‘Please wait while we connect you to...’: Customer service takes a back seat with interactive voice response systems

I am yet to come across a consumer who likes those automated answering services that businesses employ in the name of customer service
HT Image
HT Image
Published on Sep 04, 2021 05:34 PM IST
Copy Link
ByBy Pushpa Girimaji

I am yet to come across a consumer who likes those automated answering services that businesses employ in the name of customer service. Yet, I do not see an end to this interactive voice response (IVR) system. In fact, I have begun to believe that businesses put up these automated responses with the sole objective of discouraging their customers from calling them or complaining about their products or services.

The IVR systems can be particularly frustrating when you urgently want to talk to a human being or a ‘customer care executive’ at the other end to resolve your problem quickly , but in order to get to that executive, you have to manoeuvre through endless options that offer you no solution, but only waste your time and test your patience.

Going through the IVR menu is sometimes like going through an endless maze - within each option in the menu, you come across more choices and finally, after what seems like a marathon hurdle race, when you come to the human interface stage, either the line gets cut off or you have to be ready for another long wait before you can talk to the human being at the other end. Or you discover, after a lengthy struggle with a complicated and long IVR menu, that there is no human interface at all and that you have just wasted a lot of time. Who can remain calm and composed at the end of such experiences?

Companies may be saving on salaries by using these IVR systems but they are certainly not earning the respect or loyalty of their customers. In fact, they might well be losing their customers to competitors.

Here is an example, narrated by a reader. Following a serious health issue, he was advised by his doctors to get a particular test done every three months. He was using the same laboratory recommended by his doctor and this time, he noticed that they had sent him the result of the previous quarter’s test. Upset, he called the laboratory technician who had come to take the blood sample and when he failed to help, he called the laboratory to ask for the latest report. That one call changed his perception of the laboratory and he says he does not want to patronise them ever again.

He says he had to wade through eight or nine menu options, none of which could help him with his problem. Finally, when he reached the stage where his call would be connected to a human being, he had to wait for over half an hour to finally speak to the company representative. Thus, what could have been resolved in half a minute, took almost an hour, thanks to the IVR.

Interestingly, several surveys conducted in the United States have shown consumer displeasure, anger and frustration over the IVR system. A study commissioned by Interactions Corporation and conducted by an assistant professor of communications in the New York University in 2011, for example, showed an overwhelming consumer dissatisfaction -- 83 per cent -- with the IVR systems.

The situation has not changed much over the years. A more recent research, published in September 2019 by Vonage, revealed that IVR menus had prompted 51 per cent of consumers to move away from a business altogether, resulting in a loss of about $262 per customer per year. The research, involving 2010 respondents in the United States, also showed that over 60 per cent of consumers felt the IVR system provided a poor customer experience.

Another study conducted in the US in February and March this year by eGain reinforced the view that IVRs frustrated customers on account of long hold times and their inability to resolve queries.

It’s time businesses took this issue seriously and provided customer care that actually delivers what it promises, without wasting their customers’ time.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Rubina Khanum (File pic)

    Removed from post, Rubina Khanum resigns from Samajwadi Party

    A day after being removed from Rubina's post of city unit president of Mahila Sabha, Aligarh, Rubina Khanum resigned from the primary membership of the Samajwadi Party for not being allowed to speak in 'national interest'. Known for her controversial statements, Khanum had recently spoken on Gyanvapi Mosque issue in Varanasi. I could not have expected more from Samajwadi Party. “She is free to leave the party as it does not matter,” added the district unit president for SP, Aligarh, Girish Yadav.

  • Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (ad hoc) Baljit Singh Daduwal .

    Daduwal derailing efforts of getting Sikh prisoners released: SGPC members

    AMRITSAR Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee members on Sunday accused Sikh preacher and president of the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (ad hoc) Baljit Singh Daduwal of derailing the joint efforts of getting Sikh prisoners lodged in various Indian jails released. Daduwal on Thursday submitted a letter to SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami seeking expulsion of the Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal from the panel constituted to pursue the release of Sikh prisoners.

  • Thackeray was to visit Ayodhya on June 5 though it created a stir as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh Brij Bhushan Singh said the MNS chief should apologise for his past remarks against the north Indians before he comes to Ayodhya. (HT FILE PHOTO)

    Raj Thackeray urges PM Modi to bring in Uniform Civil Code during Pune rally

    Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, on Sunday, said that he postponed his proposed Ayodhya visit as it was a “trap” laid out against him. He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring the Uniform Civil Code at the earliest and law on population control. Addressing a public meeting in Pune on Sunday, Thackeray said those who were against his visit were trying to trap him in a legal battle.

  • Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao with a family of a martyr of the Galwan Valley conflict in Chandigarh on Sunday.

    In Punjab, KCR warns Centre: ‘Farmers can change governments’

    Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, in a subtle warning to the Centre, on Sunday said farmers can change the government if they want and they should keep fighting till they get a constitutional guarantee for remunerative prices of their crops. KCR was speaking at an event in Chandigarh organised to pay tributes to the farmers who died during the agitation against the Centre's now-repealed farm laws.

  •  (Shutterstock)

    Mumbai witnesses spike in gastroenteritis with 2037 cases reported in 2022

    Mumbai: A report from the health department of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation shows a rise in gastroenteritis cases in Mumbai. While in 2020, the city saw 2549 gastroenteritis cases, in 2021 there were 3110 cases. In 2022, till date, the city has already seen 2037 cases in civic-run hospitals. Dr Mangala Gomare, executive health officer, BMC, however, said the gastroenteritis cases are less when compared to the numbers in pre-Covid days.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, May 22, 2022