Call Center Articles

Does IVR Stand for “Idiotic Voice Response”?

Last fall I bought a new wireless router for my network. One of the features it boasted was the option to connect an external hard drive to it for backing up files from any network computer. As you might suspect, I wasn’t able to get it to work, so I called their tech support line — repeatedly.

Although their call center is staffed by real people, being able to talk to them is quite a chore. As is all too typical, I was greeted by an “Interactive Voice Response” unit (IVR), sometimes called an “Automated Attendant.” (Other people merely call it “voice mail,” but that is a misnomer.) As IVR configurations go, this was one of the worst I’ve every encountered, and it lasted over two minutes.

It was bad enough calling it the first time, but each subsequent time became even more infuriating. After the tenth or twelfth time, I decided to record the entire ordeal. If you listen to all the prompts — just once — it takes two minutes and fifteen seconds before you are placed in the queue to wait for a person.

During my first call, I was given a case number. Logic would suggest that the IVR should ask forit early on in the conversation, allowing repeat — and increasingly irate callers — to bypass all the no longer needed options. Alas, this was not the case;the real person asks you for the case number — after 2.25 minutes of key pushing.

Even more ironic is that after 135 seconds of interacting with a machine to properly route my call, the person answered usually routed me to another person.

By the way, I never did get the feature to work.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

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