How To Use Call Queues and IVRs - Birchills Blog
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How To Use Call Queue's And IVR's

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Advanced features such as call queues, IVR's (auto attendants) add power to phone systems. Below are some examples of how some businesses are using this power to enhance their business.


What is an IVR?

IVR stands for interactive voice response and can be known as an auto attendant or simply a voice menu. Often used by companies with many departments an IVR is simply the list of options you hear where you’re asked to press a number depending on which department you need to be connected with. For example, press 1 for sales, press 2 for support, press 3 for accounts etc. Calls are then routed to the correct department based on the number pressed.
  
As well as the above intended use an IVR can be used in a couple of other ways. Smaller companies can use an IVR to make themselves seem bigger than they really are in order to appear more professional. Some companies can list several options however calls can all be routed to one place regardless of the options selected. This gives the impression to the caller that the company has several departments.
  
IVR’s can also be used to give information or for marketing purposes. As a message is being played to the caller, many businesses will use this time to briefly tell the caller about the business or to quickly answer a couple of the more frequently asked questions. This can help as sometimes the caller will get the answer they rang for without having to go any further than this initial IVR menu.
  
IVR’s can be configured on multi levels so the range of options that can be offered to customers can be limitless. Banks for example will often use multiple levels of IVR’s in order to get people through to the right place.

Why Use An IVR?

IVR’s can be useful for both the caller and the business. From the callers perspective the first hurdle is having your call answered – even if this is by the IVR this is in many cases still better than never ending ringing. From here the customer is guided through the list of options making them feel that their call is important and that the business is doing what it can to get them through to the correct place as quickly as possible.
 
From a business side an IVR can save valuable time in ensuring that the operator who takes the call is able to fully assist the customer within his or her area of expertise. It ensures the staff who answer the calls are all trained in the topic the caller wishes to discuss and therefore cuts down on transferring callers around and ultimately saves time for the business. It allows call operators to be prepared as they already know the basic reason a customer or prospect may be calling.

Things to be aware of when using an IVR

Despite all the potential benefits of an IVR, a poorly set up IVR can have the totally opposite effect in making for a poor customer experience as well as causing confusion and can result in a caller being disgruntled before they even speak with an operator. The main gripes with IVR’s include:
  
Long greetings or marketing messages
 
Unnecessary options or menus
 
The required option not being mentioned
 
Too many choices.
 
Going through an IVR only to realise the company is closed
 
Complicated language or industry jargon
 
Poor sound quality and background noise during the IVR

If you think your business may benefit from using an IVR we have a blog entitled setting up an IVR which can be found here.


What is a Call Queue?
  
This is simply as it sounds. When companies have more incoming calls than they can answer, calls are very often put into a queue. Callers will often be played music whilst they wait as well as be updated on their position in a particular queue and the expected wait time. They can also be used to play marketing messages. The idea of this is as soon as a person becomes available they answer the next call in the queue and is often seen as better than simply giving a caller an engaged tone or putting them through to voicemail and expecting them to call back or leave a message.

Why use a Call Queue
  
Call queues are used when a business has more incoming calls than they are able to answer. As a caller it would be brilliant if your call was answered by a knowledgeable operator straight away however from a business side, this is not always possible so as a next best option it may be best to queue your incoming calls. Whilst not ideal, once a call has been placed in a queue the caller will know that the call is being dealt with and that they will get through to someone soon. You’re able to offer callers information whilst they wait or give other ways they may wish to contact the company such as an email address or social media. Call queues are a much friendlier way of dealing with calls rather than sending a caller to voicemail or just having them hear an engaged tone. It shows you’re interested in the call and will do what you can to answer it rather than have them ring back again.
  
Things to be aware of when using a Call Queue
  
The simple fact is customers don’t like being held in queues. A call queue is often better than them having to ring back but isn’t the ideal so the main thing when using them is to hold calls for the shortest amount of time possible. It’s often beneficial to announce the callers position n the queue as well as give alternative contact methods as well as an expected wait before the call is answered. Try to avoid very repetitive music or messages as this can become very annoying very quickly.
 
These are scenarios based on real world users

 1) Connecting together companies
 
Stella has a software company who sells three software programs. She wants to give the impression that she is supporting all three programs but in fact wants the software companies themselves to support the software. So, when a customer phones she hears a message from the IVR saying for support for software A press 1, for Software B press 2 and for Software C press 3. When the customer presses the number 1 the system dials the Software Company A and the call is connected. Software company A then does the sales support.
Stella has made it look as if she is actually able to carry out the support in house.
  
2) recorded information line
 
Lena runs an events company and is always putting on conferences for people. Inevitably the people who attend the conferences always phone to ask where the conference is and how much it costs. She has set up an IVR which gives the details of all the events she is holding which means that people get the information they want a lot more quickly without actually having to speak to a receptionist.
  
3)  Receptionist busy
  
Tom runs a car showrooms. When calls are inbound he wants them answered by a traditional receptionist because he thinks that gives the best impression. Sometimes though the receptionist is dealing with a customer when a call comes through. The system then diverts the caller into an auto attendant asking if the caller would like to leave a message – press 1- and the receptionist will get straight back to them or if they would like to hold- press 2. If they select 1 they are connected to the receptionist’s voicemail – which then emails her immediately of if they press 2 they enter a queue which apologises for the delay and promises to respond as soon as possible. Tom is happy that this provides the best possible experience for his customers.
 
4) When you really don't want to speak to people
  
Simon runs a small ISP and occasionally the systems fail. When this happens all his customers phone him at once demanding that he gets the systems working as fast as possible. His problem is that whilst he is answering the phone he is not fixing the problem. So, he simply diverts all of the incoming calls to a recorded message explaining the situation and how he is doing his level best to fix the problem as soon as possible.
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