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August 5, 2020

How to Use SMS as an IVR Alternative

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You can reduce long hold times and improve customer experience by using SMS as an IVR alternative. 

Problem Snapshot

  • COVID-19 has created an increase in inbound call volume at a time when agent staffing may not be up to par.
  • For companies who also handle outbound engagement, this creates an even greater challenge as blended agents may be held up by the increase in inbound calls.
  • Customers have been impacted with longer hold times that lead to decreased satisfaction.

The Solution

Any well-designed IVR system will be optimized to eliminate waiting on hold — by all accounts the most egregious offense to the customer experience — and either present self-service options or define a time when agents will be available to offer their services.

By interacting with menu options in your IVR, customers are presented with the quickest possible route to resolving their issue. You can configure any number of different support SMS messages to be triggered with the click of button, or use the standard  instructional audio snippets to prompt them to self-serve within the IVR or be taken out of the call queue entirely to wait for a callback. Because a traditional IVR lets you configure instructional audio to play in the call flow using automated voice, at any stage where the customer requires choice you can prompt them to receive a text message and continue the conversation mobily. 

Adding text message triggers to your IVR menu is the quickest and most cost-effective way to provide mobile service and minimize the pressure on voice agent resources within the contact center. For example, the large numbers of calls for routine interactions like account balance checks, payments, card replacements, password resets, or suspicious activity could be resolved by triggering an SMS message that includes step-by-step instructions or a link to your knowledge base with more information on how to self-serve.

Give customers what they want

People don’t enjoy repeating themselves, and they dislike it even more when it’s a robot asking them to do it.

As anyone who has attempted to convey a credit card number while in an IVR will tell you, they aren’t greeeeaaat at interpreting alphanumeric inputs. And the moment doing so fails, the customer is taken to an agent who then asks them to repeat said number again, adding yet another layer of inefficiency to the transaction. In many routine cases the IVR serves mainly as a routing function, and this is where adding in SMS to your IVR menu can be extremely effective. 

Say, for instance, a customer calls in to change their address. With SMS enabled, the IVR can provide the caller an option to receive a text prompting them to input the requisite contact details as a reply. Once those details are provided and sent back via text, the IVR can continue through the rest of the flow or forward to live assistance if such a measure is needed. Another option is to send a text with a URL that the customer can press and enter then the relevant information.Regardless, this interaction was just reduced by minutes, and your customer spared an immeasurable amount of frustration. Moreover, this is something that comes completely naturally to us! Texting is something we do everyday. 

The best proof of this pudding is the fact that customers have already told us to text them :

  • 78% of people say text messaging is the fastest way for companies to reach them1
  • 98% of SMS alerts are read by customers2
  • SMS has 5X the open rate for SMS as compared to the open rate of emails3

Contact centers can capitalize on this trend by leveraging SMS conversations as an IVR supplement during long wait times. Like a scheduled callback, this option can enable customers to be “released” from being on hold and allows them to go about their day while continuing the conversation on their channel of choice.

SMS can increase the potential and efficiency of remote agents.

On the flip side, from an operational perspective, digital messaging channels afford newly remote contact centers more control over their environment because they mitigate background noise without compromising interaction quality.

Further, supplementing an IVR interaction with digital channels like SMS sets up a win-win situation for your business and your customer insofar as the customer gets to complete a transaction fully with minimal hassle and your contact center gets to convert an expensive, agent-assisted interaction into a self-guided experience driven by the customer which usually means lots of cost (and time) savings. And, if that wasn’t enough:

  • Messaging agents do not require as much bandwidth as voice agents, so you can create a wider opportunity for agents to work from home.
  • Messaging shifts agent service capacity from a 1-to-1 conversation to a many-to-one conversation as agents can handle numerous asynchronous conversations at once.
  • Messaging also allows agents to ramp up quickly for SMS intraday peaks. Like voice campaigns, inbound SMS volume can be directly tied to outreach efforts as shown in Figure 1 of one company’s SMS outbound volume (in green) and inbound SMS volume (in blue). A deeper look at the company’s inbound volume in Figure 2 shows how large the influx can be. This insight can enable managers to schedule messaging agents accordingly.
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Figure 1  
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Figure 2

Overtime, SMS call dispositions can be used to improve IVR strategies and refine auto-responses for both SMS and Voice workflows.

Like voice call resolution reports, SMS resolution reports can also provide insight on ways to improve call strategies and create auto-responses to increase self-service. For example, Figure 3 below shows insight on SMS resolutions for one bank’s contact center. The overwhelming SMS response was for account balance checks followed by payments. The contact center manager can create links in future SMS and voice IVR workflows to offer balance checks and facilitate payments without reaching an agent.

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Figure 3

A key to adding SMS strategies and gaining such insight is to effectively integrate any SMS application into the overall contact center application — including the contact center’s other engagement channels, CRM, and performance analytics solution. Accomplishing this can be challenging but is fundamental to successfully evolving to a modern contact center.





About LiveVox

LiveVox is a next-generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 Billion interactions a year. We seamlessly integrate omnichannel communications, CRM, and WFO capabilities to deliver an exceptional agent and customer experience, while reducing compliance risk. Our reliable, easy-to-use technology enables effective engagement strategies on communication channels of choice as well as quality management programs to drive performance in your contact center. LiveVox clients maximize their potential in an ever-changing business environment with a single view of the customer while also using our battle-tested risk mitigation and security tools. With 20 years of pure cloud expertise LiveVox is at the forefront of contact center innovation. Our more than 450 global employees are headquartered in San Francisco; with offices in Atlanta; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To learn more, schedule a demo today.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 700 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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