IVRs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

David Bosley
David Bosley
April 11, 2016

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they are improving and becoming more and more valuable for companies (and even consumers). That’s the good news.

The bad news is, there are still some pretty bad IVRs out there. So, let’s take a look at what makes for a good, a bad, and a plain old ugly IVR.

The models below both know how to greet the caller and give them some idea of what to expect.

 

                               IVR #1

1

IVR #2

2
So far, so good, except for the zip code question in IVR #2. It’s too wordy. You want the questions to be precise and to tell the caller exactly what you want to hear. If every question is too long, the process will take too long and some callers will become annoyed and will hang up or call for the operator.

3

4

 

So, things are starting to go awry for IVR #2. They are not major problems, but subtle ones that add up to a poor experience. IVR #2 doesn’t thank the caller; even saying the word “great” acts as a transition to the next question. The birthdate question for IVR #2 is also problematic. Sure, some personality goes a long way, but this question gets in the way of gathering the needed information.

If you have ever spoken to an IVR, the “type of insurance” question asked by IVR #1 is very much appreciated, because it tells the caller the number of choices to expect. When you are the caller and have no idea what to expect from the rest of the question, it’s infuriating. IVR #1 handles that question perfectly. IVR #2 will cause some confusion because the caller doesn’t know what to expect. So, what happens when there’s an error message?

5

It’s going to happen in the best of IVRs. The system will not understand a response. The key to keeping the caller happy is to be polite and give the caller the information they need to fix the issue. IVR #1 does a great job; it apologizes, then tells the caller to repeat their response, or they can use their keypad if they prefer. It’s important that when there’s an error, that the IVR respond with a bit of clarifying information in order to help the caller provide the information needed.

IVR #2 doesn’t do this at all, then on the second error, it simply repeats the previous prompt. This I s where it turns from a bad IVR to an ugly IVR, by simply telling the caller to call back. There are no solutions provided to the caller and the IVR ultimately abandons them.

Yes, this is a very simple IVR; very often, there are individualized error messages, as well as a set-up wherein the caller can say “Main Menu” or “Repeat” to reset the question. This, however, illustrates a few key points in the demonstration.

It’s important to know that good IVRs don’t just happen. They start with good planning, properly worded questions, and a view of the transaction from the caller’s point of view.  Oh, and yes, it takes a great tech crew, too!

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