Improve Your IVR Menus with These Best Practices
At some point, you’ve called a business and listened to its Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu. If in this situation more than once, you likely noticed a difference in experience: that's because some call systems are intuitive, easy-to-follow, while others more arduous. Businesses should strive for the former, a reason why we’ve drafted the five IVR menu tips below.
Never Hang Up on a Caller
Although this seems commonsensical, hanging up is a popular issue with IVR menus. Ending calls prematurely is typically undeliberate, but rather the result of poor system configuration. For instance, when experiencing high traffic volumes, the system may request that the caller try again later. Similarly, some IVR menus disconnect if the caller presses an incorrect key. Test your system regularly for such quirks.
Provide Detailed Navigational Options
Customers should receive call instructions within the first couple of seconds. This includes how to select options as well as a few quick escapes (i.e. voicemail, extension or operator). Always allow callers to repeat information or to return to the previous menu. Unfamiliar junctions lead to call abandonment, so make them as sparse as possible. Similarly, unannounced call transfers can confuse, so let callers know what’s happening. Always give the option to speak with a representative, too, as some callers abhor IVR menus altogether.
Limit the Items in Your IVR Menu
Bill Pawlak, president of Inovdesigns, recommends setting up an IVR menu with a maximum of five items. Other research suggests three is ideal, while four pushes the envelope. It’s not that callers have poor memories but that their attention is often divided. For this reason, lead with the popular options and provide more than one way to select them (i.e. button or voice command).
Role Play and Become the Caller
Configure your IVR menu so that it accommodates the caller—not the representative. Simplify the structure using the tips above, favouring conciseness and clarity. Explain to callers when they’ve made an error and how to correct it. Remember also to talk with callers and not at them. This means speaking accessibly (no jargon!) and politely. Surprisingly, even changing speakers can affect the tone of an IVR menu, so select one voice and stick with it. Choose one as friendly and authentic (no robots!) as possible.
Ask for Feedback
At the end of your IVR menu or script, request feedback from the caller. Pose a few brief questions that target key aspects of your call system, thus gauging what does and doesn’t work. You may want to provide incentive to capture more opinions—so get creative.