Five IVR Design Best Practices

I was talking to a tech-savvy friend a few days ago, and he was bemoaning an IVR he had recently traversed trying to get to an agent to ask a simple question. He said he had to spend five minutes in the IVR giving various pieces of information, including his home address, before being given the option to speak to someone. During the post-call survey, he gave the IVR low marks, but gave the agent interaction a better grade since that part of the experience was pretty good – once he was able to get to a live person.

That conversation piqued my interest, since I just returned from three weeks in the Philippines training a new group of IVR/call flow developers and QA testers for the Interactive Intelligence professional services organization.

During the training we discussed the following five IVR design best practices:

  1. Announce the function first and then the button to press. E.g. “To check the status of an order, please press one.”
  2. Limit the total number of options per menu to three or four. Make it easy for the caller to remember all the options and limit the amount of time spent in a menu.
  3. Analyze the usage of your IVR, and put the most-used options at the top of the list. This allows callers to skip the prompt rather than having to listen to all the options.
  4. Use a consistent voice talent and style throughout the IVR. Customers get confused when they encounter different voices on different menus.
  5. Most importantly, present an option for the caller to reach a live agent. While many people are happy to use self-service, a majority also want the option to speak to a live person, if needed.

The goals of your IVR should be to increase the efficiency of your customer service and to reduce the effort needed by the caller in resolving their issue. Obviously, not every caller will be completely satisfied with your IVR design, but with planning, feedback and analysis you can please the majority.

If you are looking for more in-depth information, Rebecca Gibson of Interactive Intelligence has a great presentation on IVR design best practices that has a lot of good insight. Software Advice also published an article, “IVR Design Lessons From the Fortune 500 Industry View,” that reviewed the IVRs of 50 Fortune 500 companies with business models that focus on customer service.

I’d love to hear your IVR best practices.

George Ganahl
Principal Technology Consultant

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