Top 11 reasons people hate calling customer care

A word about IVR

Let's understand a bit about IVR before we get into the reasons for people to hate IVRs.

From Wikipedia definition Interactive Voice Response (IVR) allows computers to interact with people through the use of voice and DTMF tones.

IVR is something which many people may not have heard of but a lot of people would have an opinion on (mostly a bad one) - Tweet this

Here's an example for a bank,

For savings account, press 1.

For current account, press 2.

For any other accounts, press 3.

Here it is for Pizzas,

To know what is latest in our Pizza, press 1.

To order fresh pizza, press 2.

To cancel your order, press 3

As the name suggests, in IVR, computer prompts for information and people select the option using number pad on their telephone or mobile phone. Based on this selection, computer prompts for more information and so on.

This is definitely beneficial for the companies for many reasons, e.g. to route people to specialized agents for saving accounts, current accounts etc. Also, the companies can authenticate users or collect appropriate information before routing the call to agents in order to speed up the issue resolution.

Problems with IVR

IVR menu

Though there are many advantages of IVR, people hate interacting with it.

Here are some of the reasons on why people hate IVRs.

1. Asking for same information multiple times

In many of the IVRs, even after people have entered their details, when the call reaches the agent, they ask for the same information again. For example, I might have already given my account and date of birth details during IVR prompt. However, when the call reaches an agent, if I am asked for the same information, repeating it would be really annoying.

Don't let repeat myself. Don't ask me the same information again, ever ! - Tweet this

2. Listening to lengthy audio options is very taxing on people

Image Credit: Lengthy IVRs put people to sleep

IVR's inherently have a limitation because of the short attention span of people which, it seems, is about 8 seconds now. While I don't want to argue whether you have more attention span than that, I definitely can say, from personal experience, it is very less. Because of this, IVR tends to pack smaller number of options at each level but nested deep. This irritates people because they will have to listen intently during the IVR interaction which takes lot of time.

If people listen to their spouses with the same intensity they listen to IVR options, relationships would be in great shape - Tweet this

3. Annoying advertisements and music

While people are waiting to get an agent on the call, either an advertisement or a music is played and, I don't know for some reason, companies choose to play the most irritating music and/or advertisements. This makes the wait even more annoying.

Hey Companies, why don't you play some nice music while we are waiting on your IVR? - Tweet this

4. Going overboard with IVR

Companies add millions of IVR options so as to reduce the number of calls to agents and increase self-service options in the IVR.

For example, if you call up SBI (State bank of India) customer care and want to know home loan interest rate, you will have to traverse IVR options 9 levels deep. This itself takes approximately 3-5 minutes.

Similarly, for Airtel customer service, you will have to reach 5 levels deep to reach any sensible options.

We have very limited attention span, don't make us listen to too many IVR options - Tweet this

5. Confirmation of input

Many IVRs are designed to take input from the people. Some of the examples include IRCTC customer care asking for PNR number or train number, BSNL customer care asking for account number etc. In order to avoid wrong entry, companies want people to confirm their input. This confirmation is done by a computer voice repeating the entry made by people in a very artificial, slow and annoying manner.

Instead of confirming with the user upfront, can this be told along with the important information?

6. Your call is important to us

Your call is important to us, please hold. This is one of the top reasons why people hate IVRs. After answering the prompts by IVR, people are often put on hold until the agents become available. This usually takes quite a long time. To add to the waiting frustration, IVR plays annoying music (see point 3) and every 30 seconds, an animated voice keeps repeating Your call is important to us, please hold. What other experience can be more frustrating than this?

If our call is really important to you, why are you making us wait so long? - Tweet this

7. No easier way to reach an agent

Some of the companies make it very difficult to reach the customer care agent. The IVR option to reach the customer care executive is not announced at all. Because of this, people try various options like 0 or 9 as soon as the announcements start and they get frustrated when it doesn't work.

You can visit websites like that inform people on how to quickly connect to customer care executives.

People need to talk to other people when they have issues. Please have courtesy and add an option to reach customer care executive quickly - Tweet this

8. No way to bypass advertisements and announcements

It's OK for companies to advertise on their IVR. However, for customers who call repeatedly to resolve their issue, there is no option to bypass the initial advertisements/announcements. This really frustrates the people as it forces them to listen and waste their time.

Give people choice over listening to your advertisements. They will love you for that ! - Tweet this

9. I didn't understand that, please repeat

Image credit: Blondie

Some poorly implemented voice based IVRs don't understand voice commands properly. May be this is because voice detection technology has not matured enough to work flawlessly in all the scenarios with all kinds of accents. When the IVR doesn't detect the voice command and there is no alternative, people get annoyed. Give alternate options when technology doesn't work.

Remember, repeating the same thing doesn't produce different result - Tweet this

10. Inconsistent, unclear, feeble voice

Many companies have to change their IVR voice over a period of time. They do this by retaining old IVR voice as is and use new voice when there are new options to be added or existing options to be modified. Also, the settings where the recordings are done would be different. Suddenly people hear very different voice or a completely different settings, this unsettles people.

As far as possible, use the same voice and setting for whole of your IVR.

and there is one ...

11. Unnecessarily giving more information

Some companies give unnecessary information when people call their IVR. Airtel prepaid customer care announces your balance and validity information everytime you connect to their IVR and there is no option to bypass this. This definitely frustrates people as it only results in more time consumed.

I don't need unnecessary information. Tell me only what I need when I need it - Tweet this


  • What is your experience interacting with IVR?
  • Which company has the best designed IVR and worst designed IVR?

Let us know by tweeting to @breezeivr with the name of the company (preferably with twitter handle) and hashtag #BestIVR and #WorstIVR.


Co-founder Breeze Visual Customer Care. I love music, sports, human psychology and technology. Interested in creating stuff that simplifies people's lives.

Bengaluru, India