The benefits of modern IVR systems for governments

Citizens expect easy, fast, and always-on service. IVR helps government provide it

For governments, making the shift to a more digital-focused operational model is crucial to improving the citizen experience. Allowing citizens to conduct their business through web and mobile channels is at the top of many “To Do” lists for governments. However, it’s also important to improve customer satisfaction when residents interact with government offices in more traditional ways—including over the phone. 

Even though voice calls and contact centers don’t get a lot of attention in the digital transformation discussion, the latest interactive voice response (IVR) system and speech recognition technology can make the phone a more effective way for citizens to access government services—and that can result in greater constituent satisfaction, agency cost savings and better employee morale.

In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of IVR systems, including:

  • What makes a good IVR solution
  • Why voice is an increasingly popular way for people to take care of business
  • How modern IVR system software can improve the citizen experience and expand access to services
  • How adding IVR can reduce agency costs, create a better employee experience and strengthen public support

IVR that works for government and citizens: convenient, customizable, compliant and secure

The best IVR phone systems make transactions easy for citizens. A well-designed IVR gives callers a choice of how they want to engage—either by voice or by keypad. It also supports a range of tasks, like checking balances, paying balances and making partial payments when a full balance payment isn’t possible. It offers transaction confirmation over the phone and via text message, so citizens can confirm their transactions however they prefer. And, it can route calls to live support agents if the caller requires assistance.

Good IVR design also overcomes the barriers that have long frustrated users. For example, McKinsey found that two common problems that damage the IVR user experience are a lack of system updates  and poor integration with other service channels. 

An effective IVR system for government agencies will include scripts that are easy to configure, so agencies can quickly add and change options as their service menu grows. An effective IVR system will also fully integrate with the organization’s systems of record for efficiency, compliance and account holder authentication. It must also meet industry standards for payment security and government standards for data protection, to reduce the risk of card fraud and data breaches.

IVR and the growing preference for voice interactions

You  might be asking yourself, “Who talks on the phone anymore?” Well, more people than you might expect. Even in the age of digital and apps, voice interactions are still preferred by many people. It’s a trend that appears to be driven by the rising popularity of voice agents like Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

The number of consumers who used IVR to pay for a product or service rose to 50% in 2019 from just 28% in 2017.

53% of consumers have used voice to check account balances, pay bills and transfer funds. 

Capgemini Research Institute, How organizations and consumers are embracing voice and chat assistants

Habit is no doubt part of the trend toward voice interactions—many of us are getting comfortable talking to search engines on our phones and to our voice assistant devices. Convenience is another driving factor. Capgemini’s study found that 68% of respondents said voice lets them multitask by leaving their hands free. 

The always-available nature of IVR systems means that people can make payments and check their account statuses whenever it’s convenient for them, instead of being limited to calls during business hours. When users can take care of multiple tasks in one IVR call, the interaction is even more convenient. For example, local governments can design their IVR systems to let residents pay water bills, trash pickup fees and property taxes with a single call. 

Meeting citizen’s preferences for how they want to interact is critical for providing the consumer-grade experience they expect. Making those interactions as convenient as possible is another key to improving overall constituent satisfaction with their government. The benefits of a good IVR system don’t stop there, though.

Advantages of IVR systems for access and inclusion

The time savings and simplicity of IVR also make it a good option for governments that want to offer an inclusive, contactless option for residents who can’t easily access services via desktop, mobile or in person. This includes individuals with disabilities that make digital and face-to-face interactions challenging, residents who lack digital access and those who don’t have transportation to take care of government business in person. 

Disabled Americans are 3 times more likely than others to say they never go online. 

Pew Research Center, Disabled Americans less likely to use technology

Citizens with mobility impairments who may be unable to operate a computer or phone find it easier to use an IVR that processes voice responses instead of only keypad entries. Also, Gallaudet University notes that while IVR systems aren’t user-friendly  for people with hearing loss, they “are accessible to people who are blind and are a valued information source.” 

People living in rural areas are 12% less likely to have broadband internet access at home than the average American. 

Pew Research Center, Digital gap between rural and nonrural America persists

IVR also makes it easier for rural and low-income citizens to engage with government services easily.

Among households earning less than $30,000/year:

  • 46% have no computer
  • 44% don’t have broadband internet
  • 29% don’t have smartphones

Pew Research Center, Lower-income Americans still lag in tech adoption

For these groups of citizens, IVR can provide remote access they wouldn’t have if their local government offered only digital service options.

IVR and better outcomes for government organizations

As IVR improves citizen experience and expands access to remote service tools, government organizations also benefit in several ways.

First, good experiences drive public trust in agencies and reduce public complaints. They also improve public opinion of whether agencies are achieving their goals. Higher approval numbers can make it easier for agencies to get citizen buy-in on new initiatives.

 

Improving customer experience

McKinsey, The global case for customer experience in government

Better citizen experience also saves money by reducing the number of times people have to contact agencies for help with their issues. McKinsey found that unhappy customers are twice as likely as satisfied ones to contact customer support three or more times. 

Besides helping citizens take care of business quickly, IVR itself also offers big cost savings compared to live phone support. 

$1 per minute: average telephone agent call 

$0.10 per minute: call handled by IVR 

Neustar, How IVR containment saves you money

Next, IVR systems that are fully integrated with government back-end systems and support real-time data updates can also save agencies money by sending out fewer bills, late notices and warrants after they’ve been paid. That can reduce postage, mailing costs and customer service time spent resolving issues that arise from out-of-date data. Real-time payment processing through IVR can also accelerate time to revenue for agencies. 

More citizen support and more room in the budget for key priorities can also help create a better experience for government employees, leading to more innovation, lower turnover and reduced recruiting, hiring and training costs. IVR systems also free team members from rote activities like processing phone payments and answering basic questions, so they can work on higher-value tasks that, in turn, boost citizen satisfaction even more.

Finally, a good IVR system’s built-in, configurable user survey tools allow agencies to keep optimizing the user experience, based on survey responses. This can create a “virtuous circle” of improvements that helps agencies grow public support and control costs over the long term. 

IVR for better government service and citizen outcomes

IVR is one of the simplest tech tools governments can deploy now to create win-win situations for employees, citizens and taxpayers, by controlling costs, increasing the ability to collect revenue, improving service quality, expanding accessibility and saving everyone time. 

Book a demo now to learn how PayIt Voice can give your agency a fully integrated, customizable IVR system in 90 days or less, at no cost to your government agency.