March 23, 2022

4 Best Practices for IVR Deflection to SMS to Cut Down on Wait Times and Support your Customer Experience

According to Consumer Reports, 75% of customers say they’re “highly annoyed” when they can’t get someone on the phone in a reasonable amount of time. Long wait times are a pain for customers. In fact, lack of speed and effectiveness is among the top customer frustrations in the U.S. Make use of IVR deflection to SMS texting to reduce this frustration.  It’s safe to assume most customers have experienced the irritating hold music that just goes on and on and on with no faster way to get a hold of an agent on the other end. Within the call center, though, agents are all hard at work, desperately trying to get through the never ending list of waiting calls.  Everyone loses. Customers are annoyed dealing with the long wait. Agents are overworked and exhausted by the incessant phone calls. And, managers stress as their quarterly KPIs and metrics take a hit. How do IVR and texting offer a solution?   

How Texting Fits into your IVR Strategy

IVR is an incredibly useful tool, up to a point. It lets your team gather customer information, route customers to the correct agent or department, and offer customers some self-service tools. This naturally manages high call volumes. But, what happens to those customers who need to talk to a real person and not a recording or a bot? What can you do when customers make it through the IVR menu and may still be sitting on hold for too long? Text can be used as an IVR bailout. Imagine this: your IVR has directed a customer to your customer service call team. Your agents are trapped on phone calls dealing with some tricky customer problems. But, on your IVR, you have another option. It tells your customer, “Call volumes are unusually high and wait-times are long, would you like to continue this conversation over text? If so, press four now.”  With a push of the button, customers no longer have to sit on the phone and wait. Instead, they’re directed to your texting team — a group of agents ready and able to help customers over text. Your customers can get the help they need with flexibility and ease. Sounds great, right?  So, how do you provide IVR deflection for customers in a way that best supports their customer experience? We’ve got 4 best practices for IVR deflection to SMS to make the practice smooth.   

Best Practice #1: Know Customer Intent

Before moving customers to text, gather basic info to know their intent in reaching out to customer service. Knowing what the customer wants from their interaction with customer services is vital. Before IVR deflection, make sure the IVR gathers customer contact information so the agent helping them can pull up customer history prior to responding to them. Agents can then go into the interaction well prepared to make the conversation more personalized.   If possible, get a sense for the kind of issue a customer is experiencing. For complex issues, it won’t be possible to get specifics. But, customers can at least let you know in the IVR whether this is a billing issue, shipping issue, product issue, etc.   

Best Practice #2: Get Opt-in Approval

Once a customer has chosen to move from IVR to text, your agents are able to send an initial response to the customer’s question. But, they’re typically restricted from continuing a conversation in the future without approval from the customer. Sending texts to customers without an invitation can lead to legal trouble and can just get annoying for your customers.  To avoid annoying them, automatically send an opt-in survey to customers that have chosen IVR deflection to SMS. This way, within the text thread, they can approve any continued conversations with your team via text.   

Best Practice #3: Map Out the Full Experience

IVR deflection to SMS needs to find its place in your overall customer journey. Map out when you will give customers the option to text within your overall IVR journey.  It may serve you to introduce the option of text later in the customer IVR journey. Perhaps you don’t have a full texting team set up yet and are wary of overwhelming them. Maybe you want to be sure you’ve given customers self-service options first. Or, you want to gather as much info as you can about the customer’s issue before you let them hop off the call. The IVR journey will look different for every team, so take time to analyze your priorities and needs and plot out IVR deflection to fit your ideal customer journey.  

Best Practice #4: Test, Test, and Re-test

IVR is tricky and there will inevitably be hiccups in the early stages of rolling out IVR deflection. It is not worth rolling out IVR to text if your customers will end up with a worse customer experience as a result. Take time to test out the workflow and technology over and over.  Test it yourself and from different phones. Test out different use cases by having agents role play as customers. Poke holes in the testing phase to identify where it needs fixing. How else would you know about any unforeseen kinks in the process?
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