The needs of customers must come first when a company is designing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. Customers are calling the company’s customer care service with their goals. The role of a well-designed IVR is to help customers achieve these goals: to solve their problems, to get information. The menu of this IVR must be designed and structured to help customers navigate through the IVR as easily as possible.
Design of an IVR system, with a focus on voice
There are some important aspects worth taking into consideration when the IVR’s full structure is designed:
- the number of menu items suggested to be minimum; popular menu items should be placed at the top of the hierarchy; enough time must be provided to customer to make their choices, but not too much, because they may think the system is not working; customer choices must be reinforced; and last but not least the description of the menu items should precede the number of the keypads
- navigation: the possibility of voice commands is a good choice; IVR’s menu structure should be presented right after a customer contacts; a user must always have the possibility to choose a menu, without re-listening information; some choices should be permanent (e.g., there should always be the possibility to re-listen the menus)
- IVR’s sound and language: no matter, if we talk about recorded or machine-generated voice, it has to be friendly and clear, the use of professional jargon must be avoided; music on hold in IVR should be clear, and high tones should be avoided
Pay special attention to voice
No matter if we talk about recorded or machine-generated voice, the voice of an IVR is very important. This is the voice that gives character to the company, provides information, helps to the customers and reinforces the brand’s image. Designated voice can be recorded using different software tools. The open source, Audacity is among the most convenient choices , according to the GNU GPL licence agreements it can be used free of charge.
As a first step, we must decide whether to use a male or a female voice. Studies in these fields are presenting a tiny preference for one gender or another. But the main conclusion of the same studies is that the gender of a voice is indifferent to the majority of users. Besides gender, it is more important that the voice is speaking clearly, understandably, friendly.
Nevertheless, a monotone and colourless voice and speech are not advised.
We suggest paying special attention to the plosives generating stronger air movement (t-d, b-p), if needed a pop filter can be used. The quality of the recorded voice should be tested on the IVR system it will be used. The voice may sound different on computer’s speakers. Be careful to avoid mumbled or distorted voices. Always use the ideal settings reached after successful testings.
More aspects to consider for a high-quality voice:
- information presented briefly must contain keywords highlighted with intonation
- edit the recording to reach short and constant pauses between menu items, and take longer – but also constant – pauses between menu points – but not too long ones
- the customer must know at the beginning of the interaction that he or she communicates with a machine or a living operator, and when a switch between the two has happened
In case of a complex IVR, a script always helps. Script has the following items:
- name of recording (the name should be coherent: e.g. 1.1.2 product_information – which stands for product information in the 1st menu 1st submenu, 2nd menu item)
- identifier of IVR voice