CBA – Designing a Customer-Focused IVR Experience


As Australia’s leading technology bank, Commonwealth Bank optimised the Interactive Voice Response experience for its 15 million customers. The new IVR helps customers find solutions faster; giving them greater control to bank at a time and place that suits them, and providing options to speak with an agent when needed.

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  • Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CBA’s contact centres received over a million increasingly complex calls from customers every month. This naturally resulted in increased wait times and an immediate need to improve customer experience. One way to do this was to optimise the IVR system, which responds to fixed touchtone commands from callers and triages them to agents. This command structure meant some customers were directed to the wrong team, didn’t progress in the queue or hung up on us prematurely The challenge was to create a value-adding journey for customers and present them with options and alternatives to voice-based service.

  • To deliver immediate impact, we focussed on introducing principles and optimising current practice. - The three top principles are: - Wait time becomes solve time; - Offer actionable options early; and - Let customers make informed decisions. If customers choose to wait, they are informed about their next step and the representative they’ll be speaking with, which reduces additional or unnecessary call transfers.

  • When offered a choice, 35% of customers chose our digital channels over waiting to speak with an agent, a step-change in digital-first behaviour. This meant customers transitioned directly from voice to digital in real-time, even with the choice for a call back at a later time. We also know customers prefer active waiting over passive waiting, and these changes have improved customer-agent interactions, reduced customer frustrations and increased Net Promoter Scores. This change also led to better service, with conversations shifting from basic enquiries to more individualised information, and average wait time reduced by two-thirds – from 15 to 5 minutes.

  • The new IVR experience is based on enquiry-oriented principles that feature in scripts that help guide agent conversations. These principles – active listening, verbal reassurance, opt-in at every stage to give customers control at all times, and options to speak with an agent - ensure customers feel heard and aim to reduce any tension a customer may experience while navigating the IVR: Martin Lindsay, Executive General Manager of CBA’s customer service direct team explains; “The optimisation of the IVR experience has enabled customers to connect with us on their terms and in their time. It gives customers an early human touch when they call us to quickly understand their needs and address them faster, as well as providing immediate access to messaging. With customer conversations via messaging now representing over 30%, we will continue to grow our digital service offering to ensure we are providing a superior customer experience that is personalised and convenient.” “If my dispute is done and I don’t need to explain myself I wouldn’t need to talk to the person.” CBA Customer