or provides information to the customer.
    • E.g., Shipping status, bank account balance, hours of operation, etc.

Some IVRs are more sophisticated and pull information based on the caller’s phone number, which is done using a customer database.

Contact centers find IVRs especially useful because they focus agents on complex customer issues rather than mundane, simple tasks. That also means the agents are taking fewer calls which frees the contact center to lower their headcount.

Traditional IVR Shortcomings

Traditional IVRs relied on a voice-only strategy – meaning the entire interaction required a phone call to receive and transmit information. There are some major issues with that:

  • Call Quality Issues: Cell towers are nearly everywhere, but that doesn’t mean call quality issues disappeared. The rise of business VoIP means issues like jitter, latency, and packet loss are real threats to how well IVRs receive customer information. Ultimately, if customer information isn’t accurately captured, it can lead to a poor customer experience or require an otherwise avoidable call to an agent.
  • Unreliable Customer Memory: Depending on the information your IVR shares, it can be incredibly difficult for a caller to remember. For example, humans can remember roughly 7 numbers or items at a time (plus or minus 2). For simple calls, a traditional IVR could work just fine. But a customer going through several IVR menus may quickly forget all the information shared. A simple pen and paper could solve it, but not every time.
  • Digital Age Complexity: Businesses in the 21st century enjoy the benefits of the internet that wasn’t available when IVRs appeared in the ‘70s. Customers can find out nearly everything about a business online. This also means customers’ expectations changed. People are more impatient and don’t want to sit through a long IVR. They increasingly don’t prefer talking on the phone either.

Texting Is the Answer

Embedding texting in your IVR solves these shortcomings. For one, texting doesn’t rely on call quality – it just needs cell reception. That means information is captured accurately which reduces frustration for both the customer and the business.

Texting makes things easier on agents as well. An agent can handle multiple simultaneous text conversations at once. They can also use things like auto-replies and canned responses to be more efficient.

Texting creates a thread between your business and the customer. If the customer forgets anything shared, all they have to do is pop open the text thread to see the information. Best of all, if texting is integrated into your contact center solution your agents can see the text history for better context.

IVR Texting in the Real World

A government agency used Textel to help them manage their call volumes which skyrocketed from 100,000 calls a week to over 1 million. Call queues were overwhelmed with most calls never reaching an agent. Most of the callers had common questions that were easily answered on the state website.

Textel worked with the government agency to implement texting in the IVR. Here’s how it worked:

  1. The IVR script prompted the caller to request a text.
  2. Callers who chose to receive a text would instantly receive one with the URL to information on the state’s website.
  3. Callers would immediately drop out of the call queue.

In just the first three weeks, this government agency sent over 800,000 texts from their IVR. This provided instant relief to both the call queue and agents.

See What Texting Can Do For You

Your use case may not be as extreme as that, but everyone can benefit from implementing texting in their IVR – especially your customers.

Learn more about Textel here.

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