5 Common IVR Complaints Killing Your CX

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a frustrating contradiction. Customers love self-service, yet common IVR complaints lead many customers to groan as soon as they hear a machine on the other line.

November 09, 2017

By David Orwick, Product Development Manager

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a frustrating contradiction. Customers love self-service, yet common IVR complaints lead many customers to groan as soon as they hear a machine on the other line.

You know the value of your IVR. It cuts call center costs, improves self-service and provides valuable data about each and every call. You could just let the IVR keep running as is without concern about these common IVR complaints, but that isn’t going to create an experience that meshes with the desired image for your brand. So how do you get customers more engaged with self-service?

It’s not an overnight fix, but with the right strategy and provider, you can immediately take important steps toward creating an IVR that will replace the groans with glee. Here are five common IVR complaints you can start addressing today to improve your customer experience (CX).

1. Some speech rec is a wreck.

Speech recognition is the bread and butter of most modern-day IVRs. If your IVR can’t understand your customers and respond properly, then it will never create functional, easy and enjoyable experiences.

With most IVR platforms, diagnosing your speech recognition is simple. Listen to recordings of your customers’ interactions with your IVR. If the interactions are longer than expected or if the IVR isn’t responding correctly to vocal commands, it’s time to fine tune your voice recognition.


  • Find a communication technology partner with extensive cross-industry IVR experience
  • Invest time and resources into recognizing accents and uncommon phrases (or choose a partner who’s already done so)
  • For more help, follow these “5 W’s” of speech tuning


2. There are “2” many buttons.

When it comes to IVR, there are three types of input: touchpad, directed dialog and natural language. If your IVR has fallen victim to complaint #1, then touchpad input — also known as dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) — may sound like an appealing way to eliminate voice input altogether. But there’s a reason DTMF isn’t an option in the how-to-fix-it section above.

Tune Up Your IVR - 5 common IVR complaints
Get your IVR firing on all cylinders with these 9 quick tips.

While DTMF has its place, it’s not the best solution in most situations. It’s useful for customers who are uncomfortable vocalizing their credit card information or who are calling from a noisy location. But with smart speakers and other voice-recognition devices making their way into people’s homes, voice is more popular than ever. It’s overall a faster, more enjoyable way to interact.


  • Offer a blended solution so customers can choose to use the touchpad or voice
  • Choose an IVR partner with experience in natural language solutions — allowing customers to speak in colloquial terms instead of suggested keywords (directed dialog)
  • Find the Right Speech Fit for your business with this blog post and learn more about natural language, directed dialog and DTMF


3. Repeating gets repetitive. Repeating gets repetitive.

Customers repeating their personal information gets repetitive, and that’s not what you want from your IVR. Customers expect your IVR solution to work with your contact center. If they enter their social security number before being transferred to an agent, they expect the agent to have that information. When the agent asks for it again, it makes the company appear disorganized. Instead of being intuitive, the experience becomes frustrating.

And don’t consider individual interactions to exist in a vacuum. When a customer calls you three times in one month, they may be providing that same information on three separate occasions. The customer feels forgotten, and call duration is much longer than it could be.



4. ‘Please pay attention to all 12 options…’

Customers have a lot of ways to get in touch with you. They can send an email, use a text message and, in some cases, even walk into a physical location. But your customers chose to call, probably because they need personalized service delivered quickly.

Callers don’t want to wade through a long ladder of touchpad or keyword options. Much like the first two common IVR complaints, taking too long to get to the right option kills the positive experience from the get-go. Using natural language, customer data and proactive messaging, brands can give their customers more freedom and support more rapid self-service. But sometimes, customers just need to speak to an agent, so avoid frustration by making it easy to transfer to a live representative.


  • Employ natural language from the start with a question like, “How can we help you today?”
  • Use customer data to identify specific callers and address their most common inquiry first (e.g. “Would you like to make a payment today?” for Joe, who calls to make a payment on the 16th of every month)
  • Consider multiple channels, like using text messages to proactively answer questions or promote self-service in another channel
  • Follow the 5 Steps to Creating Proactive Engagement Strategies by reading this blog or listening to the attached webinar


5. That same-old IVR experience.

IVR has been around for decades. It’s changed a lot since then, as have the reasons people are calling. Your customers’ responses will show you whether your IVR is on target with their needs. You can’t simply turn on an IVR and never touch it again.

Sadly, many IVRs have become tired, legacy relics. These are the systems that frequently attract common IVR complaints. But as consumers place more value on CX, even newer systems draw criticism if they aren’t part of a larger CX strategy.


  • Walk through a customer’s entire journey to discover when they interact with your IVR and why
  • Continually test new prompts and review interaction data to identify potential upgrades and optimization
  • Get a personalized grasp on your CXLM maturity with our interactive CXLM Maturity Assessment.


Select a CX partner instead of simply an IVR provider to make your solutions work together across all channels and match your brand image. And don’t be afraid to try new solutions, like Visual Voice, which supplements the conversation with visual prompts.

For more help updating your solution, read about these four factors increasing call volume at your business. And for personal advice on fine tuning your IVR, call or text a West Interactive Services expert at 800.841.9000.

Although customers may not complain about an IVR directly, a poor interaction puts your agents on an uphill climb when trying to create a great customer experience. If your IVR is the first thing your customers interact with, make sure to address these common IVR complaints to create the brand image you’re looking for.

David Orwick

David has 30+ years of experience in data and product management. He graduated from Regis University, earned an MBA in finance from Benedictine University and has led product development activities for West’s IVR and data solutions for the past two years. David specializes in creating innovative, omnichannel, digital solutions that help West clients operate more efficiently, create lasting connections with consumers and develop new, exciting and exceptional customer experiences.

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