Conversational Ai • Last Updated 9/29/2023

4 Common IVR Mistakes to Avoid

There are a few mistakes that many IVR designers make, which can derail efforts to put the CX first and realize business benefits.

By Pete Christianson

Building smart IVRs graphic

An IVR is an automated telephony system that interacts with callers to gather required information and route calls to the right place. If you follow smart IVR best practices and include a robust feature set, your IVR will help your clients deliver a better customer experience, retain customers and reduce operational costs.

However, there are a few mistakes that many businesses make, which can easily derail your efforts to put the customer experience first and realize benefits.

Here’s what not to do with your IVR.

Long and unnecessary messages

The primary purpose of an IVR is to help the customer get what they need, quickly. Overly long menus and messages are frustrating for the customer because it takes longer to navigate the system. And customers will often need to have menus repeated if they’re too long.

Avoid frontloading your IVR with promotional messages, information about other customer service channels, or dialogue that a person wouldn’t normally say. Remove messages like:

  • “You can get a faster response on our website.”
  • “Please listen carefully to the following options.”

These are frustrating time wasters.

If the customer is calling a customer service line, they probably already tried the website. And telling customers to go to the website makes them feel like you’re trying to push them off to a place where you don’t have to put any effort into helping them.

The same goes for “please listen” messages. The customer knows they need to listen to the menu. There’s no need to tell them. If you must alert the customer that a menu is coming, use natural statements like, “Here’s what you can do.” Lastly, promotional messages are incredibly frustrating, especially for customers who are calling for help with something they already purchased. Save the selling for your sales channels.

The exception here is when your IVR is used on a sales line. If customers are calling to make purchases, they expect to get some marketing and may even find promotional messages helpful, if the message is well crafted.

However, your promotional messages should only play after the customer has heard the menu and made a selection. Hearing a sales message while on hold is fine. Getting a sales message before they even hear the main menu annoys customers.

Too many menu options

If you follow the best practice of keeping your menus and messages under 30 seconds, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you have several very short menu options, it might come up.

It’s best to limit your menu options to 5 items or less. If you have a lot of menu options, people will often forget the first few options. Then they need to have the menu repeated. Not only this, too many menu options will lead to customer frustration—in fact, 75% of callers think IVRs force them to listen to irrelevant options.

If your client needs to route customers based on very specific customer needs, it’s best to put the most common three options first, then group the rest into a couple of categories, which will take them to a second menu where the options for that category are laid out.

This might mean that your IVR menu has a few more layers. But customers will be able to navigate each menu more easily if they can listen to and remember all the menu options.

Poor speech recognition

It might be tempting to save money by using a simpler automated speech recognition (ASR) engine. Avoid this temptation. If your IVR has bad speech recognition, customers will need to repeat themselves often. It’s one of the fastest ways to frustrate customers and increase the workload on customer service representatives.

Spend the time and money to develop a top-notch ASR engine. That way your IVR works as intended.

Connecting your IVR to inadequate carrier service

This can be a major issue because your IVR is part of the call infrastructure. If there are problems with your carrier service, the entire call flow and customer experience suffers.

So it’s vital to support your IVR with carrier service that’s reliable. It’s also important to work with a carrier that offers easy integration, scaling, and API control.

These are the keys to selecting the best carrier service for your IVR.

A flexible voice API

Your IVR needs to be built with flexibility so that it can provide a truly interactive experience that you can iterate on as needed. Without a voice API that offers granular control, you may be limited in your options when customizing call flows and managing call routing in real time.

Real-time media streaming

Call audio needs to be forked and routed to multiple destinations to enable the most effective voice analysis, conversational AI, and transcription functionality. Using media streaming you can unlock new customer insights and leverage them to tailor your customer experience.

Not only this, media streaming is a capability that opens up endless opportunities for innovation, and competitive differentiation.

Global scalability

You shouldn’t be limited by your carrier. If your carrier can’t operate globally, neither can your IVR. Selecting a partner in executing your global rollout certainly entails some risk and that decision must be made with an eye to the future.

Choosing correctly means embedding great voice service, taking that service to new markets and freeing up your engineering team to add value in other ways. On the other hand, a poor choice can leave your organization hampered by retrograde technology and hemmed in by an inflexible contract.

To be successful, your provider needs the correct technical foundation and true local coverage in the markets your business is trying to target.

Easy integration and fast iteration

Building an IVR is tough enough without dealing with carrier integration headaches. Integration issues also make it difficult to improve your IVR. If reintegrating with your provider is difficult, every iteration of your IVR will be a challenge to roll out. You might even lose clients if updating your IVR software means a significant disruption of service.

A carrier that offers easy integration, with flexible APIs, SDKs, great documentation and 24/7 engineering support will make it much easier to keep your IVR up to date and avoid disrupting your clients’ businesses as you iterate and improve.

In the end, your carrier is the backbone of your IVR system. If you build your IVR on a weak carrier backbone, it’s going to be challenging—maybe impossible—to follow the best practices and implement the features you need to build an IVR that helps your clients grow. An IVR that doesn’t power business growth is exactly the opposite of what your clients want.

So choose the right carrier. That way you have a solid foundation for creating an IVR that customers actually want to use. Because, if customers enjoy using your IVR, you’re already in the top tier of IVRs around the world.

Questions about implementation or pricing? Get in touch with our team of experts.

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