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August 12, 2014

Thou Shall Not Create Fake Mailboxes: Top IVR Commandments to Abide By


We have all been plagued by a nightmarish interactive voice response (IVR) experience. Whether you were trapped in a menu with no opt-out option; burdened by overly complex options when you did  navigate the menu; or got hung up on while being transferred to a live agent, we have all experienced, to some degree, the annoyance of a poorly performing IVR system.

So, what can be done to counter these effects and sidestep these commonly-faced mistakes? Allison Smith took to the stage this morning to divulge top tips and tricks during, “The 15 Commandments of IVR”, which took place during ITEXPO 2014, happening now through August 14 at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Allison Smith is the Voice of Asterisk, as well as the voice of countless other platforms for major telcos, as well as large and SMBs alike. Her insights were fun and engaging—from discussing multi-lingual options to recalling the time a company asked her to sound more like a Kardashian in her prompt.

Smith presented 15 commandments to abide by during her presentation—below is a handful of crowd favorites from the session:

1. Don’t overestimate the caller’s attention span: Don’t provide too much information right off the bat. You’re not only dealing with a caller’s lack of focus, but will be battling limitations on what people hear, remember and retain. Remember that the average caller has a very limited patience.

2. Don’t create fake mailboxes: “I voice for multinationals and small entities alike,” says Smith.  She explains that the smaller guys usually want to seem bigger than they are and, as such, will create fake mailboxes. However, these companies can forget to check their mailbox after designing it—and an unattended mailbox is never good for business.  “It’s okay to be a small entity and be honest about the scope of your capabilities,” says Smith. She also strongly urges companies to offer callers with the “zero” opt-out option to speak with a live agent. “Your customers won’t abuse it. Sometimes none of the options apply, so respect that and provide your callers with a human to talk to if need be.”

3. Understand what constitutes a prompt: From edit point to edit point, make sure you know exactly what constitutes your prompt and, more importantly, what constitutes an excellent one. If you can organize an IVR script so that it is easily understood, there will be no confusion; therefore, keep things simple and to the point. This also aligns with commandment number one, as caller’s today has dwindling attention spans.

Also understand the importance of the role of proper punctuation. For example:

  • Your pin number… (suggests that a unit will follow)
  • …your pin number. (suggests that a unit precedes)
  • …your pin number… (it will be said before and after)

4. Don’t offer driving directions or other outdated options: “Smartpones are equipped with advanced and intuitive GPS and mapping technology,” Smith says, meaning there is no reason your company should be consuming unnecessary time relaying this basic information in its IVR. Another example cited by Smith is a classic: “Our menu has changed.” We have all heard this one before, but Smith puts it quite simply when saying, “No one cares!”

“Bare in mind that the caller hears the same thing over and over again,” she says, heavily advising attendees to therefore be unique and to always tell the truth. It will be refreshing for the average customer who is inundated with redundant phrases that no longer bear meaning or value.

5. Be clear on your company’s image: Smith explains that your IVR needs to reflect a number of your core competencies right off the bat, but in a way that is easily digestible and subtle. These include:

  • Your industry
  • Your company’s place in that industry
  • Your company’s personality
  • What makes you different
  • Your scope/scale

All in all, make sure that your IVR is unique, easily understandable and enjoyable for its users. Happy calling!

Smith will also be participating in this afternoon’s Conference Luncheon alongside Philippe Lindheimer, Schmooze Communications VP and Digium’s Mark Spencer, taking place in the Amazon Ballroom at 12:15 PM.




Edited by Adam Brandt


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