IVR. Stands for Interactive Voice Response. They are designed to improve the customer experience, reduce costs and even drive sales. In fact, a quick Google search brought up the following results and sponsored ads:

  • <Company X>’s IVR solutions, hosting, and platform will delight your callers.
  • Customer Satisfaction = Revenue. Improve your IVR with our 14 points.
  • Automate complex conversations cost effectively with artificial intelligence.

Stop it. Seriously, just stop it. With full disclosure, I worked as a Training and/or Quality Manager for over 10 years with companies like US Bank, Charter Communications, FTD.COM and DIRECTV. IVR’s are not used to improve customer service. They are used to cut costs. In a perfect world, they may route you to the right person (I can leave the topic of the right person for another day). We don’t live in that world now, do we?

Just look at some of the words used to tempt our clicking finger! “Delight your callers?” “Artificial Intelligence?” The only thing artificial is a company’s belief that these systems do anything but anger customers and drive them to yell “Agent! I said Agent!”

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that every business, large or small, is looking for an edge – whether that is reduced costs or improved technology. What businesses often lose sight of is the actual customer experience. People call with questions; either questions that when answered well will drive new business, or problems solved that will result in continued business. You know what? Even in this age of technological interaction, at the heart of it people want to talk to people. Quickly.

Where is this going besides a rant against the almighty IVR? It’s about understanding that whatever your business, whether it is the practice of law, legal liability insurance or any other business; the choices you make about your ‘back office’ support when you begin will dictate how you manage your client relationships. Who answers your phone? Is it a staff member? Is it an answering service? The more time (and often money) you spend ensuring that every call is answered by a person and a person who cares, the more your customers will feel like you care – and that is over half the battle.