How to Design an IVR System

February 28, 2017 jkent-ransom

How to Design an IVR System
Kevin McMahon
Tuesday, February 28, 2017 - 12:30 Build an IVR System

If you’ve ever called a contact center, chances are you’ve experienced an Integrated Voice Response (IVR) system, an automated telephony system that gathers your details and lets you choose a variety of options, so that it can route your call to the appropriate agent.

For customers, a poorly designed IVR system can become a frustrating and confusing maze of options and branching pathways. The user may find themselves confused about which option to select, and could end up being routed to the wrong department, put on hold, and transferred time and again.

A well-designed IVR system, however, can save time for customers and for the business, by making sure that the customer gets directed to the right department so their call is handled correctly and efficiently, the first time, every time.

How to Build an IVR System

Designing an IVR system requires a significant amount of planning. The business needs to stop “thinking like a business” and start thinking from the perspective of the customer and why they are likely to be calling. The following tips will help you create an IVR system which routes customers intelligently and makes their experience with your business more satisfying.

1. Examine Existing Call Records

A good place to start is with your existing call records. If more than half of your callers are looking to make a bill payment, then that should be one of the first options in the system.

2. Organize and Simplify the Call Menu

The IVR system should have no more than five options at the ‘top level’ of the menu. If you need more options, separate the menu into sections, so that users can quickly drill down to the right department.

3. Choose Easy-to-Understand Wording for Call Menu Options

Word the menu carefully, saying “to make a payment, press 1” rather than “press 1 to make a payment.” This helps to reduce dependency on short-term memory. Try to not use long lists of options in one menu option. instead, break them up into individual options under sub-menus. 

4. Leave Adequate Pauses Between Call Menu Options

Leave a pause of a couple of seconds between menu options so that people have time to press the button and bring the phone back to their ear. This is especially important if you expect people to be navigating through longer, more complex menus. 

5. Always Give the Option to Talk to a Human

Make it easy for people to reach a customer service adviser if they really do not want to go through the IVR. Some callers aren’t sure what they need, or don’t have their account details to hand, so an IVR may not be able to help them. Forcing callers to navigate through your IVR before you allow them to talk to a customer service representative can increase frustration and reflect poorly on your organization.


At West, we offer IVR solutions for small and large organizations. Our cloud contact center solution is flexible, scalable and cost effective. If you’re not sure where to start or how to set up an IVR system internally, then outsourcing to a cloud contact center could well be the best option. From the customer’s perspective, our IVR solutions are easy to use. From the perspective of the contact center they offer dynamic call routing and the option to bump designated callers to the front of the queue. They even allow contact centers to divert customers to specific departments if they have an urgent outstanding issue, such as unpaid bills or long-running complaints. Routing can be based on available agents, department load, or other criteria to ensure minimum wait times and that the maximum number of callers have their issues resolved during the first contact with an agent.

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