Automatically Frustrated: Research Reveals Why Consumers Are Unhappy With IVR

A recent study conducted by Liel Leibovitz, Assistant Professor of Communications at New York University, has concluded that consumers find Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems to be frustrating and difficult to use.

This information may not come as a surprise. Though IVR technology has developed and improved over the years, Interactions Corporation was inspired to commission Leibovitz to administer this study based on their observations of previous industry research and general consumer opinion that alluded to the dissatisfaction with the self-service tool.

Conducted over a three-month period in early 2011, the consumer study consisted of two parts: an online questionnaire and a series of in-person interviews. In the first part, 408 respondents completed an 11-question survey about general attitudes towards IVRs and other service options. In the second part, an additional 21 respondents were interviewed in person and in depth to provide greater insight regarding these customer service options.

Self Service Leads to Automatic Frustration

When asked to select which service method they preferred to interact with (selecting more than one method was acceptable), an astounding 66.8% of customers chose "Talk to a customer service representative".  As for the other service options, 23.4% preferred to use the company’s website, 18.5% selected interactive web chat and only 15.7% chose the IVR.

The research concluded that most consumers find IVR systems difficult to use. On the online questionnaire’s ease-of-use scale, consumers rated IVR systems lower than any of the other service options, including CSR, chat and web.

Room for Improvement

As a self-service tool, Interactive Voice Recognition Systems remain a cost-effective solution for many call centers worldwide. Though the global IVR market continues to grow, the results of this study suggests that a vast majority (about 83%) of consumers feel that IVR systems provide either no benefit at all or only a cost savings benefit to the company.

According to Interactions CEO Mike Iacobucci, many companies are actively seeking better self-service solutions for their customers. Iacobucci comments, "There is a significant, measurable experience gap between a customer service agent and IVR. If IVR is going to remain relevant, this gap must be narrowed."

Christina Hammarberg is the former associate editor at ICMI.

Comments (4)

Leave a comment

Please sign in to leave a comment. If you don't have an account you can register for free here.

Forgot username or password?


Jake D. — 8:03AM on Aug 8, 2011

Very interesting numbers on how many people go straight to a representative. I know I'm guilty of the same thing if the menu is too long. I think that after hearing more than 4 options or the choice of an agent, I'll automatically go with the agent for fear of having a problem that's not going to fix in the system's "box" of problems.

Christina D’Airo — 12:02PM on Aug 10, 2011

Seems like you're not alone, Jake! I'll admit, I'm guilty of it as well. Have you ever had an experience where a question you had was solved entirely through the IVR?

— 7:42AM on Aug 19, 2011

Agree with both of you. It would seem that the technology exists for some genius to develop a "smart IVR sytem" that both asks about callers' preferences AND learns them. While it might be difficult to set up for a company one calls once, following the Pareto Principle, it should work for folks who call the same companies/organizations more than once for generally the same info.

Rose Polchin — 12:37PM on Oct 23, 2011

Agree with all of you. Bottom line: user friendly = better acceptance and use. The research and additional articles (links in the above) highlights some good ways to enhance/improve your IVR.