Customer Experience

Don’t Let Your IVR Lead Customers Astray

Technology should help your customers not frustrate them, especially when they're dealing with fraudulent transactions.

Loraine Debonis

Don’t Let Your IVR Lead Customers Astray

In this article



On a recent weekend, I got a fraud alert from my credit card company asking to verify a transaction. It was $11 for an online retailer in Jakarta. I confirmed it wasn’t me, and I was relieved my credit card company was looking out for me. But what started out as a reassuring experience quickly turned south.

I received the alert via text and email at 8:59 p.m. on a Sunday. So far so good. After confirming that I did not make the transaction, I was prompted to call the customer service number to file a dispute. When I called, the contact center was closed. I would have to wait 12 hours before I could file my dispute and lock down my account.

I frantically logged into my account online to see if there were any other suspicious transactions. An additional $11 transaction at the same retailer had gone through, but I didn’t see anything else. Thankfully, these fraudsters didn’t go for large transaction amounts, but the duplicate transaction and the retailer’s location probably triggered the fraud monitoring system. Still, it was a bit disconcerting to see that a fraudulent transaction had gone through and I had to wait to cancel the card.

The next morning, I received a call to confirm the fraud, disable the card and order a replacement. The agent said it would take seven to 10 business days for me to get the new card. Luckily, I have other cards to use, so that wasn’t a problem. The agent was very nice and took care of disputing the transaction, and I was feeling better about my credit card company.

Expect the unexpected

Fast forward to Friday when I logged on to pay my bill. That’s when I noticed another $6.90 from the same retailer. I called the credit card company to file a dispute. And that’s where things got really frustrating.

The pleasant Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system gave me a menu of options, but none of them acknowledged that I had an open dispute. I said “dispute” as loudly and as clearly as I could. “It sounds like you want to file a dispute. Please press 1 if this is correct.”

Next, I was prompted to enter my income to “update my account information.” Um. No thanks. Let me file my dispute, please.

I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I do know that the IVR gave me a whole host of options that had nothing to do with filling a dispute. Did I want account information? Did I want to increase my credit limit?

I pressed 0 several times and said agent over and over to no avail. Finally, at some point, I was able to press a key for an agent.

The person who answered the phone said, “Good morning, this is tech support”. What? I don’t need a new online password. I need to file a dispute. The last thing I want is to go back to the IVR maze.

The agent assured me she was also trained to file disputes.


Finally, I was able to file my dispute and confirm that no other transactions had posted to the account. After the call was over, I stayed on the line to do the customer satisfaction (or in this case, dissatisfaction) survey. Although most of the survey was related to the agent, the first question asked me how much effort I had to go through to resolve my problem. A LOT! What I wasn’t able to explain, but I hope they know is that my problem was with the IVR not the agent.

Make it easier on your customers

Fraudulent transactions are scary. In my case, the amounts were small. And, it was a credit card not my bank account, so it was a little less nerve-wracking. But this experience reinforced what I’ve heard countless times from our leadership team. Mapping the customer journey is crucial, especially when fraud is concerned. I also know from our technology team that the IVR experience can and should have been better.

If you’re responsible for customer experience, here’s what you can learn from mine:

1. Don’t tell a customer to do something impossible. If you tell them to call you, you better be able to answer. I’m sure the fraud alert system my credit card company uses is automated, but the messages to the customer need to take into account the time at which they’re delivered. Or at the very least, include the hours of operation any time you’re prompting a customer to get in touch.

2. If a card is replaced and fraud is reported, block further transactions in a timely manner. This is an industry best practice, but it’s clearly not foolproof. I’m not sure how the $6.90 transaction went through. If it was there when I spoke to the first agent, he and I both missed it in reviewing the transaction history. If it went through after, there was a delay in actually blocking the card. I’m thankful my fraudsters were hitting me up for small amounts. It could have been much worse. Still, it would have been nice if my credit card company had reached out to me about that transaction. Instead, I came upon it by happenstance when I logged in to pay my bill five days later.

3. Don’t make your customers listen to a host of irrelevant menu options. My card was blocked for fraud. The IVR should have known that I was either calling about a dispute or checking on the status of my replacement card. I most certainly wasn’t calling to update them on my income level, to increase my credit line or to add another person to the account. Predictive IVR could have helped me get to the right option faster would have made all the difference in my experience and mood.

4. Don’t lead your customers down the wrong path. I can forgive an IVR for not being advanced enough to anticipate why I’m calling, although my open dispute status should have been easy enough to flag as a likely reason. That said, I do expect the IVR to listen and respond appropriately to the reason I gave. “It sounds like you’re calling about a dispute,” did not lead me to a dispute agent. Instead I was bombarded with a series of totally irrelevant menu options. And, asking for an agent and pressing 0 did nothing to advance my call. I felt trapped and was extremely frustrated by the time I spoke to an agent. The worst part is knowing that it all could have been avoided.

5. If an agent is trained in disputes or other customer service matters, don’t let them answer the phone as “Tech support”. A simple, “Good morning, how can help you,” would have been simple and reassuring. Finally, a person who can help!

Understanding who your customers are and anticipating their needs should be baked into your customer support process. In this case, it didn’t really matter to me how good the fraud-monitoring system was that flagged the suspicious transaction because my experience after it was so irritating and troubling. If those transaction amounts had been higher, I might well have decided not to activate my new card when it arrived.

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