IVR Menus and Best Practices

IVR Menus and Best Practices

IVR menus are efficient for routing calls, answering FAQs, and addressing basic customer-service issues. An IVR system serves as a 24/7/365 automated operator and enables small businesses to save on hiring live receptionists. A well-designed IVR greeting can alleviate contact center traffic, and distribute incoming calls accordingly. 

Today, IVR technology is easily accessible and affordable for SMBs. Business phone service providers like Telzio provide the ability to set up IVR menus with ease, along with a user-friendly interface to manage the IVR phone system. 


What is an IVR Menu?

An IVR Menu is an automated attendant that greets callers with options to be connected to the desired party. IVR menus use touch-tone or speech-recognition technology to answer customer questions, handle their requests, or point them in the right direction. Most business VoIP phone systems today include IVR software on its platform, enabling small businesses to utilize the feature at a very low cost. 


Pressing Zero for a Live Person

There is a fine line in designing a phone system that uses IVR optimally since automation is the basic tenet of IVRs. One of the basic goals of effective IVR systems is to help customers find answers to their questions and complete routine tasks on their own. When a customer “zeroes out” (i.e., dials “0” or speaks a response that takes them to a human agent), this purpose is defeated.

However, as important it is for call centers to keep track of how many callers are able to complete self-service (DIY) tasks without zeroing out, Nitzan Carmeli, an operations research fellow noted that “this metric has no value if you don’t consider the customers who abandon IVR systems (altogether) without getting any relevant service.”

Related: 5 Ways to Improve Your Customer Phone Support


Limiting Top Menu Options

There’s been an ongoing debate among specialists in IVR design that concerns both the number of options offered in the initial menu as well as the depth of the IVR’s menu structure (i.e., how many menus a caller navigates to complete a task).

The conventional wisdom regarding these options according to Bruce Belfiore, CEO and senior research executive at BenchmarkPortal is that the branching tree structure of an IVR “should be no more than five [options] across [in the top menu] and three [submenus] deep. In other words, you give up to five options to callers, and when they push one of those, they can go down as many as three submenus.”

The report’s research however indicated that these options might be skewed depending on a company’s business model and that most IVRs provided between two and five options in the top menu.


Length of Greetings

IVR systems almost universally include introductory messages identifying the company the caller is contacting. While such messages can be great opportunities for promoting your brand, they can also bore and frustrate callers — and possibly prompt them to hang up. This was backed up by this research study, as the vast majority of the Fortune 500 companies, the SA group called kept their introductory messages under 7.9 seconds.


Dialpad Response

Though the term IVR includes the phrase “voice response,” the majority of IVR systems that the SA team called, in fact, relied heavily on the dial pad as the sole input method.

Only 28 percent of the IVR systems they called offered voice response as the sole input method. Even the majority of IVR systems with speech recognition capability also allowed callers the option to switch to dial pad input.

It was also noted that speech recognition has historically been a bug-prone technology and that if companies favored this option, they’ll need to look for a solution with advanced speech recognition features.


IVR Menus from Telzio

Telzio IVR menus include automated greetings with dial-pad options. Their process makes it super-easy for the caller to be directed to the service or department that will point them quickly in the direction they desire (e.g. For sales press 1, For support press 2).

With Telzio, you can also customize the IVR menu with recorded company greetings to provide important information, such as business hours, company directory, and any other information you feel is important for your caller to know.

Each button on the keypad can also be used to direct callers to a designated action, like call forwarding, voicemail, a conference call, or another menu.

Advanced settings allow you to customize your IVR menu even further. Callers can select the ‘timeout’ action to create another action, such as call forwarding to an operator. These automated messages can repeat the instructions multiple times if your caller needs more time to decide. And you can designate one of the buttons on the keypad to allow callers to go back to the previous menu, or request to speak to a customer service representative.

Related: How to Forward Calls to Multiple Phones


Creating the Perfect Script

We’ve established how comprehensive phone menus are essential to businesses. Having an easy to navigate call flow strengthens customer experience and improves your brand as a  convenient source of information. There is, however, an IVR application for your auto attendant which can move customers through the phone menu faster. This is a small detail and often overlooked, but the impact can be significant.

When encountering phone menus there are often two prevailing variants callers will hear. “For sales, press 1” or “Press 1 for sales” and while the difference might be perceived as negligible, the former provides a better call experience. The simple reordering of a script allows callers to recognize their target department, and then turn their attention to the command.

Human recollection has a bias to recall the last bits of information with more clarity and accuracy versus information presented initially. Optimal scripting is vital for the caller to arrive at their destination with little to no frustration. Your automated system is the first point of contact for any caller, implementing a well designed and developed IVR menu will leave a lasting impression.


Staying Competitive 

While the old saying “you can’t be all things to all people” holds true for any business, obtaining a VoIP system with an advanced IVR menu will definitely give you a leg up over the competition that lacks this service.

Customers who have been proactive enough to call your business deserve your utmost attention. A live agent is not needed in all cases as long as your IVR menu is comprehensive enough to address their issues in a manner that makes them feel attended to. However, while you want automation to speed up your business’ workflow, an effective IVR system should never eliminate human interaction altogether. While IVRs will cut costs and reduce the caller’s wait time – it’s just common sense that you never want to lose a call because a customer prefers to talk to a live customer service representative versus a recording.

Related: How to Set up a Phone Menu for a Small Business

Ron Callari

Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog.