Statistically speaking, your customers hate IVR—83% of them think it provides either no value at all or a cost benefit for the company. With more and more people turning to mobile apps and other channels, one might think IVR must be going downhill. It turns out the global IVR equipments market is projected to grow at a staggering 27.4 percent through 2019.

So, where the heck is this growth coming from?

According to DestinationCRM, the rising inbound call volumes and advances in natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning technologies are fueling the spike in IVR growth. The integration of IVR with self service is opening up new possibilities. According to Forrester, nearly 40% of all customer service interactions take place over the phone. Yet, most companies are still reluctant to spend money on upgrading or improving their IVR systems.

What Your Customers Expect from Your IVR

Today’s customers are savvy. They interact with technology every single day. When they have no other option but to call an IVR, their expectations are sky high. More than 66% of them are likely to leave a company after a high-effort interaction. Some 82% of customers are likely to stop spending money with a business that makes them undergo a bad experience. The bottom line: if you’re using IVR because of its overwhelming cost benefit, offer the best possible experience to your callers. Here are five ways to make your IVR system less painful, if not downright lovable, for your customers.

#1. Use a warm and friendly voice

A great voice can deliver a five to seven percent increase in customer satisfaction. According to the famous 7-38-55 Rule developed at UCLA, seven percent of comprehension of spoken communication comes from the actual words that are spoken, 38% is based on the way words are spoken, and 55% stems from facial cues or body language. An IVR doesn’t have the luxury of facial expressions or body movements, so the way the words are spoken is even more critical. Get a ravishing voice artist.

#2. Use humor and creativity

Your customers aren’t exactly excited to be talking to a machine or waiting to talk to an agent. The best you can do is let them have a smile or two. It might be a good idea to tell them jokes instead of having them listen to minutes of mindless music or corporate messaging. With the latest NLP capabilities available, there’s a lot of room for creativity in IVR messaging. The question is, are you ready to upgrade?

#3. Personalize IVR messaging

Once again, the imploding machine learning and NLP technologies have triggered a new era of IVR evolution. Successful companies are already eyeing the use of AI based IVRs to achieve more intelligent call paths and enhance customer experience. For example, your IVR can be programmed to recall the customer history, greet them by names, and create an overall personable experience. Instead of spelling out the menu options, your IVR asks the caller, “How may I help you?”

#4. Plan for call spikes

Research shows that your most of your customers like your service as long as you do the basics right. Nothing is more frustrating than to call an IVR and hear the greeting “we are experiencing unusually high calling loads” message. Cloud based SaaS IVR may provide a solution by quickly scaling resources during peak hours.

#5. Keep it simple

All said and done, your customers want the experience to be easy. A 20% increase in simplicity results in a 96% increase in customer loyalty, according to a CEB survey. “Easy” can result in consumers being 86% more likely to purchase brands and 115% more likely to recommend those brands to others. But, how do you define “easy”? In today’s fast-paced world, easy often means fast. Your aim should be to let the customers accomplish their goal within the least amount of time. Ditch the unnecessary menus. Skip the redundant integration with CRM. Get rid of the bells and whistles that stand between your caller and their goal.

Bottom Line

Spending time and money on your IVR system may not be your most urgent priority. But having an IVR that delights your callers can become your strategic competitive advantage. It can deliver profits that far outweigh its cost in the long term. In fact, with the merging technology at your disposal, a powerful IVR system can become the foundation of your multi-channel success.