One of the first rules many of us in sales learn is “it’s not about what we want; it’s what the customer wants.”

IVR design
This is generally great advice for helping a new or an existing client solve a problem or improve what they do by offering them the best product or service they need, regardless of our opinion or our motivation.

But sometimes, this rule may be broken when companies invest in IVR (interactive voice response) or digital receptionist systems.

Maybe they’re excited about the idea of saving money and easing the workload on their front-line employees, who may no longer have to take every call or answer the same questions all day. Maybe they’re impressed with all the cool features of modern IVR systems and all the options available, so they don’t think about the customer experience as much.

Sometimes, the final product ends up being the complete opposite of “what the customer wants.” An overly complex system can easily make callers confused, frustrated, and downright angry, all the things that can badly damage your brand and lose customers. Even if they start their call out in a good mood, or at least fairly calm about their need to seek help, they could be at the anger stage by the time they reach a live human.

So a better idea is to go back to basics when creating your company’s system, using IVR design best practices.

Start with some of these suggestions:

Provide simple choices fast.

Rather than having all sorts of options to start with, plus a general greeting/introduction, consider having a few basic categories for people to explore – plus the option of going right to a live person instead of having to listen to a variety of options.

Limit initial choices. 

Having more than 4-5 options at once for any sub-menu can be overwhelming and confusing. It’s easier to offer a few a time and add another level.

Offer instructions in another language early on.

This allows people who speak this language to get help quickly rather than trying to listen to every choice.

Utilize the features and functionality of a SIP trunk provider. 

This service allows your business to create a web-based phone network instead of a traditional landline.

This provides a variety of benefits, including the ability to be less dependent on hardware, fewer costs, and the ability to hire and connect workers from all over the world. Potentially you can expand your hours of offering “live” service longer throughout the day and evening, rather than shutting down when the day is done locally.

Make the voice as conversational as possible. 

Even though people know that they’re interacting with a robot, you can still include phrases like you would talking to someone. “OK, let’s get started” or “May I please have your credit card number now?” This will be reassuring for people seeking a human experience.

Create options to “bypass the line”.

Options such as providing your name and number for someone to call you back later, rather than having to sit and wait for the next available operator.

Some services also offer interaction and tech support via text. This can save time by not having to exchange pleasantries. It can also allow the call center representative to handle multiple texts at once instead of one call at a time.

Retain information.

Anything shared at the beginning of the call, such as your name, phone number, and account info should be available if you have to talk to a real person. Instead, some systems require people to provide this info every time they talk to someone else. This can cut down on connection time and reduce frustration.

Your system may not need to keep this data between calls for privacy reasons, but it still can make callers happy if they don’t have to repeat themselves.

Putting together the best system for your organization can be somewhat of a moving target, and some IVR design best practices favor making the process as quick and painless as possible, while others focus on making the process as comfortable and “human-like” as possible, with plenty of choices – but not too many!

Plus systems can also be scalable, especially if a SIP trunk provider is involved. Your organization and your wait times may grow, or there may be a spike in requests for a certain reason, so you may need to change things around and adapt as needed.

Aatrox Communications is an Australian owned and operated full service SIP trunk provider. We specialise in connecting the traditional telephony network to the internet for small and large businesses.