Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

15 Voice Prompt Blunders To Avoid in your IVR System

Voice Prompts - PhoneWhen writing voice prompts for IVR or ACD systems, clear concise communication is key. The thing about a well structured call-processing system with properly recorded voice prompts is that you just don't notice it. What you do notice, however, is a system that is riddled with problems and errors.

To ensure you're creating a great caller experience, be sure to avoid these 15 common blunders:

  1. Using the Word "dial." True story: I have never "dialed" a phone. For my whole life, I've pressed buttons. Now, I press "buttons" on my touch-screen phone. Think about it--when was the last time you actually dialed a phone? If you are instructing callers to dial an extension, you should switch to the term "press," otherwise you might seem outdated. 
  2. Too many menu items. As a general rule, 3-5 items should be sufficient for each level of your menu. If you have more than that, callers may become confused, unengaged, and frustrated, making work harder for your reps.
  3. Not enough menu items. Too few menu options is also a problem. If you don't give users enough options, they may not be sure which department is the right choice for them. 
  4. Putting the extension number before the name of the person/department. A good prompt will say, "For Sales, Press 1" not "Press 1 for Sales." Why? Callers are listening for their destination first, then how to get there. If you play the extension first, they're not likely to associate the number with the department.
  5. Forgetting to tell callers they can enter a known extension at any time. Many repeat callers will know which extension they need to use before hearing any of the options. They might have even looked it up on your website or seen it in your email signature. Make sure you remind these callers that they can enter an extension without listening to the prompts.
  6. Neglecting an exit option. You should let callers know that number they can use to immediately leave the system and speak to a live human (during business hours, of course). This works in two ways--first, callers immediately know that there is a "real human" who can talk to them. Second, if callers know they can leave the phone tree, they'll be more receptive to listening to your prompts.
  7. Having a long greeting before prompts begin. Time spent with an IVR system isn't the same as hold time. 
  8. Using an unprofessional-sounding voice. Professional Voice Over Talents exist for a reason: people like to hear them.Your automated answering system might be the first impression callers have of your business. Why would you use staticy, improperly recorded announcements?
  9. Not having an "after hours" variation of your prompts. When your office is closed, you should have a prompt that lets people know this and encourages them to leave a message (with appropriate menu option) or call back during normal business hours (and give hours). An after hours greeting can also include emergency contact number or direct clients to a self-service option on your website.
  10. Repeating the word "please" in every prompt. In business, proper manners are essential. On your phone system, saying "please" with every prompt is redundant and irritating. Say "please" in the first prompt, then keep your options more streamlined for easy listening. Remember--you're writing for the ear.
  11. Using long phrasing for each prompt. It's a prompt, not a message. Keep it short and to the point so you don't lose caller's attention. Think of each prompt as a call to action. 
  12. Stating extension numbers as one number. If you're saying "Two hundred three" instead of "Two Zero Three," you're making a grave error and potentially going to have a lot of confused callers. It's not that people will be looking for the button "two hundred three" on their phone, it's that they might here two and three and ignore the zero. Plus, doesn't it sound weird to tell callers to "Press Two Hundred Three"?
  13. Including Jargon. Jargon got its name because people don't understand it. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid jargon in your voice prompts to make the caller experience as painless as possible.
  14. Putting frequently requested options at the end of the menu. It just makes sense to put the most frequently requested options first. If you already know what people are looking for, you should aim to deliver it as quickly as possible and move them efficiently through the rest of your call processing.
  15. Lacking Consistency. If you use inconsistent phrasing for your prompts, you're likely to confuse callers. By changing your word choice, the caller won't be able to follow a predictable pattern. For example, you shouldn't say, "For sales, press 1; To reach customer service, press 2; Press 3 for reservations." It just doesn't make sense. 

What do you think? Have you heard any voice prompts that have made you cringe? Would you add anything else to this list?

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Tags: Message On hold, IVR announcement, script tip, voice prompts