Ten Best Practices for Making the IVR a Desirable Destination

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Let’s face it: customers hate using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. They particularly dislike having to enter a seemingly endless series of prompts, wondering if they’ll ever be able to have an issue resolved. It’s hardly surprising that the majority of customers are dissatisfied with their IVR experiences.
According to a study by New York University, a whopping 83 percent of consumers said IVRs either provide them with no benefit at all or are only provided as a cost savings opportunity for the companies that deploy them.

Certainly a key component of customer dissatisfaction with IVRs is that people don’t like to be forced to use a machine. However, a customer-centric Voice User Interface (VUI) design can achieve and strengthen customer satisfaction by enabling users to navigate IVR options with ease and to get their tasks resolved quickly and efficiently.

Here are 10 best practices for VUI designers to make the IVR a go-to destination for customers: 
  1. Always provide customers with a live agent option. Although an IVR menu should be designed so that it’s easy for customers to navigate and locate answers to their questions, the first rule of the IVR is providing customers with an option to reach a live agent. A well-designed IVR menu should continuously offer a live agent option for callers.
  2. Make ‘call recording’ announcements only on transfers. Customers understand that calls are often recorded for quality assurance purposes. But they don’t need to hear constant reminders of this – nor do they want to. Make call recording announcements known only when it’s necessary to do so.
  3. Offer a non-primary language at the end of the initial menu. Placing this option early in the IVR experience is helpful to customers and recognizes their needs and preferences.
  4. Keep main menu options to 30 seconds. Simplifying the main menu options strengthens the customer experience while making the IVR experience more efficient.
  5. The IVR should sound like an agent. VUI designers can further humanize the IVR experience by entering voice responses that sound like an agent. This includes using the right inflection and tone at the right moments (e.g., “You’re calling about your balance, is that right?”).
  6. Use silence for turn-taking. Provide pauses to allow customers to enter information or speak just as they would in a conversation with an agent. Be sure to allow IVR users enough time to respond.
  7. Allow barge-in for all prompts. If your IVR application doesn’t allow callers to interrupt make sure the prompts are worded so that callers know they shouldn’t speak until the prompt is completed.
  8. Make sure instructions are provided only when an error is made. IVR users can easily become testy and frustrated. There’s no need to further irritate them by issuing superfluous instructions.
  9. Error correction should always use different words to re-prompt the caller. One of the frustrations for IVR users is when they get stuck on a prompt or a command. To prevent this from happening, rephrase the options available for callers if they make a mistake with a prompt.
  10. Information provided by a customer to the IVR should be extended to an agent. One of the greatest frustrations for customers is having to repeat to an agent information they just entered into an IVR. Make it a seamless experience for them.


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