Badly designed IVR call flows give IVR a bad rap. We all hate being passed through 7 layers of "press 3 to do this, press 4 to do that, press 5 if you are at your wits' end". This kind of system can taint our view of IVRs.
But there are some very positive, sensible uses of IVR that play to its strengths and are really appreciated - so we'd like to take a moment to speak in defense of IVR:
Here, at Sytel, we see outbound IVR being used by clients and resellers, and with good reason. If a message is a simple one, what quicker way to get through to a customer quickly than by ringing them up? If the respondent knows you may be calling they are more likely to answer, and if your message needs some kind of feedback from them it's easy to ask them to 'press 1 if you agree...' to ensure they have understood and responded to you. However, even if they don't answer your call they can listen to their voicemail and can call you back.
Consider how slow the response will be and how few respondents there would be if you tried to and ask the same question by email! Not only that, but by the time you have an answer the moment may be passed. IVR can get you answers - fast!
The elderly may balk at having to go online to fill in a form. It may require looking at a tiny screen on a mobile phone or perhaps sitting down at a PC. However, a question asked by an IVR simply requires a digit to be pressed or perhaps speaking an answer. A phone is an interface that we are all familiar with; people don't see phone calls as high-tech. This translates to less work for the customer and is therefore more likely to be completed.
For many people talking to a machine is easier than talking to a real person. If you need to collect some information that is of a sensitive or very personal nature it may be difficult to ask over the phone with a human being. Sytel has examples of users producing both inbound and outbound IVR scripts that allow a respondent to provide an IVR with a response to a difficult question. IVR is discreet.
We have also seen great examples that combine automated messages with real live agents. If there is simple information to collect why not let an IVR carry out this section of the task and allow your agents to focus on more complex task?. If necessary, transfer the IVR call back to the agent after the data capture has been carried out. It's a good way to use agent's time efficiently.
Are you concerned whether your employees always present the best possible face of your company? You don't need to worry about your IVR. Once it has been recorded it doesn't get tired or have a bad day or over-emphasise the wrong word in a phrase and cause some minor confusion. What is recorded stays recorded. IVR is consistent, both in the message and the tone of the message. And if IVR is being used to collect digits - maybe to look up an account number - you can be sure that it won't mishear or miss a digit. It won't make the kind of mistakes that humans make.
Want to design a custom form to feed data into a database? You might need to find a software developer to write some code for you to do this. IVR systems (and we're talking about the best ones here) often allow code-free design of data collection to feed straight into a database. This kind of code free design could allow you to lookup a caller's CLI, extract some information from a database and collect data from them as they press digits.
So, next time you are looking for a fast, consistent, simple, customer-friendly way of collecting a lot of data quickly, consider what IVR can do for you. It should be a useful tool to keep in contact with your clients, not a barrier to keep them away from you.