Series: Contact center planning

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology enables your organization to define the greeting, prompts, menus, and self-service inputs presented to customers who contact your business by phone. An IVR lets customers identify the reason for their call and then routes the caller to an agent skilled to handle that issue. Some IVRs proactively identify information about callers; for example, the number they called, the number they call from, the area code — and use that information to decide how to route the call.

Your IVR application is an important entryway into your organization. Often, customers form a first impression of your company based on the IVR’s ease and effectiveness. In the customers’ eyes, your IVR is a reflection of your brand.

IVR design refers to a blueprint of call-treatment options that route an interaction to the right resource. IVR design includes call handling features such as customer menus, voice recognition and keypad functionality, call prioritization and proficiency, IVR self-service, and system integrations.

Regardless of complexity, a well-designed IVR:

  • Provides the right options to customers to ensure that calls are quickly routed to the appropriate, available agent.
  • Presents opportunities to lower costs of delivery service through self-service and efficient interaction handling; for example, fewer transfers and screen pops.
  • Impacts customer satisfaction positively when customers find it easy to use and are routed to the right resource without delay.

IVR design is the ultimate user-centered design challenge. Creating an IVR that improves contact center efficiency while satisfying customers often requires tradeoffs and extensive testing. And it never ends. Continuously revisit IVR usage as new technologies become available, the business changes, and you learn more about how customers use it.  


Discuss the following questions with your team:

  • Do customers want to use your IVR? Do they encounter barriers to reaching the right resources or resolving their issue quickly? Is it easy to navigate?
  • Are the IVR features and menus simple? Have you used as few routing options as necessary for effective and timely routing of the call to a skilled agent? Could you reduce customer effort through data dips or other automated information sources to identify your customers and why they’re calling?
  • What are the top reasons customers call you? Is the IVR menu designed to “peel off” the most frequent contact types first?
  • Have you added complexity to the IVR design to benefit the contact center but not the customers? For example, do you prompt customers to enter account information for call prioritization without a way to pass those digits to agents, who then ask for that information again?
  • Have you evaluated the potential for self-service and CTI screen pop options (for CRM and customer data) to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction?


Take the following actions before moving forward in the planning phase:

Preparation Assigned to Complete date
Dial your IVR and assess the customer experience using the IVR design scorecard further down in this article. 
Verify the accuracy of your current IVR design documentation, and update the design with the current call handling treatment. Don’t let your documentation get out of date. Good documentation allows you to clarify what you see on your IVR reports and analyze aspects of your design to improve.  
Assess IVR menu scripting for conciseness and clarity. Ask someone outside the company to review your scripts for an objective opinion.
Review your current IVR reporting and identify potential red flags like high transfer rates, errors in logic, dead ends, and other barriers to a smoothly functioning IVR. 
Continue analysis using a combination of live testing, documentation, and usage to identify changes to scripting, menu options, self-service, and IVR and in-queue messaging and treatment.
Survey customers about their experiences using your IVR and factor the customer viewpoint into your IVR design.
During call monitoring, ask quality evaluators to listen for customers who comment on your IVR.

IVR design scorecard

Rate each item on this scorecard Yes or No to evaluate your IVR. Any No response to a question is an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of your IVR.

Principle 1: Align the IVR with customer needs, customer service brand, and business strategy

Question Yes/No
Were the goals of the IVR identified before (re)design or evaluation? 
Does the IVR address your customers’ unique needs and reflect the value of an interaction?
Is the organization’s brand reflected through in-queue music, promotions, and messaging? 
Does the IVR auto-disconnect customers, ask them to leave a message, or offer a callback before they have received service? If yes, what is the impact of these design decisions on customer satisfaction?
Is it difficult for customers to connect with live service?

Principle 2: Facilitate the IVR for efficient customer interactions and customers’ patience

Question Yes/No
Does each menu option have four or fewer options? Are customers required to navigate more than three menus before reaching service?
Does the IVR use concise language and avoid superfluous words? Unfamiliar or insider terms? Is the language consistent?
Does the IVR describe every action before a required key press?
Is there an IVR persona? Are the prompts recorded in consistent formality and vocabulary?
Does the IVR offer touch-tone (DTMF) options for speech applications?
Are callers disconnected as a result of user errors, including non-responses?
Are hidden options in the call flow documented?

Principle 3: Review the IVR as a reflection of the business environment and technology strategy

Question Yes/No
Does the IVR provide a customized experience?
Is the information requested by the IVR limited to critical information needed for self-service or optimal agent routing? Do callers have to repeat information they have already provided?
Are two phone numbers collected to increase the accuracy of CTI/screen pop? Screen pop accuracy is higher when you match against multiple phone numbers.

Principle 4: Monitor the IVR and update it to reflect changing customer and business needs

Question Yes/No
Is the IVR regularly tested?
Is IVR performance and caller acceptance measured and tracked?

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