1) Rank your users’ needs: Analyze the existing data in the record of your customer support, for what the most frequent requests are. These should be the first options in your IVR flow. For example, if most users call to check their account balance, then always start with “to check balance, press 1” as the first option to play.
2) Make it brainless for users: The sequence and structure of your IVR script matters. What is the subtle difference between “press 1 to check balance” and “to check balance, press 1”? If you use the format “press 1 to check balance”, your user having to cruise through many options, would have to keep counting which number she is at while listening to the actions she can perform. If your IVR announces “to check balance, press 1” instead, your user only needs to wait for the option she needs, and then press the number accordingly, without having to depend on her short-term memory for which number to press. It will boost the user-friendliness of your IVR.
3) Option to speak to a person: There is no industrial standard on which number to allocate to route the incoming call to a customer support staff. A popular choice is “0” as evident in an IVR cheat sheet that lists more than 300 companies in the USA, such as: “to speak to our staff, press 0”. Be considerate and offer an option for your user to skip the IVR and speak to a real person at any point of the call, even right from the start, before any voice announcement starts. Never hang up on your user, even if there is no input from the user after a time-out, always route the call to the customer support team.
4) Skip the marketing: As practiced by some Fortune 500 companies in the USA, just use a simple welcome greeting with your organization’s name in the introductory message, and skip any other marketing campaign. Product advertisements, company news, promotions and so on, are not necessary. Most likely users are already acquainted with your organization before they call when they call they just want to accomplish an action, so let them go ahead with it and don’t hold them up.
5) Keep it short: In the fast-paced world today, time is precious. Users don’t usually have the patience for long complete sentences. Just plug in the keywords and be done with it. As a rule of thumb, keep your introductory message under 8 seconds, and each option announcement under 4 seconds.
6) Managing call queue: Offer a call back option if the customer support staff is unable to answer the incoming call promptly, and the user is put in a queue. Prompt the user to enter her phone number and hang up, then wait for a call from the customer support staff.
7) Female voice is more popular: In general, most IVR uses female voice instead of male voice. And it has been widely acknowledged that most users indeed prefer female voice for biological, historical, and social reasons. There was one exception though, in the late 1990s BMW had to recall a GPS with a female voice on its 5 Series cars after the helpdesk was flooded with calls from German men saying they refused to take directions from a woman.
If you are building an IVR for your organization or client, check out these APIs that you could use as building blocks for your solution.