Creating an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) can be as simple as recording a few prompts, telling a customer to press one or two, and routing the caller to an operator at the end of the call. But to create an effective, seamless, and confusion-free IVR that allows you to use a computer where a live person once was needed requires more thought and planning. It doesn’t need to be a painful process, but careful outlining of what you want to do and, more importantly, what you want a customer to do will ensure an IVR that is not just another component to your business but an essential feature of your business’s communication structure.
So, you want to create an IVR to expedite telephone product sales, manage a customer service department, or develop a phone directory for a 100-employee company (or a 5-employee company). Now what?
- A good IVR is short and to the point — no unnecessary questions or prompts. The first thing you need to do is think about what the most important pieces of information are that you want to deliver to your customers or that you need from them. A good way to manage this process is to think about the five most important prompts or questions you want to play for or ask of your customers, and begin there. Then, as time goes and as you continue to watch how the IVR is working for you, you can add or remove those prompts and questions that do not add to the overall quality of the IVR. Less is more. Start with a few prompts and build as your employees or customers get more comfortable with it.
- Create an effective opening prompt. Be brief, concise, and polite — watch out for 30-second introductions or too many multi-syllabic words, and make sure you appear grateful that the employee or customer is calling in to your IVR.
- Have the system refer to itself as “I” Customers prefer to hear a first-person IVR rather than a generic “system.”
- If you have an IVR that is longer than four prompts, let a caller know what they can expect from the system immediately. Customers don’t like it when they can’t see the end of the tunnel. Either have the IVR share how many questions and which they are answering or provide some glimpse of the number of questions or time it will take to complete the IVR in your introduction.
- Take advantage of DialogTech’s speech-recognition software and give customers the option to traverse the IVR by either using touch-tone buttons or speaking their answers. Make sure they know that speech is an option.
- If you decide to allow speech-recognition answers, make it clear what the answer needs to be and use two or three syllable responses so as not to confuse the customer, or the system. Answers of a couple words can work well because they give the system a more precise speech target to search for.
- Be concise, and make sure that you use the same language to describe the same nouns or processes throughout the IVR. An article on the DialogTech blog titled “How To Make Prompts Consistent” does an excellent job of explaining just how to do this. Break down the different “names” (what you would call something) and “actions” (something you ask a customer to do), and ensure that there is a consistency throughout. If you tell a customer to “enter two” at one place and to “press three” in another, you’re not being consistent. Likewise, if you call something a “menu” in one prompt, you don’t want to refer to it as a “message” later on.
- Think about the Barge-In Factor. On the DialogTech system, you have the option to Allow Barge-In or not. If your customers will be interacting with an IVR in a loud place, the background noise may affect the voice recognition system, and you may not want to allow barge-in. However, if you expect most customers to be at home or in an office, then barge-in is a useful feature to speed up an IVR.
- Think about the Touch Tone Only Factor. If you select this, the system won’t accept any voice responses, only numbers entered in on a touch tone phone. It’s another useful tool for customers who have a lot of background noise, but also a convenient way to simplify an IVR. Giving customers the option to say or enter in their responses isn’t always necessary; sometimes the simple press of a button will do. If you turn on “Touch Tone (DTMF) only” and Allow Barge-In at the same time, you can create an IVR that is very quick and easy to navigate.
- Create an option to always allow customers to access human help and let them know about it. Depending on the type of IVR you are setting up, you may want to keep in mind that people become frustrated, annoyed, and may eventually hang up if they cannot access human help when the IVR doesn’t appear to suit their needs.