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How visual IVR improves the omnichannel customer experience

Posted December 1, 2020
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When consumers have a question to be answered or a problem to be solved, they want the resolution process to be quick and effortless. When calling a customer service line, that means the length of time it takes to reach the right information or person can greatly influence their brand perception in that moment, but also whether they will be a loyal customer over the long term.

On the surface, having an interactive voice response (IVR) system to handle incoming customer queries can seem straightforward to companies. Looking for technical support? Press 1. Looking for a password reset? Press 2. Need to talk to a representative? Press 0 or hold the line. If it goes as expected, customers will effortlessly reach the person they need, solve their problem and move on with the rest of their day. From a business’ perspective, IVR is a simple, effective and cost-efficient system that enables their customers to use the dial pad for identification and routes them to the most appropriate employee or department within the company when seeking assistance.

But IVR systems suffer a significant customer experience handicap due to their reputation for forcing consumers to listen to a long menu of either incomplete or confusing options. In fact, over 60% of customers feel that IVR technology makes for a poor customer experience, and only 13% believe it creates a positive one. To that point, more than half of consumers have not just hung up a call, but abandoned a business altogether because they’ve reached an IVR. This can cost businesses an estimated $262 per customer per year.

What if, instead of waiting for a traditional IVR to get them help, customers could zip through their customer service call on an app-like interface, quickly routing themselves to where they want to go? That’s where visual IVR comes in. It’s an increasingly popular system designed to help brands retain the benefits of traditional IVR systems, while drastically improving the customer experience.

What is visual IVR and how is it different from traditional IVR?

Self-serve options in customer service are increasing in popularity as more and more consumers would prefer to quickly find their own solution than ask a customer support agent, and next-gen technologies are vastly improving their functionality. Visual IVR takes a traditional FAQ or self-service system and merges it with AI and a slick user interface to elevate its capabilities to the next level.

In essence, visual IVR systems provide a multi-channel digital presentation of the traditional audio IVR menu system. But there is a fundamental difference. Instead of waiting for prompts to select an option, modern visual IVRs are designed to help customers quickly and effortless navigate menus at a glance through the support channel or device of their choice.

As with any effective or innovative customer support experience, though, design is key. Brands can’t simply port their traditional voice-based IVR to a visual interface and call it a day. A best-in-class user experience comes from integrating existing customer data into a smart user interface and making continuous improvements, much like how marketing teams maintain other parts of the customer-facing website or app experience.

How visual IVR improves the customer experience

Delivering the modern omnichannel customer experience relies on being able to deliver consistent cross-device, cross-channel support. That’s one benefit of the visual IVR systems. Like “choose your own adventure” children’s books, visual IVR enables customers to take their own path to getting the support they need.

Voice support remains important, but only when it’s the most effective channel for a given customer support challenge. With visual IVR, customers can choose to be contacted by chat, email, text — even request a callback at a time of day that’s most convenient for them.

Not only that, a visual IVR can all but eliminate the dreaded “hold time”, where a customer is traditionally forced to listen to outdated elevator music. Instead, brands can offer customers opportunities to seek additional information, view videos or other content or conduct a website search while waiting to talk to a representative.

How visual IVR improves digital customer engagement

Beyond omnichannel support, visual IVR also represents an important step forward in terms of accessibility by offering more options to customers with vision or hearing impairments, along with others with accessibility needs. A blended interface with visual, audio and other prompts, along with app-like tools for data entry and menu selection, can serve a broader proportion of the population.

The digital interface offers other versatility that voice-only channels can’t. On a traditional voice IVR system, for instance, customers are unable to enter alphanumeric characters like identification numbers or product IDs. Visual IVRs can include that capability, enabling customers to more easily provide complex data to customer support teams directly from their mobile device or desktop.

As with other self-service options, customers using visual IVR effectively route themselves, reducing demand for more expensive voice support. Customers get a better experience, while saving time for themselves and businesses can more easily address complex inquiries with the additional layer of data their customers are now able to provide. Visual IVR can also integrate with chatbots, or onto existing contact pages on brands’ websites that automatically launch the visual IVR interface with a simple click.

In many ways, visual IVR advances momentum toward omnichannel CX delivery. The app-like technology serves less as a replacement for voice-based customer support, but rather, as a more advanced, efficient self-service solution. As consumers continue to adopt digital interfaces in all aspects of their lives, visual IVR will no doubt continue to grow in popularity, importance and scale for many digital-first brands.

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