With the internet making the world so much smaller, it’s become easier than ever for people all over to find your business. While this is an amazing opportunity, it can also be challenging to scale. Some companies are getting a huge influx of calls from all over the country– or even the world– and if they try to keep up with demand manually, they’ll never be able to handle the volume.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is one of the fastest-growing technologies when it comes to scaling a business’s ability to communicate with customers. By using IVR, a company of any size can greet every caller with an immediate response.
IVR technology is more accessible than ever, but this wasn’t always the case. In this article, we’re going to talk about how communication with your customers is changing, and how IVR is a key to the success of your business.
The Golden Age of Customer Communication
Many years ago, when our nation was younger, businesses thrived on community. In the 1920s, there was a single neighborhood butcher or tailor for example. These tradespeople would be the primary source for all of the community’s needs in their area of expertise. Relationships were formed, and loyalty was built and reciprocal. Customer service was an intuitive, seamless part of a genuine relationship. And it was through this customer service that these entrepreneurs thrived and built reputations of steel. Their communities surrounded them and supported them, and in turn, they would do anything for their communities and customers.
This continued for many years until things… changed.
When VCRs Ruled the World
Enter the 1980s and the downfall of personalized customer service. While IVR systems can be traced as far back as the 1960s and 1970s, one of the first true peaks for IVR implementation was in the 1980s. With big hair and pastel geometrical shapes also came cold, calculated automation, and a chasm between customers and the companies they were buying from.
In the 1980s computer science reached a pivotal point: phone systems could now store digitized speech, play it back, and even understand a person’s response (although not that well). And once larger companies realized that they could cut costs by having an IVR deal with their customers, they started replacing human interaction with clunky, frustrating, phone menu systems that were frankly not that good.
Once this became the norm, if you had a problem with the $400 VCR you just bought, you had to call the manufacturer at their all-new, high-tech, toll-free number. And when you called, you didn’t speak to a person right away, you were greeted with an arcane IVR that was often buggy and didn’t get you the results you needed. The results were devastating to customer relationships with brands. People felt there was a wall between the companies they were buying from and them, and it became a point of frustration– and even in some extreme cases, incited customers to hate or boycott brands.
This chasm between customers and companies started to close a bit with the introduction of email and the internet, but wouldn’t see a substantial shift until the birth of Web 2.0. With the emergence of dynamic and user-generated content and social media, people had a voice again, and companies could no longer stay behind their walls.
Now, any savvy companies realize that if you use technology to amplify your customer service– not replace it– you can give your customers ways to communicate with you quickly and easily, and do it at scale. Along with live chat, text messaging options, and other trends, IVR is a big piece of that puzzle.
Current Customer Expectations
When a customer wants something, they want it right then and there, and they want it to be excellent. Whether it’s a support request, customer service request, a product recommendation, or the desire to make a purchase– customers do not want to wait. Truthfully, this is a great thing… if you can handle the demand.
Customer expectations are to be helped quickly, efficiently, and accurately. And when you’re relying on a classic switchboard or call center, meeting that demand can be virtually impossible. In addition to the human error element that’s going to occur, when live agents handle all of your calls, scalability is typically out of the question. This means that your customers are faced with hold times, frustration, and their expectations are not met.
But when you use an IVR, your customers are given menu options immediately and have the control to handle various requests themselves– and at their own pace. They can check details, make payments, and do many other things 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And should the situation arise that they need to speak to a live person, they’re always a keypad press away from being routed to a real human– but never a moment too soon, and not usually for something your automated menu can handle.
Customer Service Then and Now
Customer service is evolving more than ever. We’re seeing a full-circle return to the days where a company truly valued their customers and put no barriers between themselves and the people who wanted to get in touch with them. Here are some primary facets of the customer service experience with a look at what trends were in the past versus how customers expect customer service to work in the present– and the future.
Then: Replaced human interaction, making customer service a frustrating slog.
Now: Technology such as live chat, IVR, and secure mobile-friendly sites makes customer service quick and easy– for you and the customer.
Hours of Operation
Then: Stringent hours of operation known as “bankers hours”. If your problem happened outside of the 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. window on weekdays, you were out of luck, and stuck waiting.
Now: With IVR and chatbots companies can be virtually open for their customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week (including holidays) even if their employees aren’t on duty. Beyond that many businesses have extended hours of customer service.
Then: Corporations held all the power. When and how you could contact them, and what that interaction looked like.
Now: Customers can choose when and where they interact with a company: on their site, through social media, through an IVR menu, and beyond.
The Future of IVR and Customer Service
These trends will only continue to evolve and adapt, favoring the customer’s preference and experience. The companies that realize that offering the most convenient, top-tier customer service are the ones who will truly rise above the rest. Mark our words: the key differentiator moving forward in a competitive landscape is a focus on customer service.
Look at the current statistics. In the United Kingdom, half of the consumers polled claimed that they ended up buying from a competitor due to a poor customer service experience. The numbers are almost as high in the United States. This means that one of the main reasons you’re losing business is after the sale. If you’re unable to keep up with the high standards that a customer expects with post-sale customer service, you’ll fall behind and ultimately lose market share.
Additionally, with the leverage that social media has, customers are more easily able to share their experiences– good and bad. Customer service is now a public conversation between your clients and your brand. Be sure that the conversation surrounding your company is an amazing one by letting your customers connect with you when they want and how they want.
By implementing an IVR, you can meet the new standard in what customers expect from a company’s customer service.
An IVR System Can Help You Connect With Your Customers
Don’t miss the opportunity to surprise and delight your customers with how available your business is to help them. With IVR.li, you can have a phone menu that can assist your customers quickly and easily 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t wait, learn how an IVR system can help you connect with your customers.
Let’s talk today so you can stop the bleeding of missed leads, and frustrated callers taking out their anger on your company through social media.
Get in touch now for a free consultation.