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Top 9 reasons why customers hate IVR

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

Person shouting into a telephone

Most customers are aware of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, and some may even use them regularly. However, there is a good chance that for most people, the experience of interacting with an IVR is less than ideal. In fact, in a recent customer satisfaction survey, IVR systems were named as the top reason that customers hate calling a business. So, what is Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system is a method of taking input, processing it, and returning a result, as well as processing inbound phone calls and routing customers to a specific agent or department.

The initial benefits of an IVR system were seen as providing the clients with good customer service and fast response times, so its introduction was considered a costly, but money-saving, investment. But this was back in 1990.

Nowadays, IVR is considered a real drag. Customers are forced to navigate through a huge voice menu of options to obtain information or wait patiently on hold to speak to a live representative. This experience is both time-consuming and frustrating. It’s gotten to the point that many customersincluding our own team membersprocrastinate when they need to enter IVR hell.


Why are customers so frustrated with IVR?

So what exactly is it about IVR systems that leave customers feeling so frustrated? The answer is that there are a number of factors that contribute to this sense of dissatisfaction. Here are the top 9 reasons why customers hate IVR:

  1. Where are the people? A major problem with many IVR systems is that it’s often difficult to navigate through labyrinthian menu options to speak to a live person. Clicking on buttons cannot replace direct, conversational communication. Reducing human resources to save on staffing costs often means that humans aren’t easily accessible from the IVR menu, frustrating customers. By the time the customer reaches the human agent, they are likely to be irate, frustrated, and hostile.

  2. Far too many options (and I still haven’t found what I'm looking for). Cue U2 for an IVR theme song. Customers call companies for a reason, they want to contact a particular department or person to get an answer. The way in which IVR is structured often makes it difficult to attain this (pretty modest!) goal. When calling in for help, customers are often faced with a large number of menu options, which leads to yet more menus with even more options. This can be really frustrating. Every time the customer phones the company, IVR has the potential to irritate or exasperate them. This is ironic since each of these calls is an opportunity to strengthen that relationshipnot strain it.

  3. Losing my time on hold. Consumers worldwide waste millions of precious hoursup to 43 years of their life!waiting on hold. Most people are only willing to wait 2-3 minutes before getting upset while gradually getting angrier and angrier. On average, most people abandon the call around the 11-minute mark.

  4. Asking for user verification details. Over and over again... Often, before reaching the desired menu, the customer has to press a lot of keys and enter personal data like ID, birthday, contract number, and so on, just to talk to an agent! And afterward, often, the agent will ask for these details again. All. Over. Again.

  5. Advertising to a captive audience. Why do I need to hear every single menu option, every single time I calleven if I already know your IVR flow? What about those system advertisements that play every 30 seconds for the whole time I'm waiting on hold? So, you're not letting me jump to the next menu or talk to a live agent, but instead, you're forcing me to listen to your company promos? That is definitely not the way to get customers to love you.

  6. Irritating music. One of the most bothersome things to do when you've been put on hold to join an apparently endless queue is to listen to canned, annoying music. I don't want to listen to your taste in music; I want to get the info I want, now.

  7. Hitting the wrong button by mistake. Who among us hasn’t hit the wrong button accidentally—or maybe you aren’t sure which category your question falls into? Then, you’re off down a new rabbit hole of a menu—oops, it's the wrong menuand it’s almost impossible to get back to the previous level. Lucky you! You get to hang up, call back, and start this circle of hell all over again.

  8. Getting sucked into the "IVR loop" endlessly. A poorly designed phone menu hierarchyand there are many, many out therecan make customers freak out, or just give up. Probably the worst scenario is when you do manage to persevere through IVR hell only to get put on an endless hold to talk to a live agent. Everyone has a story about that time they waited 3 hours to book a vacation or get technical support. Even worse, you finally reach the human agent and the line gets disconnected! These are the situations that cause customers to flee to social media to vent their frustrations.

  9. The machine can’t recognize my speech. Automatic speech recognition (ASR) is a newer feature of many IVR systems. It allows the customer to communicate with an IVR system by basic speech rather than by clicking phone keys. The challenge here is that ASR works best when the caller is in a quiet space. If there’s background noise, music, other voices, etc., the ASR won't be able to recognize what the customer is saying. So, the system will not be able to process the voice input. Regardless, even in a quiet space, often ASR just doesn’t “get” it, leading you to have to repeat, “customer SERVICE!” repeatedly, to try to get your call to redirect.

Flattening IVR for Good

There's no need to make your customers wade through IVR hell.

Our voice-based smart Virtual Assistant lets your customers get the info they need, at their convenience. Using natural language, your customers can get info on their accounts, pay bills, change a plan, schedule a meeting, ask questions, and more. It can eliminate wait times by handling hundreds of calls simultaneously and making you available to your customers 365/24/7.

Contact us for more info on how to introduce a smart voice assistant into your daily operations.

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