Our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Development and custom IVR software and products.
Call center phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country.
Our IVR systems add another dimension to our call center phone systems and solutions.
What Is IVR?. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either inhouse service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.
The following is an article relating to IVR including tips and best practices as well as product and answering service information.
Designing Better IVR Systems
Building voice systems that don't alienate callers takes careful planning and management
By HENRY DORTMANS and IAN ANGUS
Don't Do It Yourself
As this article notes, we rarely find technical problems with IVR systems that were
"installed and maintained by major suppliers." That qualification is important.
Many small computer companies and some IT departments believe that
anyone who understands personal computers is qualified to build IVR systems. We've
seen too many barely working semi-pro systems, cobbled together from garage-built
PCs, Dialogic boards, and shareware, by someone whose entire experience in the field
was reading an article in a computer magazine.
For small, non-critical applications, such systems can sometimes be acceptable. But
if you want your system to work reliably 24/7, handle a variety of applications, and grow
as required, get one that's designed for the task, by voice system experts.
Keep It Current
With large and complex menu systems, it's easy to miss things when you do updates,
leaving obsolete recordings to amuse and confuse your callers.
A case in point. While writing this article, we called 310-BELL, Bell Canada's customer
service number, just to check how many menu levels it has. After pressing "1" five times,
we reached a promotional recording for "Advantage Per Call" service.
It told us to order now to be sure we'd have the service "when the rates come
into effect on September 28, 1998."
That didn't reassure us that everything is up-to-date at Canada's largest telco.
You don’t need an elaborate or expensive
Computer Telephony Integration
system. A simple screen pop that displays
the numbers the caller entered is usually
enough to avoid annoying callers with a
repeat request. If necessary, let the agent
re-enter the data — don’t make the caller
Test, Test, and Test Again
…and then test some more. You can never
test an IVR menu too much. Obviously
you should test to make sure that every
single choice branches to the right place.
But after that, test to ensure that the
menus actually are, as you hoped, in language
that callers understand. Try them
on callers who weren’t part of the development
team, and who don’t speak your business
jargon. Test, revise, and test again.
Testing shouldn’t stop after the system
goes live. Establish a process for capturing
and reviewing every caller comment,
good or bad. Read the system printouts
faithfully to identify how callers actually
use the system, and to see if that suggests
Printouts can show you, for example,
which menu choices are most often selected.
Those items should be at the beginning
of each menu, and as high as possible
in the menu hierarchy. Reorganize your
menus to refl ect what customers want to
do, not what you thought they might do.
And remember: customer interests
and priorities will change over time, so it’s
essential to review the menus and printouts
Watch for Frequent Exits
Ask anyone familiar with IVR for implementation
tips, and you’ll be told: “Always
allow callers to leave the IVR system and
reach a live person easily.” Really knowledgeable
advisors will add: “Always ensure
that a live person is actually available to
That’s very good advice, but often “We
let them reach a live person” becomes an
excuse for sloppy design. Rarely do you
hear the most important piece of advice
of all: “Design your system so that most
callers will not need to leave.”
Allowing callers to leave the system
easily is very important. But if a high percentage
of callers leave early, then either
your menu system is badly designed, or
your callers want services that the IVR
doesn’t provide. Either way, it’s probably
time to revisit and rethink the system.
None of this is rocket science. Put business
issues fi rst, adopt your customers’
point of view, plan and test the system
to be sure it does what you want it to —
these are the ABCs of any customer contact
system. So why are they so often ignored
Much of the blame must be placed on
the organizations that sell IVR systems.
The sales reps are eager to prove that their
equipment will cut your costs, so they
don’t emphasize (perhaps they don’t even
know) that IVR requires careful, long-term
Customers contribute to the problem
by focusing on price as the most important
acquisition issue, an approach that
frequently leads to selection of suppliers
who cut corners on implementation. IVR
systems are often sold by systems integrators
who know all about bits and bytes and
very little about human factors. Checking
out the supplier’s ability to implement the
human side of IVR is critical, but often
In other words, both vendors and customers
are guilty of treating Interactive
Voice Response as a purely technical
matter — buy the right box at the right
price, and ensure that it runs properly.
It’s important to do those things, but
they are by far the least demanding and
least time-consuming parts of the process.
Implementing an IVR system that actually
meets business goals is a management
task, not a technical one. If your IVR is
producing more complaints than compliments,
look to management, not technicians,
for the solution.
"On the Line" is a monthly feature, based on
the consulting experience of Henry Dortmans
Associates. For information on Henry Dortmans
consulting services, seminars, and workshops,
call Henry Dortmans at 1.888.845.1135 or
visit him at henrydortmans.com.