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  • Writer's pictureContaqt

How to Design an Optimal IVR that Your Customers Will Actually Love

The backbone of the modern contact center is the Interactive Voice Response (IVR). While many customers have reported a bad experience with IVRs, that simply underscores its importance. The IVR serves as the first point of contact for many customers at your company, and it sets the proper tone for all following interactions.

A good IVR is like a good concierge, able to assist and direct customers to where they need to go. It’s important to have just the right ambiance, the right tone of cordiality and a succinct level of expertise and knowledge to get the customer experience right.

1. Determine Why the Customers are Calling

The first thing you need to consider when designing the IVR is to figure out what you are trying to accomplish. You will need to take a look at the customer call data and figure out which concerns are the most common.

Do most of your customers reach out for a password reset? A balance inquiry? Product information questions?

IVR should be designed around the most common concerns.

2. Design the Menu Options

The next step is to create a top-level menu that clearly and logically takes a user to where they need to go. As with any front-facing system that a customer will use, simplicity and conciseness are paramount.

A study from Software Advice analyzing the IVRs of 50 Fortune 500 companies showed that the magic number is five items for the top-level menu, with no more than three sublevels deep for branching options from those initial five. Any more than that risks overwhelming customers or losing them in a maze of options.

3. Ease the Navigation

The most important thing is to not make people feel like they’re jumping through hoops to get the help they need. Customers should be able to select an option at any time. Instructions should be given up front at the start of the call, especially as for which keys do what. Some keys should default to basic options like repeating the menu options, returning to the top menu or speaking with an agent.

It’s important to provide a method to talk to an actual customer representative, usually the “0” option of each menu. This is known as “zeroing-out” and while we don’t want a customer to resort to this, it’s not worth risking their frustration just to avoid a few calls.

4. Set the Tone of the Language

When recording the voice for the IVR, it’s important to use a human-sounding voice and not a robotic one sported by early IVRs using synthesized speech. Luckily, IVR technology has advanced enough that this is no longer necessary. Research has shown that the human brain is predisposed to female voices, so a female voice might be best.

You’ll also want to identify the demographic of your target market, to take on the language and diction most appropriate for your business’s customers. The language you will use for a millennial is quite different from what you would use for a baby boomer.

5. Set the Metrics to Measure Efficiency

After you’ve designed the IVR and put most of the pieces together, the work isn’t done yet! Your final action item should be a standard to measure how well the IVR is working. If your IVR isn’t getting customers to where they need to go, it’s not working right.

One common metric is the number of transfers agents do to route people to the right departments. If you’re recording a high number of transfers, your IVR might need some fine tuning.

Another important metric is the average length of time customers spend on the IVR. If customers are spending more than ten minutes navigating the IVR and not getting their concern resolved, it’s not going to reflect well on the company.

Besides setting up a successful IVR, it’s also crucial to accurately measure first-call resolution (FCR). Read our blog post Five Ways to Accurately Measure FCR.


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