My colleague Florence Connally and I recently finished writing the summary report for the E Source Review of North American Electric and Gas Company IVRs: 2011, which will be published in September. Our reviewers called 96 utility interactive voice response systems (IVRs) for this study. They were specifically looking for options related to 13 tasks that customers expect to find on their utility’s IVR. I’m excited about the results, and I want to share our top 3 findings from this year’s study related to choice, clarity, and ease of use. Providing callers with choice, clarity, and ease of use are the keys to creating a positive experience for customers who call their utility’s IVR.
Choice. One of the overarching themes that we noticed in the reviewers’ comments this year is that they really love having choices when calling their utility’s IVR. Callers particularly appreciate the following types of choice that we found on some IVRs:
- Giving callers the choice of whether to use the automated system or be sent directly to a customer service rep (CSR) at the beginning of the call
- Providing the option to listen to additional messages or more information about a program instead of forcing all callers to listen to those messages
- Offering callers more than one way to authenticate that they are a customer with an account when using the IVR
Clarity. Another theme we commonly read in the comments was that callers appreciate IVRs that provide clear menu options, navigations paths, and messages. When these aspects of the IVR are not clear, callers get confused and annoyed. These best practices are important to keep in mind for your IVR:
- Using concise, clear wording for menu options, and keeping options distinctly different
- Organizing the menu logically
- Using high-quality voice recordings, and avoiding computerized voices when possible
Ease of use. IVRs have historically been difficult to use, which has trained callers to immediately seek the option to speak with a live person. However, a utility can help callers understand that the IVR is a useful tool by:
- Providing consistent and relevant navigation options at the end of every menu and task
- Making the option to speak to a CSR easily accessible throughout the IVR’s menus
- Waiting until a caller has reached the option that will allow them to actually perform a task on the IVR before asking them to authenticate
Full results will be available in the summary report in September. The report includes a detailed analysis of general findings, the performance of the 96 utilities included in the study, the 13 tasks assessed, and IVR basics such as delivery and navigation. For questions about the IVR benchmark study or how to obtain the upcoming report, please contact Rich Goodwin or call him at 303-345-9156.