The Great Customer Barrier – The Interactive Voice Response System (IVR)

Frustrated CustomerI have posted many times on this subject, yet as companies find ways to “save money” they turn to technology that increase costs, makes customers shake their heads and take actions that make companies more unprofitable and less competitive.  Really, enough with the snake-oil and one of the worse technologies ever invented . . . the IVR.

But everybody has one (whining).  Sorry, time to fess up, pay the piper and get real.  Customers hated them when they first came out and hate them today.

A better customer management process does not have to include the IVR system.  I know everyone has one, but really.  You don’t need one and it does not save you money.  It is nothing more than a poor sorting process in the best cases and chases away customers in the worst cases.

Contact center executives continue to believe  that that separating the calls to specialists is a good idea so that customers get the right answers, but getting to that specialist is a journey through hell for the customer. IVRs (as with all technology) has to standardize things in the menu options.  What is not realized is that customers may have a variety of problems and I have to talk to several different specialists as a customer.  This is wasteful for both customer and service organization.

I have a better solution.  Service organizations should study customer demand and purpose from the customer perspective.  Derive customer measures from this purpose and redesign the system to accommodate variety of demand offered by customers.  While you are doing this at least offer the customer an option to talk to a human.  Humans a better able to absorb variety offered in service.

Redesigning against customer demand will help achieve business cost reduction and business improvement.  The management paradox here is that as service improves, costs will fall.  Happy customers are less expensive to take care of and when you do take care of them they will come back for more.

Leave me a comment. . . What’s your opinion?!  Click on comments below.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at

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