MNET Services>Telecom Voice>Contact Center Minnesota (CCM)>Designing and Scripting Your Call Flow

Tips and Best Practices

When designing a menu system to handle telephone calls, such as an ACD, IVR, or automated attendant, it can be helpful to think about the types of callers and how often they may call. Some of the characteristics for various types of automated systems are:

  • Used by the general public. Examples: Taxpayer information system, lottery results, etc. Callers generally are fairly unfamiliar with the system
  • Designed for use by specific callers. Examples: Child Support caseholders, Medical Assistance customers, etc. Callers who have a need to use the system can become very familiar over time, are external agency customers, and the programs they belong to may feature changes over time, due to legislative or federal mandates.
  • Internal employee application. Examples: Time reporting system, vacation information system, etc. For such a system, you can plan for repeat callers who are trained to use the system. Speech phrases and certain jargons that are familiar to the employees can be used as part of the prompts to make the system more user-friendly.

However, some general designing principles apply to almost all types of callers. The following is a list of common items used during human factors analysis:

  • Use simple and natural dialogue
    When providing information or prompting for input from the caller use simple language and avoid using technical terms and jargons unless one is sure that the callers are familiar with the terms and jargons.
  • Make the length of the prompts as concise as possible
    For example:
    If you are calling for information regarding travel to Minnesota, press 1
    can be prompted as:
    For Minnesota travel information, press 1
    Subsequent prompts could then say:
    For St. Paul, press 2
    For Duluth, press 3
  • Minimize demands on caller's memory
    Limit the number of options in a menu to a maximum of five. For each menu item presented to the caller, two different pieces of information must be remembered: the option (For California Travel Information...) and the action required to choose the option ( 1). Having to remember fewer items makes the interaction easier for callers.
  • Prompt for the most commonly chosen items first
    When presenting menu choices, always prompt for the commonly chosen items first. This helps the majority of callers to progress through the system, and get their information, more quickly.
  • Have consistent standard options
    If there are standard options that are used multiple times in the system, use consistent language for prompting and request for consistent action from the callers. This simplifies interaction with the system and would prevent callers from being confused. For example:
    To return to the main menu, press 9
    To speak to a representative, press 0
  • Make menu options and other prompts interruptible
    Interruptible menu options enable the caller to make the selection without having to listen to the entire menu. This helps repeat callers who are familiar with the system to get the desired information quickly.
  • Provide error messages
    Provide concise and clear error messages when caller makes an error. Examples: That was not a valid entry and That is not a valid choice. When the error messages are being spoken, do not let the caller interrupt the error message. Making the caller listen to the error message helps in understanding the mistake and taking corrective action.
  • Provide feedback
    If the IVR system takes more that two or three seconds to process the data entered by the caller or retrieve information to be spoken, provide feedback such as:
    Please hold while we access your information
    One moment please
    Please hold while your call is being transferred
  • Avoid speaking too much information over the phone
    Avoid speaking too much information over the phone. If you need to provide a lot of information, consider giving an option to receive a letter or fax, or direct callers to the agency's Web site.