The Art and Science of Developing Effective IVR Applications

Building an interactive voice response (IVR) application, even a touch-tone one, is a combination of art and science. It requires deep knowledge of your specific products/services, vertical, and how customers describe and discuss your company and its products. Additionally, it’s important to have a good understanding of the types of activities your customers are willing to do using an automated system, taking into account their security concerns. It’s also essential to know IVR application development best practices, as we’ve learned over the years what works well and what does not.

While there is a lot to know, there are many talented people in the marketplace with a great deal of experience and expertise in writing touch-tone-based IVR applications for specific verticals. First-time IVR developers are often tempted to take on the challenge of writing their own scripts, but I strongly encourage them to resist the urge and find appropriate resources. A good script will speed up the adoption of an IVR application and improve the call displacement rate from day one. Here are a few IVR scriptwriting best practices:

  1. Hire someone who is experienced in writing touch-tone or speech-enabled applications. (Touch-tone script writers are relatively inexpensive, and even the services of speech-enabled user interface specialists are decreasing in cost.)
  2. Ask your contact center agents to compile a list of the specific tasks they would like to see automated using an IVR. (The tasks will vary based on whether you’re implementing a touch-tone or a speech-enabled solution.)
  3. Vet the list of potential IVR uses with a focus group of customers to evaluate their reaction to using an IVR for these tasks.
  4. In the script, keep each list of options short; 4 is considered acceptable, but once you get to 5 it is unlikely that people will remember the earlier ones.
  5. Fight the urge to over-nest your options. You can make more options available by nesting, but you are likely to lose your audience after the first nest.
  6. Always give your customers the ability to opt out and request an agent.
  7. If you ask callers for their account number and verification information in the IVR, do not force them to repeat it when they elect to speak to an agent, unless they were unsuccessful in providing the correct data in the IVR.
  8. Personalize scripts and options as much as possible, but not so much that it confuses the caller.
  9. Use your contact center staff to test and vet the IVR before going live. This will help create internal advocates for the system and provide outstanding testers who know your application.
  10. Remember that speech recognition is not simply an IVR with a voice; it is a much more sophisticated user interface that enables more complicated interactions.

If you’re not sure how to do something, ask for help. Ask your vendor, send a question to me at DMG, or post a question in one of the many contact center social networking sites.

Donna Fluss is the founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis and consulting. She is the author of The Real-Time Contact Center, the Contact Center Executive and Management Briefing, the Contact Center QA Guide, the PC-DSS Guide, and many other leading industry reports on contact center hosting, UC, dialing, IVR, speech analytics, performance management, workforce management, surveying, QA/recording and contact center analytics. Contact Donna at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.
 

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