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12 Ways Marketers Can Improve Experiences During COVID-19 with IVRs and Call Routing

Derek Andersen Senior Content & SEO Specialist, DialogTech

We all feel it — the COVID-19 crisis is dramatically impacting both public health and consumer behavior. It’s an uncertain time for businesses across industries as they look for footing in a rapidly shifting landscape.

One immediate result of this outbreak is that consumers are engaging more with businesses — and each other — over the phone. In fact, a new Verizon report found that phone calls during the outbreak increased 25% from the previous week with a 15% increase in call duration. AT&T, similarly, saw a 44% increase in phone calls on wireless networks and an 88% increase in phone calls on Wi-Fi.

Many businesses in auto and retail used to foot traffic are now directing consumers to contact them by phone. Many healthcare providers are seeing a massive uptick in phone calls from patients asking about COVID-19 testing and treatment. Financial services providers are likewise seeing a spike in call volume due to the stock market’s recent volatility and other concerns. We’ve seen senior care and home services customers also receive a rise in consumer calls.

These increases in phone calls are a challenge to businesses, and marketers responsible for delivering frictionless customer experiences may need help adapting their strategies to compensate. For many companies that challenge is compounded by staff responsible for answering calls now working remotely.

Below, we’ve laid out some of the ways marketers are using DialogTech to build IVRs (interactive voice responses) and update their call routing rules to adapt to the new realities of COVID-19. These strategies may also be of use to you in this difficult time. Below, you’ll find strategies you can use to assist with a spike in call volume, assist with call routing to remote workers, and segment employee calls from consumer calls.

8 Marketing Strategies for Businesses Receiving a Spike in Call Volume

Has COVID-19 been driving more phone calls to your business than your call centers, locations or remote staff can handle? If so, these tips can help you more efficiently provide callers with the right experiences and assistance.

Strategy 1: Set Up a Special Hotline for COVID-19-Related Calls

This simple strategy will help you segment COVID-19-related calls away from your other types of inbound calls. It will ensure callers looking for COVID-19-related assistance can get it immediately from agents trained to handle those inquiries. It will also free up the rest of your team to handle their assigned functions and better assist other callers.

Strategy 2: Set Up an IVR to Let Callers Self-Route

When your business gets flooded by inbound phone calls, enable callers to tell you how to route them with an IVR. For the uninitiated, an IVR is an automated system that reads a series of prompts to the caller (for example: “To speak to the billing department, press 1”). By responding to the prompts, callers can route themselves to the agents, departments, or locations best qualified to handle their inquiries.

Traditionally, IVRs require IT assistance for implementation, making them cumbersome for marketers to deploy and adapt to the current business environment. This is why marketers are turning to self-serve IVR technology like that provided by DialogTech, which has a simple interface that anyone can use to easily create, customize, and deploy any number of IVRs in minutes without any assistance from IT.

Watch this 8-minute video to see how marketers can build their own IVRs

Strategy 3: Play a Personalized IVR Message at the Beginning of Calls

Once you’ve set up your IVR, a basic step to manage call volume is to use it to play an automated message at the beginning of every inbound phone call. You can use this message to inform callers about how COVID-19 has impacted your operations and phone lines. For example, your recording could mention that call volumes have increased, therefore callers should expect longer hold times. Likewise, the recording could inform them of decreased staff, or about the separate hotline you’ve set up for all COVID-19 inquiries.

This strategy is especially pertinent after Google’s announcement that they will be temporarily removing certain features from Google My Business. You can use your personalized IVR message to quickly update the caller on new store hours, suggest alternate locations, or any other quick attribute changes to your business in lieu of updating the information on your GMB listing.

Strategy 4: Put a COVID-19 IVR Prompt Front and Center

Another effective IVR strategy marketers are using is to put a COVID-19 prompt first. If many of the calls driven to your business may be related, in some way, to the virus, this will allow those callers to quickly direct themselves to the agents handling these calls — including staff working remotely — freeing up your other agents to handle other types of callers.

For example, financial services providers can include a prompt that instructs callers requesting information about COVID-19’s impact on their 401k to press 1 to be directed to the appropriate agent trained to handle that request.

COVID-19-specific prompt in a self-serve IVR

Set up a COVID-19-specific prompt in your self-serve IVR

Strategy 5: Set Up Dynamic Routing Rules to Enhance Your IVR Routing

In addition to using an IVR, some marketers are using dynamic call routing rules — a set of customizable rules for routing their calls based on the caller’s intent or location, day/time of call, and more. Tools like DialogTech enable marketers to configure call routing rules with an easy web interface, and these rules can be used to enhance your IVR or work on their own to send callers right away to the best location or agent to assist them.

