July 26, 2023
2 mins read

Self-Service IVR: Does it Make Customers Happier or Angrier? 

July 26, 2023
2 mins read
Angie Yeo Angie Yeo
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The Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system is one piece of service automation that customers tend to have mixed feelings about.

In theory, the technology promises to improve customer experience (CX). However, from our own recent interactions with IVR systems, we found a significant gap between expectations and reality.

The problem had nothing to do with IVR being ‘clunky’ or ‘ineffective’ – far from it.

In this blog post, we dive into three different interactions with IVR systems of three different banks. The first one was to request for a credit card fee waiver. The second and third were for activating new credit cards.

As you read the three scenarios, try and note what went wrong, and see if you can identify what’s the real problem – is it the IVR tech itself, OR, is it something else entirely?

Bank #1: Credit card fee waiver

After entering the credit card number as prompted by the IVR, we expected an update on the waiver process.

To our surprise, the system repeated its request for the credit card number for the waiver application – even though we had just provided the number.


It appears some businesses are failing to intelligently use the data being provided during an interaction. Repeating actions, especially as an existing customer, was both surprising and unnecessary.

Bank #2: Credit card activation

Upon entering the new credit card number, this IVR requested a customer password.

As we were a new cardholder, we had not been informed about this requirement.

After resetting the password via IVR, we finally managed to activate the card.

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In this customer-centric era, expecting customers to navigate complicated processes could be risky. Businesses need to understand customer expectations and how their processes impact the CX.

Bank #3: Credit Card Activation

The process was smooth until we were asked about activating the card for overseas usage.

On agreeing, the IVR asked for an expiration date for the overseas usage.

The pressure to provide a deadline, especially when unprepared, created some confusion, and unnecessary stress for us.

We wondered: If we did not enter a date, would we have to restart the entire card activation process all over again?


Surprising customers with unexpected decision-making scenarios can be off-putting. The pressure to provide instant responses could potentially alienate customers.

The fault doesn’t lie with the technology, but rather in its implementation

And the way to ensure the implementation is rock-solid is to test your IVR system regularly.

Remember: the absence of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean the system is effective.

When you invest more time and resources into an end-to-end IVR implementation that considers the full customer journey, you are much more likely to build an effective IVR that makes customers happier rather than angrier.

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