Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IVR Best Practices and Industry Recommendations

The information in this study was generated from compiling and tallying practices and principles from several IVR specific Best Practices articles and webpages. With many advisers we are much more likely to identify true usability focal points and directions for growth.

These principles are broken out into these 7 sections

  1. High level strategy
  2. Accessibility
  3. Self Service / IVR Automated Processes (example: pay a bill)
  4. System wide
  5. Menus
  6. Messages
  7. Agents

High Level Strategy

#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
1Test the IVR using users, iterate on design until it's right / testing18"Without usability testing of the translated script, how it will perform is unknown" ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.4.5
"There are four methods of testing, each with increasing levels of fidelity, that can be employed to test an IVR: Wizard of Oz (WOZ), WOZ with sound files, a functional prototype, and beta code on a production platform." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.5.3
2Research before change / Identify Customer Goals / Identify Company goals14"The single most important thing to know is that you are not representative of the users of your IVR. You will have to find out who the users are and as much as you can about them. Why did they call the number that got them connected to the IVR? What goals do they have and what tasks are they hoping to complete? What do they know? Have they done this before? What level of functional vocabulary might they possess?" ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.4.2
3Outline the call flow / Define a self-service strategy4"...flowcharting or state diagramming will be required to fully describe the desired behavior of the IVR" ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.4.3
4Advise callers of planned changes in advance1
5Include agents in design team1
6Monitor after implementation for user acceptance1
7Perform Load tests1
8Use a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider1


#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
Offer channel choices (touchtone [primary], switch to text message assistance, speech recognition, what else?) / alternate input modalities
57% prefer touchtone
"For a person with a speech production deficit—a person who has difficulty speaking, difficulty being understood, or is completely unable to speak—IVRs are a blessing. In this case, IVRs create a means for accomplishing a task that does not require speaking." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.3.1
Increases cognitive requirements. Options are given over time instead of all at once. Requiring that users store menu options in their short term memory may be problematic for some people
Choosing "State" is a perfect task for a speech recognition system
10up-front navigation instructions4
11Offer alternate language options3should be done up-front. People will only listen to an IVR for so long in a language other than their own before they decide to hang up.
12Provide sufficient time for response ("Are you still there?")3

Self Service / IVR Automated Processes

#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
13Survey after self service6
14Self Service process flows should align with process flows users experience outside of the IVR / Processes should match user expectations, not internal structures3"We once had an incoming call router in one of our regions that was intended to allow callers to reach a person in one of our departments who could solve the caller’s problem. The original call router had been developed without the aid of human factors, and had been created from the company’s and not the customers’ point of view. The main menu offered choices of Departments A, B, and C. Customers frequently had difficulty determining which of our departments should handle their problem; they made a choice but reached the wrong department. The CSR they reached had to determine the nature of the problem, the correct department, and then manually transfer the call. Everyone was frustrated: the customer, the CSR, and the corporation because of the wasted time." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.4.2
15limit number of integrated systems2
16Beware of self service time delays with online transaction history or tracking info1
17provide automated self service1

System Wide

#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
Professional sounding Persona Voice / persona Consistency / Sounds like an agent / clear voice
"The person reading the prompt script, your “voice talent” need not be a professional, but his or her voice must be pleasant, friendly, warm, engaging, relatively free from accents, and should give your callers the impression of your company or organization that you desire. irritating voices; bored or haughty voices; speech impediments; and gum smacking ought to be avoided. The character of the voice should match your application. A chirpy, gushing cheerleader voice is probably not the best choice for a somber application like a hospital, church, or bank." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.4.5
"It is best to have the entire IVR recorded by a single voice talent" ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.4.5
19Iterate on IVR design on a schedule / keep ivr updated / update / up-to-date messages / watch kpi's / analytics17
20High Availability / Answer all calls / Don't hang up or disconnect for user errors or high call volume / Emergency redundency / contingency plan / busines hours with redirect to Self Service12
21Data input should follow the user / keep track of information gathered11
22Silence for turn taking / remember to pause / appropriate silence length / gap9"For some users with cognitive deficits, the predictability of an IVR (“Dial this number, press 1 and then 3”) may be easier than interacting with a person. However, short time-outs requiring quick responses and the inability to get additional explanations may make IVRs more difficult for others." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap 7.3.1
23System status message when applicable (closed due to holiday, other) / describe what to expect / system expectations / "IVR process requires user to speak with agent" message should be early8
24Don't over-automate / let the IVR deal with simple, mundane things4
25Offer Exit for long holds / return to ivr / call me back / leave a voicemail4
26Don't repeat messages ("your call may be recorded") / "call recording" only on transfers3
27in-queue music reflects brand dignity3
28Natural speech recognition3
29Survey after IVR3
30mention location of online faqs during hold music2
31System refers to itself as "I". Example: "I didn't hear what you said, would you please repeat that?"2
32use IVR system standards such as HFES 200.4 and ISO/IEC 137142
33inform caller of place in queue1
34only gather critical information1
35reduced hold times1


