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IVR Myths Busted: Increasing IVR System Utilization Decreases Customer Satisfaction

Are you settling for less than 80% utilization of your IVR system? If so, chances are good you’ve bought into one or more common misconceptions about IVR systems that are preventing you from achieving better utilization. This is the second in a series of articles that breaks down popular myths associated with IVR systems and offers tips for increasing utilization. The first article in the series explored the very notion that IVR system utilization can’t be measured. With that myth busted, we move on to the link between IVR system utilization and customer satisfaction.

Businesses intend for customers to use the IVR system as often as possible instead of transferring to a live customer service agent. However, there is a common belief that customers don’t want to deal with an automated service. They prefer to talk to a person, and forcing them to do otherwise decreases customer satisfaction.

Why it’s a myth

Blaming low utilization on customers’ rejection of the technology is an easy out for IVR system vendors.  After all, how many times have you been frustrated with an IVR system and opted to speak with a customer service agent? It’s easy to accept this myth at face value. Forcing a frustrated customer to stay within the IVR system will indeed decrease customer satisfaction. And, considering those scenarios, it’s easy to accept that people prefer speaking to people. 

But the issue here isn’t that callers prefer to speak to live customer service agents. The issue is that callers aren’t getting the information they need from the IVR system easily. This is causing frustration and resulting in calls going to customer service agents.

Busting the myth

The truth is that the majority of callers want accurate information in an easy and efficient manner. Sure, it’s possible that some people prefer not to interact with a “machine” like an IVR. This could be due to previous bad experiences with poorly designed IVRs, or doubt that the IVR can provide the information they really need. Conversely, some people may prefer to use an automated service for certain information—when potentially embarrassing or personal information is being exchanged such as low bank balances or high debt amounts. But the majority of callers don’t necessarily care if the information comes from a person or an automated system – as long as they get the correct information with a minimum amount of hassle. No long hold times. No complicated authentication process. No confusing IVR system menus.

With this new perspective, you can easily see how proper IVR system tuning can both improve customer satisfaction and increase IVR system utilization. Make your IVR system easy to use and customers will gladly use it. Not only do you improve their experience and satisfaction with your company, you also save your company time and money by preventing those calls from going to customer service agents.

IVR system utilization tip

One of the reasons callers “zero out” and transfer to a customer service agent is because they don’t know that the option they want to hear is in the system. They call the 800 customer service number, identify and authenticate themselves, and then hit zero in the main menu because they think they can’t possibly complete their desired task in the automated system. But by the time a customer service agent answers the call, the caller could’ve finished the task through the automated system – saving you both time.

To avoid this scenario, insert a customer service transfer menu with choices for tasks that you suspect your callers do not know are available. For example, the transfer menu prompt might say, “To better direct your call, if your call is related to recent deposits, press one.” If recent deposits are available in the automated IVR, these are callers you can save immediately. Now the next time the customer calls for his deposits, he can get the information quickly through the IVR system.


This is just one way you can keep callers in the IVR system and improve customer satisfaction. If you’d like to learn more about increasing IVR system utilization, download Five Ways IVR Systems Fail: How to optimize IVR utilization to boost ROI while improving overall customer satisfaction.

Donny Jackson, Senior Vice President of software development, Donny oversees IVR software development, technical consulting, business analysis, and project management. Mr. Jackson’s 20 years with USAN has included providing state-of-the-art speech and touchtone IVR applications to financial institutions, automobile companies, collection agencies, brokerage firms, healthcare companies and telecommunications providers.

Prior to USAN, Donny developed one of the first PC-based CAD systems for Byers Engineering, a technical services firm in the telecom and utility industries. He was also a software programmer for National Data Corporation, then one of the world’s largest credit card processing houses.

Jackson holds a bachelor of science degree in Computer Science from Eastern Kentucky University.