IVR Doesn't Have to Be Tricky

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
When done right IVR will serve its intended purpose--resolve customers' problems in a short period of time and save the organization money.

How many times have you sighed with exasperation when you contact a company and end up spiraling down an IVR hole? I, for one, have done so many times and often catch myself desperately pressing random numbers on my phone in the hope that I get connected with a human being.

By the time that I do reach someone who's able to help me, I'm normally so irritated that the issue I had--mostly something that should be easily resolved--seems like an insurmountable mountain that has doubled in size since I first picked up the phone. I find myself wondering why IVR, something that should simplify our lives, has in fact complicated matters.
So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was a few weeks ago with a very quick and easy IVR interaction that resolved my problem without having to speak with an agent. My husband and I mistakenly overpaid our Banana Republic card. Since neither of us was planning a shopping spree anytime soon we decided to try and get a refund. We put it off for a few days, both not looking forward to the interaction.

We shouldn't have been. My husband--who's the primary cardholder--called the number on the card. Because he called from the same phone Banana Republic had on file, the IVR recognized him and welcomed him by name. He was then prompted to enter the last four digits of his Social Security number. After following the instructions, the system recognized that the account had a credit and he was asked whether he wished to receive a refund by check.

The whole interaction lasted a couple of minutes and didn't require interaction with a human. It's an example of IVR done right with win-win results--the customer was happy because he got his issue resolved in a short period of time and the company saved the expense of a contact center agent. Additionally, Banana Republic has won two advocates who will remember this incident next time we pass by a store. Subconsciously we consider Banana Republic as a company which is easy to do business with, and more importantly one that will not make us jump through hoops when we have a problem, even one of our own making like overpaying a credit card bill.

When done right IVR is far from the nightmare it often ends up being. Instead, it will serve its intended purpose--resolve customers' problems in a short period of time and save the organization money.