“You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time.” That seems to be the standing challenge of deploying a good IVR application design.
Businesses constantly seek that perfect balance of using IVR automation to the fullest extent capable; yet not alienate the end user.
To that challenge, we thought we would share some common sense design tips that still seem to be overlooked despite widespread usage of IVR systems.
1 – Keep your navigation menu concise and simple. First impressions have a lasting impact on someone’s willingness to use your IVR application. It might sound crazy to have to keep saying this, but people forget options presented on long menus. Long menus force many to revisit those options before making their choice. This can be very frustrating. Additionally, if your sub-menus become more than two levels deep, then you probably need to revisit the “what and how” of what you are trying to help the caller accomplish.
2 – Don’t require entry of duplicate information. If you ask for it, capture it, save it. Nothing is more irritating than providing information at the beginning of a session only to have to enter the same information twice at some later point. It is bad enough when you have to do this with a live agent (at least they can apologize or explain why it is necessary), but the IVR system provides no “release valve” to allow a customer to vent any frustration. This can be especially damaging to customer relations if they are at the end of a transaction and are required to re-enter information on a subsequent branch. Remember, everyone believes their time is valuable.
3 – Give users a way to speak to a human agent without having to go deep into the navigation menu. In most cases, when someone calls a Call Center or interacts with an IVR system, they know if they are going to need to speak with a live agent. The more complex the decision making requirement or the more unusual the request, the more likely human interaction will be required. Don’t force callers to listen to what seems like an endless list of options before being able to reach a live agent.
4 – Perform some form of usability testing before you begin serious coding of your IVR application. This can range from simple customer surveys on how they might use the IVR system, to conducting in-house user forums, to developing simple prototype decision trees or performing a Wizard of Oz test. Consulting an expert who has legitimate expertise in developing IVR applications will eliminate dangerous pitfalls.
5 – Don’t over emphasize the ROI component and subject the caller to too many commercials and marketing speeches. We recommend not using the initial greeting as a commercial or an attempt to sell something, unless that is the primary reason for the IVR application. If the call is transferred out of the IVR, limit the number of commercials presented during hold times. Even if a caller is in the call queue longer than desired, bombarding them with product or service commercials is counter productive. The caller does not know if they are being held in the call queue on purpose, or if the company is truly experiencing longer hold times than normal. Consider a public service announcement or even injecting a bit of humor during long wait times.
There are plenty of other common sense design tips, but our experience has shown that these are the most often annoyances committed; especially by those who are just beginning to make use of IVR and Speech Recognition capabilities.