How to avoid IVR Hell
Have you ever been in IVR hell?
Ring-ring - Click! Welcome to our beautiful company. Press 1 for annoying elevator music, press 2 to talk to an agent that don't know anything and will transfer you to another agent where you can explain your problem again, press 3 to get into another menu with another 17 options, press 4 to participate in a customer service enquete, press 5 to hear this menu again, press 6 to hear this menu reversed, pressing 7 does nothing, press 8 to be transferred to a department that cannot help you and finally if you are still listening, press 9 to do whatever you want.
I hope for you that you don't encounter these kind of systems too much, and I surely hope that your system is like that. We have so much to tell our clients. On brochures, a PR bureau does a good job; for our web-site we hire professionals, but for our IVR, also one of the touchpoints where clients and company meet - what do we do? We deliver a lousy interface. Really. Dial in to some IVR's and dissect them. They are not the best representative of the company - why not? Why is it so difficult to make a simple system that allows your (future) clients to access your company without any problems? I will try to explain some very easy guidelines to help you setting up your IVR.
In order to set up your IVR, you will need to follow three rules. Not a big list of does and don'ts (In a later blog I will refine these rules and addd some does and don'ts but for now, stick with these). So, three rules. Here they are. Think as your client and three is the key. The latter is counting for two, so that's three rules. Here they are in full:
- Think as your clients!
- Have a maximum of 3 items per menu
- Make your menus maximum 3 deep
The first point is paramount. Think as your clients. As an example, a couple of weeks ago I was asked to give advice how to set up an IVR. After some discussion, we came to the following question. Will the first question be which product the client is using (product A, B or C), or which problem the client is facing (technical, billing, other)? Clients can have more than one product, by the way. Obviously this is a helpdesk were complaints are coming in, so I told them rule 1, put yourself in your clients feet. Think as your client. And this proved to be not so simple. There were people that thought that the product should come first while others expressed that the problem should come first.
After a while I stopped the discussion the following question: "What does the client have?" - The answer was simple, the client has a problem. Next question: "Is it possible that he has a technical and billing problem exactly at the same time?" Well, no, was the answer. "So now you know what to put first. Your first menu item will make the distinction between the type of problem the client has. After that, you ask him for which product he has this problem.
It doesn't have to be in this order always, however. If you are selling products, you'll probably put your products first.
Point two and three. Three is the key. People cannot remember a lot. Most people are visual, and can remember things when they see them. But not when hearing them. Therefore, having a menu with 8 items is generally a bad idea. You better split that up. Make sure that you use a maximum of three items in your menu. Now if you really have to put in four - you can do it once in a while, but really really try to stick to three. The same principle holds for the menu depth. Maximum three, otherwise people will really feel that they are in a never ending IVR. And please, always forsee a way to return to the top menu, so people can start over again.
But (I already heared from clients, multiple times ... ) isn't three menu items too little - I mean, then I'm so restricted? They probably forgot the math that they took in school. Three menu items x three levels = 27 different end points. And if you would cheat and extend it to 4 you would get 256 end points. If you cannot fit your IVR in 27 different end points then you might need to rethink your IVR strategy. Perhaps use different telephone numbers in order to differentiate products or problems?
Do you want to see whether your users are ending in the IVR Hell? Measure it. See how many customers enter your IVR and how many abandon it. I mean abandoned calls before they are waiting in a queue. This is a very bad sign. Check which menu options they have chosen (your software is capable of doing that, isn't it?). Are they running around in circles? Big chance that you created an IVR Hell. Rethink your your IVR. Want to talk to me? No problem. My first idea is for free :-)
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