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8 IVR Software Optimization Techniques of Fortune 500 Companies


The basic purpose of an IVR sotware is to assist customers in finding answers and resolving routine queries. Once the customer zeroes out, the purpose is defeated. But it gets worse, when the customer abandons the IVR system without receiving any relevant service. With today’s trend of dominating IVR solutions threatening to alienate the very customers it was designed to support, the need for a revelation of the best practices of IVR software design is awaited.

If designed well, an IVR software can help customers resolve issues and gain answers on queries that would have required the participation of a human agent. Software Advice, world’s leading IT research and advisory company recently released a report based on IVR technology implemented by Fortune 500 companies “IVR Design Lessons From the Fortune 500 Industry View | 2014”

Technique #1. Provide the Option to Speak to an Agent:

It majorly depends on the business model of the organization on whether the option should be placed right up-front, or whether it should be buried further down in the IVR menu. Putting the option right up-front would increase your call volume, and burying it would reduce the operational costs but might also increase the number of hang-ups. A decrease in call volume is not worth the massive increase in customer frustration, as customers vainly struggle to reach someone who can resolve their problems.

Number of Menus Before Reaching Human Call Center Agent

Image Courtesy: Software Advice

As per the study conducted by Software Advice, nearly one-fourth of the IVRs provided the option to speak to an agent in the first menu. However, the majority of companies forced customers to wait until they have reached the third menu to zero out.

Bruce Belfoire, CEO and senior research executive at Benchmark Portal explained that companies should keep in mind, the prime metric to be tracked to evaluate IVR performance is the “First Call Resolution” score that studies whether the caller is able to resolve his query in the first call, or whether s/he had to call again. This metric is strongly correlated with customer satisfaction, and can help how effectively IVR software serves your customers.

Technique #2. Limit your IVR Menu to 5 Options

The branching tree structure of an IVR software should be able to provide a comfortable experience to the caller- principle Belfoire calls “psychological ergonomics”. On one hand, you don’t want your callers to be lost in a maze trying to find an answer, and you don’t want to overwhelm them with a lot of options, this plainly confuses the caller forcing him to abandon the system.

Number of Options in the Top Menu

Image Courtesy: Software Advice

62% of the IVRs from the study provided between two to five options in the top menu, which is quite reasonable if the callers asked very simple and generalized service information.

Technique #3. Place Self-Service Options in the First 2 Menus

Incorporating self-service options in your IVR menu decrease the overall call volume that reaches your agents, while providing the caller with the opportunity to properly navigate themselves to resolve their query, place an order, get feedback, etc.

Number of Menus before reaching Self-service Options

Image Courtesy: Software Advice

Software Advice was able to conclude that 94% of the IVR systems placed self-service options in the first 2 menus. Only a miniscule fraction forced callers to reach the third menu to avail self -service, and none of the IVR menus buried this option more than three menus deep.

Technique #4. Clipping Introduction and Menu Options to 8 seconds or Less

Introductory messages are great opportunities for companies to promote their brands, or play promotional messages. But you wouldn’t want your callers to take forever to complete a task over the IVR. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies kept their their introductory messages under 7.9 seconds.

Another important consideration is the length of menu recordings that are played when the caller waits for the option. The message normally played reads out lengthy description of other services. Unsurprisingly, menu messages were kept shorter than introductory messages with an average menu option of 4 seconds.

Technique #5. Offer Dial-pad Response

Majority of IVRs rely heavily on dial pad responses or DTMF inputs. Only 28% of the IVRs offered solely voice response as their input method, while majority (42%) of IVR solutions offered dial-pad response as their sole-input method. If you’re considering implementing a voice response system integrated with your IVR software, ensure your solution is equipped with advanced speech recognition technologies, since speech recognition has known to be a bug-prone technology.

IVR Input Methods

Image Courtesy: Software Advice

There is even a fair share of companies (30%) that incorporate both voice and dial-pad response options to callers providing them with the choice of response, or/and implementing them where it necessarily fits.

Technique #6. Avoid Branding Statements in Introductions

Most companies play a branding message, “options have changed” announcement, or a company news announcement in their introductory message regardless of whether the caller has called the system before. Marketing messages dramatically increases the length of the introductions and also overwhelm the caller with too much information, reducing the chances of the customer successfully completing self-service tasks.

If companies have a major news announcement which could be pivotal for customers, it might be beneficial to include that as the introductory message, but should also have a special menu option for customers willing to learn more.

Technique #7. Employ Female Voice

IVR solutions have passed the phase of sounding “robotic”, and have started started sounding human-like. But most IVR solutions (74%) utilize female voice rather than male voice, most likely because the human brain resonates better with a female voice than a male voice, according to a research by Stanford University Professor, Mr. Clifford Nass. This would also entirely depend on the demographic of your caller population.

Technique #8. Avoid Hanging Up on Customers

Customers struggling to zero out IVR options to reach a human agent persistently dial zero. But IVRs simply hang up on them since they fail to input the responses the system presented them with. This technique might reduce the call volumes, but can seriously frustrate customers forcing them to take their business elsewhere.

Callers should be transferred to a live agent rather than being forcefully kicked out of the system.

Design IVR with the caller in mind. IVR technology has been deemed to be rigidly automated because organizations focus on business goals, rather than customer goals. The primary focus should be on what the customer seeks to accomplish with your IVR system which will help in avoiding the common mistakes while designing an IVR.

Understanding your customer demographics is equally crucial, since there are callers that prefer to talk to a human agent, and callers that do not. They opt for your IVR, because they weren’t able to resolve their issues through the website or other mediums and has resorted to IVR as their last option. IVR software should be a tool to make your contact center operations cheaper, but should be able to make your customer interactions more efficient and effective, keeping your customers happy.

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