Is It Hot In Here — Or Is It Just IVR Hell?

It's not the Bat Phone -- It's Hell Phone

I recently stumbled upon a great article on the Destination CRM website by Natalee Dyke entitled: “IVR Hell” which definitely encapsulates everything amiss with mis-designed, mis-written, and just generally frustrating phone trees — give it a read at: and meet me back here.

She really brings a lot of great points home — and she’s coming strictly from a customer’s perspective, at that. IVR is the customer’s first point of contact — it’s crucial to set the tone at that all-important “meeting” point.

Ms. Dyke reiterates my previous rant of keeping menus as short as possible — the next time you’re listening to menu options, try to see if you can recall them after you hang up. Chances are the best you’ll be able to do it recall the last thing you heard. Call it a commentary on people’s attention spans, or a symptom of the pace at which we live; we have a shut-off valve after a surprisingly short stream on information coming at us.

I recently recorded a “joke” prompt for a prominent client which said: “You’ve pressed zero, which is clearly not a option you were given. As punishment, you will be forced to listen to the entire menu options again.”  As fun (and refreshing!) as it was to slip that whimsical prompt into an otherwise serious system, Ms. Dyke urges IVR writers to give people an opt-out option when they feel fairly confident that their question doesn’t really fit into the presented options. Think of the options menu serving as a “screen”, much like the FAQ section on a website — the “0” option for a live attendant should be offered if no other department seems applicable. Some callers will abuse this “out” — most won’t.

The “IVR Hell” article mentions the hamster-wheel effect of collecting caller’s account numbers while they’re waiting to be “sorted” to a department — very seldom have I ever seen that information speeding up the process or giving the agent heads-up info about you, the caller. It’s a waste of time — especially when the information is simply asked for again when the agent does come on the line.

All people saddled with the responsibility of writing the script for their company’s auto-attendant (or those whose j0b it is to design them for other firms) have the benefit of personally having to spend enough of your own time calling the cable company; the utility conglomerate; the behemoth warehouse store — you know what frustrates you. You know what doesn’t work. And you likely have an idea of how to streamline it to make the whole experience smoother for both caller and company.

Next blog: I’ve had some fairly comical experiences when my recorded voice comes back to haunt me — I’ll impart some amusing anecdotes when “automated me” meets “real me”!


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