When done right, customers can find an IVR system immensely useful. However, when set up improperly an IVR system can be extremely frustrating for customers.

We have all experienced these situations. You call to book a simple appointment and are all of the sudden lost in an endless maze of questions, passwords, and detail retrieval. This one frustrating experience alone is enough to turn people from a satisfied, loyal customer, to one who has one foot out the door.

Surely there is a better way to set up a user-friendly automated answering system?

Of course there is!

woman working at a call center

10 Ways To Make Interactive Voice Response More Customer-Friendly

  1. Create a Natural Language-Based IVR System

    Rather than relying on a limited menu system, natural language IVR systems allow customers to answer open-ended questions such as “How can I help you?”. Unlike traditional IVR systems, natural language recognizes phrases that are natural for the customer to use and can ask follow-up questions or connect the customer to the appropriate agent or self-service system.

  2. Keep Menu Options Simple

    When utilizing a menu system, it is tempting to offer a variety of different choices. It can easily feel like you are helping your customers by giving them this wide variety of options. However, in reality, all of these options just lengthens the call and can be extremely confusing. In fact, when presented with a long list people find it more difficult to choose the category that best suits them remember which number corresponds to which category.

    Your motto should be less is more. In order to keep options simple, it is best to present your caller with no more than 3-5 broad category options that reflect the most common inquiries. As the call progresses, you can then divide the categories into more specific branches. Remember the motto though. Less is more. Having too many steps can be just as confusing and frustrating as having too many menu options.

  3. Give Popular Options First

    In addition to keeping your menu options simple, it is important to put the most frequently used options at the beginning of the list. This means doing research to find out why customers call in to contact you and prioritizing your menu options on these results.

  4. Personalize Messages to Sound Human

    Your caller will be aware that they are interacting with a computer, there is no hiding that. However, a personalized greeting message can really make a difference and give your interactive voice response system a more human touch. When recording, your voice artist should aim for a conversational tone that sounds natural. Don’t overuse “OK” and “thank you” as that can wind up sounding very phony and computerized.

  5. Don’t Waste Customers’ Time

    Automated answering systems are long enough. For this reason, it is important to avoid unnecessary messaging like “your call is very important to us”. Most IVR openings include an introductory message that clearly identifies the company. This is fine, but make sure that this message is short and to the point. It should be no more than 7 seconds. Don’t waste time with marketing messages. Instead, save those messages for while the caller is in the queue.

  6. Give The Option To Speak to A Real Person

    Even the best designed IVR systems cannot serve all callers. Because of this, it is important to let them a caller get to a live person at any stage of the call. Or if a live person is not an option, at least give them an option to request a callback.

  7. Allow Barge-In

    In order to respect your caller’s time, it is important to give them the capability to skip ahead and choose their option at any point. This is particularly crucial for longer menu options. Forcing a caller to wait until the end of the menu options list leads to unhappy, frustrated customers.

  8. Provide Alternate Channels

    These days, not everyone wants to talk on the phone. Particularly if your customers fall into the younger demographic. We recommend providing an interactive text messaging “IVR” option in addition to your traditional phone IVR.

  9. Consider Multi-Language IVR

    Depending on where you live and who you serve, a multi-language IVR system could be a must. This kind of IVR system could be built with plenty of self-service features and reduce the need to hire alternate language staff to handle calls. When choosing your voice talent for alternate languages, be sure you are utilizing a native speaker for the best results.

  10. Collect Feedback

    After you go live with your IVR system, it is important to regularly review your setup. Review your IVR abandonment rate, first call resolution rates, and customer satisfaction levels to see where your process and messaging could improve.

Create The Right IVR Solution with DiRAD

As a leader in speech technology, we have worked with businesses of all types and sizes to deliver next-generation interactive voice response systems that customers prefer to use. If you are committed to creating a user-friendly IVR system from the get-go, we are here to help. 

Article written by John Michne

John brings over two decades of experience to his role, having worked in just about every position in the company. As Vice President, John’s primary role is to evolve DiRAD’s legendary innovation in the government communications space as a national solution provider. John holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from the State University of New York at Oswego, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the State University of New York. John also holds several Microsoft and Interactive Intelligence technical certifications. In his spare time, he enjoys cycling, fitness and family time. You can learn more about John here.

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