Let’s face it, as we approach another year and we all run towards the excitement of social media as a new contact channel, I’m still stunned and appalled at just how badly designed and maintained poor old IVR is. Hey, it’s STILL the channel for most customer contact. It’s still the place for many large enterprises where most people come into contact with the brand. Yet, it’s a low priority in many organisations that pride themselves on customer service. How many times do you hear the old chestnut “Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do”? I just saw that very thing on the website of a major UK retailer. I needed to contact them so I tried the IVR. Suffice it to say I was disappointed and confused at what I heard. Options were lumped together, there were several confusing terms. It was a mess.

Therefore here are a few basic rules (not rocket science) I think you’ll agree must be followed just to get the basics right.

1) BRING BACK THE MONARCHY: Every contact strategy, if it’s to be successful, needs a single point of sponsorship. I like to call them The TSAR OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. They protect the sovereignty of the channel mix and ensure that it remains in balance. If you prefer to call them something else, that’s ok, but the role must exist at a high level in any major enterprise and that’s where the responsibility has to reside.

2) IT’S THE BRAND: As the website represents the brand, so too do the other channels. The sound of the IVR is a major extension of the brand of any organization. The “look and feel” the persona and how it’s presented is of real importance. Does it sound natural? Does it sound like a misguided robot? Does it sound like we pulled someone off the street to record it? Consider casting the voice artist as you would cast an actor in a TV commercial (it’s that important) and please, please use professional talent and coaches.

3) DON’T CONFUSE: People think of things in logical ways. There’s no reason to mix “Returns and Technical Support” on one option as my UK retailer did. It’s a little like Apples and Norway. Use logical groupings and functional sequences. If someone has just gotten a bill balance, perhaps they want to make a payment. Use a card sorting exercise if there’s any confusion about where things belong in the IVR.

4) ASK THE USERS: Your customers are the best people to let you know how the design of the IVR will work best. Do iterative user testing to determine if a design is working. It’s easy enough to create prototypes and test to prove the design prior to turning it into code.

5) PROTECT THE INVESTMENT: Avoid ad hoc changes to the IVR. Too often someone who has an agenda (often a new offer from marketing) will recommend a change to the most finely tuned and balanced IVR and completely throw off the usability and task completion. They’re not bad people, they just don’t know what they’re doing. And that’s why (number 1) you need to have a TSAR.

So there are a few things to ponder. Most places I go, no one in the organization has even heard the IVR much less considered the design and maintenance. If you get curious now, give it a call and hear what your customers hear. Now please hold for the next available representative. Your call is important to us…


Topics: IVR Design