July 26, 2023
3 mins read

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

July 26, 2023
3 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.


When a customer has already submitted information, it is redundant and frustrating to ask them to provide the same information again. The IVR system should have been integrated properly with the bank’s backend systems, which would have automatically allowed the bank to validate if a request had been received.

This would have eliminated the need to request the same information from the customer again.

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.


In our experience, this problem is related to how the bank mapped its CX journey. It appears that they applied the same customer journey used for existing customers (the ones who already have a password) to new cardholders who don’t have a password.

It would have been better if they had mapped a new customer flow dedicated to new cardholder activations to avoid any confusion with passwords.

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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?


A better customer experience would look something like this: Instead of asking the customer to provide an expiration date, the IVR could offer a few options for the expiration period, such as 6 months, 12 months, and unlimited.

To give the most ideal options, the bank needs to understand their customer base. For example, a customer who uses their card mostly for groceries and shopping will have very different needs from a customer using a traveller’s card. Customising the options based on these requirements would allow the bank to provide a more personalised experience.

On top of this, the bank should send a friendly reminder closer to the expiration date, with instructions on how to extend it. This way, they are reducing the chance of ‘dumb contacts’ from customers who are caught off guard by their card expiring for overseas use.

To learn more about why eliminating dumb contacts is so importance, check out our blog post on:

>> Reimagining Customer Support with the Best Service is No Service Methodology

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.

Not Sure How to Harness CX Best Practices?
<p>We’ll help you assess and improve your customer journeys for long-term business growth.</p>

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