#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
36Keep it simple / minimal number of menus / minimal number of options / limit number of items41"IVRs fall down when the categories are large, creating an artificial need to break them into multiple menus." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.4.1
37Speak to an agent / Prioritize Self Help, but then offer speak to agent / allow user to bypass ivr / human / person / 0,* / zero30
38Effective navigation / forward and reverse navigation / back to menu / cancel self help / no barriers / option to repeat menu15
Prioritize issues to solve with IVR / most popular options first
"Staff in our human factors group sampled approximately 20,000 calls to determine the “reason for calling.” We brought in participants and asked them to sort the 30 or so most common reasons for calling into groups. We did not specify the number of groups, just that there be at least two. We then analyzed the groupings for common patterns and found a set of three groups that appeared to fit most participants’ view of how to organize the reasons for calling. A second group was brought in to view the groups and the reasons in them and to provide suggested names for the groups. A third group was then brought in to validate both the names and the groupings. Given a reason for calling and the names of the three groups, we asked the participants to tell us under which group name they would expect to find each reason for calling." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.4.2
"The improvement in efficiency resulted in a recurring $29 million annual cost savings. The cost to achieve this savings? About 6 to 8 weeks of time for one human factors engineer, and less than $10,000 in recruiting and incentives for participants." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI,Chap7.4.2
40keypad presses should be consistent through the IVR ("0 to speak to an agent") / consistency across channels7
41Logical information architeture / non-confusing information presentation / expandable7
42confirm selections / feedback4
43choose categories carefully1
44map binary choices to 1 and 21
45options are clearly distinct from each other1
46provide default options1
47put most common choices first1


#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
Concise / Brief / Time sensitive / Short / avoid "Please listen carefully"... get to the point. / Succinct
"While the user’s physical capabilities must be taken into consideration, the most challenging human characteristic to consider in IVR design is the cognitive capabilities of the expected users of the system." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.
"In most cases, for general telephony applications we have found that prompts written at the third-grade level or lower perform well in usability testing." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.4.2
49Non-technical verbiage / everyday language / no jargon / be clear / explicit / natural sounding / familiar termonology22
50Allow "Barge-in" / key ahead / quick navigation for advanced users14
51Customized ("Are you calling about your...") / personalized experience / status change text messages / adaptive12cartoon showing a customized experience
52provide error and resolution instructions after error is made11"Error recovery is an important, difficult, and time-consuming part of designing an IVR or a speech system, but given the higher probability of errors in a speech system, more attention is required compared to an IVR." ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.4.1
53Option before action / describe action prior to providing number ("For membership, press 1")9
54Task Completion message at end of process / ETA7
55Don't overdo the niceness / Be less nice / Be friendly though6"No automaton can replace a person who is genuinely happy or sad for you, and not one of us puts much stock in the prerecorded “Please’s,” “Thank you’s,” and “We’re sorry’s."" ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.3.2
56avoid marketing and promotions5
57Brand greeting / provide and gather info5This message should provide and gather information.
58Use different wording on reprompts / If user asks to hear the option again, use different words5
59appropriate marketing and promotions3
60Don't insult their intelligence / Don't direct to the website if they came from the website3
61Sense of security2When callers need to enter personal information, use a DTMF (touchtone) system rather than a speech system to preserve their privacy.
62Don't direct them to a phone number / offer to connect to other phone numbers1
63Give more than one chance to select an option1
64Holiday message should be generic so that there isn't need to re-record each year.1
65Track task process steps1
66Use "press" for single key inputs and "enter" for field inputs1


#Practice / PrincipleMentioned by industry professionalsUX Notes
67Populate agents screen with a log of phone queue option attempts7
68Populate agents screen with already captured user input7
69Survey after call6
70Intelligently rout calls based on already gathered information / efficient call routing5
71knowleable staff / subject matter experts / have the right agents3
72appropriate conversation training / not entertaining, but gentle, helpful, and efficient2
73effective failure recovery training2
74value call resolution over wait times2
75Don't overdo the niceness / Be less nice / Be friendly though1"No automaton can replace a person who is genuinely happy or sad for you, and not one of us puts much stock in the prerecorded “Please’s,” “Thank you’s,” and “We’re sorry’s."" ~ HCI Beyond the GUI, Chap7.3.2



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