Set up and adjust call routing rules on the fly with DialogTech

DialogTech makes it easy for marketers to set up and adjust call routing rules on the fly

Below are some common dynamic routing rules you can set up to optimize the consumer journey and deliver frictionless experiences, especially during spikes in inbound calls:

  • Route calls based on the marketing source (channel, campaign, ad, keyword, webpage) that drove the call
  • Have calls from your most valuable marketing sources jump to the front of the queue to get answered first
  • Route callers based on the geographic location they are calling from
  • Have calls forwarded to specific agents, locations, or IVRs based on your business hours
  • Ring multiple agents’ phones at the same time — the agent who picks up first gets the call
  • Route calls to agents’ cell phones or home phones if they’re working remotely (more on this later)

An example of using dynamic call routing in combination with your IVR is to set up forwarding rules based on the caller’s geographic location. To illustrate this, let’s say a consumer presses 4 in your IVR to schedule a time for an exterminator to come look for termites. Once the caller has put their intent to schedule an exterminator visit into the IVR, the dynamic routing rules would kick into effect. For example, if the call was placed in Chicago, your dynamic routing rules would automatically connect them with a relevant agent in the local Chicago office.

Strategy 6: Route Callers to Your Agents or Locations with the Highest Close Rates

With a massive influx of calls coming in, you need to prioritize revenue opportunities. To do so, you can set up dynamic routing rules that send each call to your highest-performing agents or locations first, and if they fail to pick up, it will ring the next highest-converting agent or location’s line(s), and so on. This strategy will increase your chances of converting the phone leads you receive.

Example of using DialogTech to route more calls to your highest-performing locations

Set up rules in DialogTech to route more calls to your highest-performing locations

Strategy 7: Prioritize Calls from Your Most Valuable Marketing Sources

You may know of certain geographic locations, webpages, or marketing channels that are more likely to convert to sales than others. For example, you may have paid search keywords that are for down-funnel inquiries consumers make prior to purchasing. These calls are more valuable than those from your other channels and should be prioritized accordingly. You can set up rules so that calls from these valuable marketing sources take priority over other incoming calls and are immediately routed to the highest-performing agent available.

Strategy 8: Arm Your Agents with Insights on Callers

Routing the caller to the best destination is one thing — giving them data to help them know what to say is another. To increase your staff’s chances of converting callers, marketers can pass information on the caller and marketing source that drove the call to your agents, locations, or remote staff before connecting them in conversation. Knowing a caller’s location and online activity before a call helps agents deliver a more seamless experience and tailor the conversation to assist and convert the caller. This information can be played to the agents as a whisper message before the call comes through or displayed as a pop-up on their laptops or in your CRM or call center solution.

Information about the caller displayed as a screen pop

Information about the caller is displayed as a screen pop before you answer the phone

2 Marketing Strategies for Businesses with Remote Workers During COVID-19

With social distancing measures in place, many businesses are requiring their employees to work from home. This can create problems for call centers and other agents who typically answer calls from their office phones. The tips below can help you address these issues.

Strategy 9: Set Up Call Forwarding Rules for Agents Working Remotely

DialogTech makes it easy to forward calls to your business to employees working from home. If you have ads running already with phone numbers, don’t worry — you don’t need to change them. Instead, you can just change the routing on the backend in DialogTech to have those numbers direct calls to your remote staff.

Strategy 10: Set Up Routing Rules that Decrease the Number of Calls to Remote Agents that Go to Voicemail

If need be, companies can set up rules so that a remote agent’s work line, cell phone, and home phone all ring at once, so that they can answer the call wherever they’re working from. You can have calls routed to a group of employees’ phones simultaneously or in a hunt group until someone answers. These kinds of rules will decrease the number of calls to your remote agents that go to voicemail.

Use DialogTech to set up hunt groups for remote workers

Sample DialogTech screenshot for setting up hunt group call routing to remote workers

2 Strategies to Reduce and Segment Calls from Employees

These tips can help you segment out inbound phone calls from employees. This way, your agents will be freed up to assist consumers and focus on revenue opportunities.

Strategy 11: Voice Broadcast Automated Messages to Employees

If you have urgent COVID-19 news you need to share with your entire workforce, such as the closing of offices, you can set up a voice broadcast to contact all your employees with an automated message. This message can go to your employees’ work lines as well as any remote lines they’ve set up. This is often more effective than sending a mass email, since it is more immediate and some employees may not check their email after work hours or on weekends. Automating it using voice broadcasting also eliminates the need for manual work.

Use DialogTech to set up a voice broadcast to your employees

Set up a voice broadcast to your employees with COVID-19 updates

Strategy 12: Set Up an Internal Communication Hotline for Employee Questions

Chances are, your employees have a lot of questions about how COVID-19 will impact their jobs. For instance, they might be wondering how long their local office will be shut down, if they can go in to retrieve their equipment, or what this means for their 401k. An effective way to answer these inquiries is to set up a special internal communication hotline for them to call. The hotline will link directly to HR or whoever handles these types of inquiries. If certain questions are popping up on multiple calls, you can disseminate this information to your organization more broadly through an email or voice broadcast.

We’re Here to Help

These times are unprecedented, but we’re here to help you weather the storm. Please contact us or call us at (877) 295-5100 if you need help with call routing and IVRs, visualizing calls about COVID-19 in marketing reports, learning the questions your callers are asking about the outbreak, or other challenges with inbound calls during COVID-19. We’re in this together. Please stay safe.