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Interactive Voice Response Best Practices & Design Tips

We’ve all been stuck on the phone trying to get information from an automated telephone system in a battle against the machine that sometimes seems to be designed specifically to prevent us from finding what we’re looking for. While that almost certainly wasn’t the intent of the automated phone system, poor execution can leave a multitude of customers with a bad taste in their mouth.

A well designed IVR (Interactive Voice Response) phone system can be a valuable resource, but a poorly designed system will only reflect poorly on your organization’s communication and customer service. With that being said, here are a few pointers to help make sure you are designing a good call flow for your automated IVR system:

  • Outline the Call Flow for Your IVR
    A flow chart or an outline is the perfect place to start. You really need to take the time to plan out how someone is going to interact with your phone system long before you start creating the actual IVR in your software. Taking the time to plan it all through at the beginning will help you keep the big picture in mind and to avoid creating a long trail of prompts.

  • Think Like Your Customers
    Always keep your customers in mind. Why will they be calling the system? Put the options for the most frequently used items at the beginning so they can be accessed quickly and easily. At every step along the way think about how the message will come across from a customer’s point of view.

  • Keep It Simple
    Don’t try to do everything. Less is more. With an automated phone system you want to keep the number of key presses to minimum. Trying to do too many things just gives the callers more places that they can get lost along the way. Really think about what options should be available and who is calling in. For example, if you need to offer different services to customers and vendors it might be better to have two different systems rather thane on that does everything, keeping each line simplified and tailored to its purpose instead of trying to do everything on one line.

  • Keep Menu Prompts Clear and Concise
    The longer your message, the harder it is going to be for a caller to remember everything that is being said and what they need to do to interact with the system. Be sure to use the same language as your customers, avoiding industry slang and terminology callers might not be familiar with.

  • Offer Universal Commands
    Options like pressing the star key (*) to return to the main menu at any point during a call, or an option to repeat a prompt will make it much easier for callers to navigate the IVR system.

  • Give the Option to Talk to Someone or Leave a Voice Message
    The goal of an IVR system may be in part to reduce the number of calls that your staff needs to handle, but there will be times when the system does not fulfill a customer’s needs. You need to offer these callers the alternative to either talk to a live person or leave a message for someone to call them back.

  • Test, Test, Test, and Test Some More
    Test the call flow every step along the way test the flow. Think of as many possible scenarios as you can and go through the process yourself. Get other people to try it out, too. Never think of your system as being completely done. You need to monitor how well it is working, and make sure that you are offering the right options at the right time. Get feedback from your staff and customers. Designing a good IVR call system should be an ongoing process.

These are just a few of the tips to help you get started on the right foot when you are implementing an interactive voice response system. Taking the time to thoroughly plan out a new IVR call flow, before you even start working with an application like IVM interactive voice response software, can make a significant difference in the final result and is well worth the time and effort.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Abhishek March 27, 2010, 3:46 pm

    The following option :
    “Give the Option to Talk to Someone or Leave a message for someone to call them back”
    can be very hard to run by any company in India.

  • Ankit Bhargava March 29, 2010, 12:39 am

    Not many people know above

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