Never underestimate the importance of your IVR. It is often said that good service starts at the front door. Just like a good hotel, where the doorman greets you and the whole experience is set by the ambiance of the lobby and the welcome received, for call centers, the IVR is a crucial doorway to your company. The way it greets your customers and directs them often dictates the impressions customers have about the service they will receive. When IVR messages are long and tedious, customers may rethink the value of their relationship with you and look for alternatives.

IVR’s represent a complex integration of processes and technologies that include call routing, prompts, voice talent and more. Each of these must be put under the microscope to optimize the total functionality of the IVR and initiate the best customer service experience possible.

Not every contact center has a frustrating call flow design; however, many do confuse and confound customers, which contributes to a growing dislike of IVR’s. The challenge of creating an effective and user-friendly IVR requires a seamless blend of technology with the need for simplified human interaction.

Our experts suggest that following one Golden Rule will help to eliminate a large majority of design issues. This rule states “Each customer, reaching each menu, should easily find one, but only one logical choice for them.” In addition to the Golden Rule, it would benefit IVR design teams to give consideration to the following:

  • What are the needs of the customers accessing the IVR?
  • What are the demographics of the customers?
  • Have you avoided jargon used by the company that may be foreign to the customer?
  • Do you have multi-language options? Could you incorporate speech recognition?

Speech recognition technology is one of the most widely deployed technologies used, and one of the most identifiable to the customer. It’s use of simple phrases and stated numbers makes it easy for people to get it right the first time. Moreover, speech recognition works especially well with customers who are mobile – – who represent a growing percentage of those reaching contact centers. People on the go have a harder time punching in numbers and therefore speech recognition offers the ease of conducting business using their voices. Speech recognition also can reduce menu options. When properly designed and implemented, tools like speech recognition enable companies to change business process easily and quickly, thus making the IVR more efficient and cost effective.

To understand the efficiency of an IVR system, identifying the right metrics to track is essential. Our experts agree that Transfer Rate is perhaps the single and most valuable metric for measuring IVR efficiency. The IVR is designed to route calls of specific types to specific agent groups; therefore, by tracking the number of transfers that agents do in order to get the call to the correct location for issue resolution provides an indication of design flaws within the IVR. The second metric is the average time it takes to navigate through the IVR.

For those looking for best practices in IVR design, our experts suggest:

  • Establish a strategy: understand what the IVR is supposed to accomplish;
  • Create an IVR team comprised of people from IT and your business units so that both sides of the equation are addressed;
  • At the customer interface, keep the IVR as simple as possible;
  • Track Transfers, the time to navigate the system, rates of IVR abandonment, and the rate that people opt out of the IVR to speak to a live agent;
  • Use satisfaction surveys to gain feedback on its usability; and,
  • Consider its design from the user aspect.

Don’t let your IVR drive people away from your business. When properly designed, the IVR can be efficient for the company and effective for the customer. The overall process seems simple, but IVR design often requires some intensive tweaking to get it right for you, and to get it right for the customer.

Tip of the Month: Treat IVR guidelines as guidelines; they are not laws that should never be broken. For example, if you are attempting to follow a 3 X 4 menu guideline (no more than three menu’s, no more than four choices deep on each one), but discover that a fourth menu best serves the needs of your customers, then create the fourth menu option. It will save time and probably build a higher sense of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

This CallTalk Caramel was compiled and edited by Bruce Belfiore and Kamál Webb. It was drawn from a CallTalk episode with Jay Minnucci, entitled “Go with the Flow: Tips for Optimal IVR Call Flow Design.”. To listen to the entire episode click play below:

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calltalk-caramels-2.pngCallTalk is a monthly internet radio program featuring the most innovative managers and thought leaders in the customer contact field, interviewed by BenchmarkPortal CEO, Bruce Belfiore. “Caramels” distills “Aha!” moments from these interviews into practical, bite-sized nuggets to inform and assist you as a contact center professional.

Topics: CallTalk Caramels, Contact Center Articles, IVR