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Fact is, an IVRS is a technical interface to humans, just like a web site is. And just like many web sites, it was probably built and programmed by some engineers without a lot of direction from Marketing or Customer Service. There’s really no reason at all why the folks optimizing the web site should not also optimize the phone system too – especially if they do a good job with the web site in terms of usability! Here are the guidelines for optimizing usability:

1. Be Specific and to the point.
Once the voice prompts and information are recorded, each and every sentence, word should be examined if they are required or not. The message should be conveyed in shortest possible phrase. Unfortunately there is no way to predict effectiveness of the IVR prompts except testing with real callers. Some menus may require little descriptions to make it more understandable to the caller.
2. Setting Priority of Information
The biggest drawback in IVRS visa-a-vis its counterparts are, they have to be presented in serial manner, ie. The menu is played one option then the next one. Its unlike a website, where all options, links are presented visually in the webpage and some links are blinking, some are bold etc. Alas, in an IVR Applications, one does not have that luxury! The implication here is that you need to find out which paths through the system are going to be the “journeys” most traveled by your users, and you need to put these at the top of the menus, to make sure the experience is short, direct and hassle-free.
3. Build Prototype and test on real users before commissioning
Acceptability of your IVR System by your customer can not be properly predicted. So the best way is to build a prototype and ask your clients to use it and get their feedback. You should make a complete call flow of your IVRS, circulate among your clients and get feedback. You may also circulate your script. Many times, scripts looking good and logical may not sound logical while listening on telephone!
4. Professional Scripting for IVRS prompts and information
All the sentences or voice prompts, information should be professionally scripted. Scripting should be done as per the industry where the IVRS is being used as well as the target callers.

5. Use short menu and Menu style
Designing a effective and attractive menu is a real challenge in IVR Application. Menu should be short in options, brief in discussion. Also you should always describe the option before speaking the option number. For example, use “to know about our promotional sales discount, press 3”, instead of press 3 to know about our promotional sales discounts”. It will help caller remember the option as per the description. Long menu tends to bore the customer specially when his required option is spoken at last.
6. Use professional Voice-Over Artist
In a IVR System, audio is of prime importance. Poor quality audio, background noise, poorly edited audio will give a poor impression on your company. It will also give them impressions about how your company works. So it is strongly advised that one should hire a professional voice-over artist and get all scripts recorded in a studio by a sound recorder. It may cost you little more, but it is worth every penny.
7. Avoid Promotional Messages
Normally, you should avid putting any promotional messages in between your prompts or information. You actually never know who might call you. Though some marketing people in your organization may insist on putting some promotional messages, remember one thing, a person may get impatient and can be in a bad mood. It may serve the other way around then!
8. Make IVRS Adaptive and Intelligent
IVRS should be capable of intelligently adapting menu options. For example, it should wish “Good Morning” in the morning and “Good Afternoon” at afternoon. One should also monitor and analyze call patterns, oft-used menu options, hang ups, call failure, dropped calls periodically and change the priorities of menus. Adapting to customer need is the key to success of a IVRS.

9. Never rely exclusively on Help menu
Though one should provide thoroughly user-tested help menu, but never rely on them. No one wants to read help menu or refer to help menu except when one is stuck up. So, it is advisable that menus be designed smartly self-evident and obviously logical. Also never give excuses like “its all described in the help menu” to customer.
10. Use standards
There are a number of standards for IVR system design, such as HFES 200.4 and ISO/IEC 13714. One should use them to test their IVRS for usability test. Best way of USABILITY of IVRS is still hiring an IVRS EXPERT like yours sincerely.
11. Avoid Long gaps in between menus or information
Never pause long for any reason. Once caller gets silence for more than 3 seconds or so, he might think something has gone wrong and press some other keys! But then a menu with short gap can make a rapid fire menu and will be difficult to use for caller. A perfectly paced menu should be adopted as per target caller, complexity of the features. The best way to achieve perfectly paced prompts are again testing by users!
12. Make Voice sounding natural as much as you can
Here is an important guideline. The prompts, information should sound natural sentence. For example, in normal conversations, one normally emphasizes on the last word. The IVRS recording should follow the same pattern too. For that reason, a sentence should be recorded fully with the complete script. Putting new words in between a sentence should be avoided. Also, one should never use “constructed sentences” where words are recorded separately! It will not have a proper flow of a sentence and give very poor quality and wrong impression. It will also reflect unprofessional approach in the business.
13. Keep your features small
IVRS should have small specific features! For a large organizations, where more features are must, it is advisable to use separate numbers for user to dial. Or user should be given option to access particular service by some direct dialing method. Now a days many exchanges offer facility to configure range of a number. For example, 56969XX where 56969 is actual number, but user can dial 5606901 for sales department, 5696902 for accounts, etc. This helps serve the customer better!

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