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call center IVR phone menu prompts scriptwriting tips

15 Voice Prompt Blunders To Avoid in Your IVR System

When 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 in your voice prompt scripts:

  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 If you are instructing callers to dial an extension, you should switch to the term “press,” otherwise you might seem outdated.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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IVR tips

Four Things To Avoid In Your IVR, Auto Attendant, and Voice Prompts

Voice prompt menus, IVR, and auto attendant greetings can be a helpful way to get more information to your customers. You can mention your business hours, current specials, a temporary store closing, or a charity drive that you’re going to be having in the near future. Since you may already have an idea about what you want to say on your phone script, here are a few things you will want to steer clear of:

  1. Too Many Options – It’s important to have enough options to cover the various departments you have for your customers to speak to, but you also want to keep in mind that listing too many on your automated menu can seem cluttered. The more you have listed, the more apt your are to have confused customers, and the more apt they are to end up in the wrong department anyway. If they don’t quite fit in with option one and keep listening for a better selection, but by option eight they’ve forgotten what option one even was, they may end up hitting any number just to speak to a representative. The whole point of these options is to get the customer to the right department the first time around, so make the choices clear and concise. Keep in mind who the callers are and what they tend to call for. The main menu should then be tailored to the needs of the caller.
  2. Cornering the Customer – When using an auto attendant always provide the option to speak to a representative. They may not have an account number available, or they may have questions about the information your menu is requesting from them. Allowing them to speak to a person can avoid unnecessary frustration for your customer. If they know that every time they call you they are going to end up frustrated before they can even talk to someone, they may begin to associate negative experiences with your company.
  3. Giving Outdated Information – Keeping the informaion contained with your phone script up-to-date is important to your customers. You won’t be wasting their time with out-dated information, which is always appreciated. Telling customers about the wrong hours of business, an outdated website, or a wrong address can be frustrating. Be sure if there are any changes in your company that you update the recordings accordingly. 
  4. Don’t Bury the Lead – The term “bury the lead” comes from journalism. In a news story, the “lead” is the first sentence, which concisely conveys the main point of the article. Same hold true for your phone system.  If 80% of your callers choose one option over the others, don’t bury that option in the list of choices.  Making the caller wade through other options is tidus and inefficient.  Order your menu choices in the priority which they are choosen.  Not sure which is choosen more?  As your administrator for a report, or stroll on down and talk to the agents.  They’ll let you know who’s calling and why.
  5. Your phone script should be clear, concise, up-to-date, and helpful. Customers generally call you because they are having an issue with something, and you don’t want to compound the problem — you want to solve it. Send the message to your customers that you consider their time as important as yours by never making them take longer on a phone call than necessary.
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message on hold resources tips

5 More Do’s and Dont’s for Message on Hold

In last week’s blog, we discussed “7 Do’s and Don’t for Message on Hold” programs. Here are five more pieces of advice for designing the most effective “delay message,” adapted from the 2001 ICMI whitepaper by Jean Bave-Kerwin:

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marketing restaurant tips

Marketing Your Restaurant to Different Generations – Part 1

To meet your restaurant goals, you need to be able to position your facility to the appropriate market. A huge part of marketing has traditionally been “generational marketing” which still holds true to today. There are four current generations that are of the buying age: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials.  To be able to properly position your business… you need to identify which generation(s) align best with your value proposition. In part one of this blog series we are going to identify the generations and what each generation finds important in a restaurant. 

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marketing restaurant tips

Marketing to the Generations- Part 2

In Part 1 of Marketing Your Restaurant to Different Generations, you learned what each generation valued in a restaurant. If you didn’t get a chance to read Part One you can check it out here. Now that we know what sets each generation apart, how can your restaurant market to each generation to increase sales!

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resources restaurant tips

Menu Writing Tips & Tricks

 You sit down at a restaurant and what’s the first thing you do? You take a look at the menu. A restaurant menu is not just a simple piece of paper, it’s much more than that. Your menu design should reflect your brand, what your restaurant stands for and pull the guest in. A lot of psychology and thought goes on behind the scenes that can make your menu stand out. Read on to find out tips you can utilize in your menu design to make your restaurant more profitable.

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marketing message on hold tips

Spice Up Your Message on Hold

If you’re reading this, you’ve already recognized the immense potential of your phone system’s Music/Message on Hold capabilities. Not only are you providing targeted messages to your callers while on hold, you’re reducing call abandonment and making the most of their time in queue. 

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IVR resources tips

5 Reasons Employees Shouldn’t Record Your IVR

Your company’s IVR is the “first impression” callers get about your business. Recording your voice prompts in house may be a quick and affordable solution, but here’s a few reasons why that decision might not be the right one:

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e-learning resources tips

EnterTRAINING: The Fast Track to Learning

A guest blog written by Ronna Caras, President of Caras Training.

My brother has ten grandkids aged eight and younger and getting them together is funny, heartwarming and exhausting, just as you would expect. It is also a lesson on teaching.

Even when we are teaching children who are a lot older than eight, twenty-eight or sixty-eight.

Because when humans are dealing with new information, and trying to absorb and apply it, we all learn the way kids do.

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call center holiday tips

Holiday Call Center — 5 Best Practices

Holidays are the busiest time of the year. Not only for personal reasons, but many industries see increased traffic and sales due to “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Most businesses cannot afford to lose sales during the holidays, making every interaction vital to a companies’ success. In the U.S. a poor customer service experience can cost you $41 billion per year! (Source) If you own, work, or operate a call center we cannot stress enough how important preparing for the holidays can be. Let’s take a look at 5 best practices for successfully operating a call center in the holiday season.