4 tips to set up a user friendly IVR

“At the end of your message, if you want to change it, type pound … “


If you hear these words and feel a mixture of frustration and anxiety, you are a normal human being. However, this is the most famous interactive voice server in the world: the telephone answering machine. In this article discover how your IVR works and tips on how to set up a user friendly IVR for your business.

What is an IVR?

An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a computer program configured to perform interactive answering functions. It performs actions based on the caller’s behavior: pressing predetermined keys or recognizing certain words. The IVR can transfer a call to a person in the company or play a pre-recorded message. 

Most telecom service providers offer an IVR feature for their customers to configure.

IVRs have a bad reputation because when they are poorly configured they can waste a lot of callers’ time. When properly configured, IVRs can optimize customer service time by performing an automatic initial screening.

The IVR, a protection against SPAM?

Many companies think that an IVR protects them from automated call campaigns. 

It is true that an IVR allows to identify legitimate calls from SPAM, once in contact with the voice server the robocall must perform an action to be redirected to a contact person. The robot is therefore blocked, but only in theory. Robocall program designers are becoming more and more ingenious and set up their robots so that they can dial keystrokes or even speak words and thus deceive your IVR.

The IVR can therefore prevent automated SPAM calls. However, it is very easy to create a robocall program that adapts to IVRs. The program is then able to enter keystrokes from the numeric keypad to override the IVR and your company will continue to be spammed.

How does an IVR work?

Pre-recorded messages or text to speech

IVR messages can be pre-recorded. In this case, they are .mp4 files that are played according to the caller’s actions. It is also possible to use a text-to-speech engine like Google text to speech. In this case, the messages are read by an artificial voice synthesis software.

Dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) or voice recognition

The interactive voice server reacts to the tones produced when the user presses the keys on the telephone keypad. These tones are called dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) signals. Each tone or combination of tones can be associated with an IVR action such as connecting to a caller or broadcasting information. 

Some IVR systems are equipped with voice recognition, which allows for a much more fluid and natural dialogue between the caller and the interactive voice server.

Tree structure

The tree structure will determine the path of your callers before they are put in contact with a collaborator or obtain information. It is a decision tree that is more or less complex depending on the needs of the organization.

Each step of the tree is triggered by an action of the caller: pressing a key on the keyboard or saying a predefined word. 

Some telephony solutions offer to analyze the performance of your IVR through usage reports. These reports show you how much time was spent on each step of your IVR, and how many times the caller pressed the key. By analyzing this data, you can identify problems in your caller journey, optimize your IVR menu and reduce the number of abandoned inbound calls.

What are the benefits of an IVR?

Lower customer service costs

By having an IVR that allows you to answer your customers’ most common queries, your company can potentially work with reduced customer service. Only those customers who need to speak directly to an agent will be transferred to your teams.


An IVR allows you to be “reachable” at all times and limit the frustration of callers trying to reach you outside of your business hours.

Service optimization

By screening your callers, you optimize your employees time. The caller directs himself to the most appropriate person to answer his need. 

Reduce friction points

When properly configured, the IVR allows your company to answer several calls simultaneously and to keep callers waiting while other calls are being handled.

Tips for setting up an IVR 

Set up an IVR: Take care of your IVR’s welcome message and menu

It is essential not to neglect the way you greet callers when setting up your IVR. Choose a concise introduction, not too long, and use vocabulary adapted to your company’s image.

The main menu should be clear and allow each customer to be directed to the right person. Even outside of your business hours your main menu should encourage your callers to leave a message or schedule a call with the appropriate contact person.

Set up an IVR: Avoid synthesized voices

Robotic voices can make people feel annoyed and impatient when they try to reach you. Voice servers based on text-to-speech engines are very impersonal and can damage your company’s image. Prefer a pre-recorded voice that is intelligible and pleasant to listen to.

Set up an IVR: Offer fewer choices but more levels 

Faced with a menu with ten different options, your customers will be lost and, in most cases, will abandon the call before listening to them all. Build a tree structure with a reduced number of options at each step of the journey. The options must be explicit and leave no room for doubt. 

Each choice of your voice server must respond to a call reason, you will have listed all the call motives before building your tree structure. 

Set up an IVR: Use voice recognition when necessary

Letting your callers choose to speak one or two words or type on their keyboard is the best option. Some requests require the use of automatic voice recognition, but be careful not to overuse it. This action can tend to irritate the caller when it does not work properly (bad microphone, noise…).

Overall, you should think of your IVR as a new application, a website, a new product or service: the user experience must be at the heart of your concerns.

It is therefore essential to properly configure your IVR because it is the first contact between you and your customers. A well configured IVR will allow better communication with your customers and will improve your company’s image.

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