IVR scripts might sound quite technical to those less familiar with the IVR acronym. So, first of all, what does IVR stand for? It is an acronym for interactive voice response. Briefly, this is “a technology that allows humans to interact with a computer-operated phone system through the use of voice and DTMF tones input via a keypad. In telecommunications, IVR allows customers to interact with a company’s host system via a telephone keypad or by speech recognition, after which services can be inquired about through the IVR dialogue. IVR systems can respond with pre-recorded or dynamically generated audio to further direct users on how to proceed. IVR systems deployed in the network are sized to handle large call volumes and also used for outbound calling as IVR systems are more intelligent than many predictive dialer systems.”

It still may sound a bit complicated, but practically everybody contacting almost any business or institution, even their doctor, has at some point encountered what is still popularly called “the answering machine.” You hear a voice telling you who you’ve reached, what is the situation with your call, and then gives you one or more options. Usually one of those is the ever-popular ‘please hold.’

Sounds like a simple enough thing to prepare. You jot down a few sentences, record them for the system, and presto, you’re done with your IVR script. If things were so simple, though.

In real-life situations, IVR systems and to that effect, IVR scripts are a much more complicated beast. Those scripts have to be thought-out from the moment the caller is connected to the moment he reaches the appropriate, live counterpart. All the options have to be prepared in advance and recorded properly.

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Preparing and recording the IVR scripts the right way

To get the IVR script right, those preparing it to have one thing in mind – what is the key goal of IVR? According to Callcenter Helper to is “to think about the quickest way to get the caller through to the right advisor, with the right skill set, with the least amount of effort.”

They quote Steve Hindley, the Creative Director at iNarratorOnHold, who “suggests that the contact center should avoid writing anything to start with and instead map the process out. When “a call comes in, what are the departments that they might want to speak to? And, how do we connect the dots?”

Explaining how to approach writing IVR scripts, Callcenter Helpermaps the process through the following points:

  • set expectations in the ‘customer greeting’;
  • present IVR messages in the order of importance;
  • include ‘call to action’ in the IVR messages;
  • avoid repeating the same IVR message;
  • plan the right music to message ratio;
  • customize voice and language style for different call questions;
  • prepare the script for both male and female voices that alternate;
  • record the IVR messages in a professional environment, preferably by professionals;
  • include faqs and direct customers to other channels;
  • don’t over-apologize.

Such an approach would certainly alleviate the process of writing an IVR script. Still, such a writing process also has to take into consideration. These particularly include:

  • thinking about the reasons customers or potential customers might be calling about;
  • designing a cleans, simple flow;
  • making sure that you use the same language as the customers do;
  • have a specific target market in mind;
  • ask customers what they think.

More details on how to prepare an IVR script

Technically, an IVR script does not contain that many words, but as you may see, it does involve a detailed preparation. In most cases, to make an IVR system as effective as possible, it involves the engagement of professional scriptwriters and voice actors. Let us go through some of the points noted above.

When Callcenter Helper (above) talks about setting the expectations in the customer greeting they mean the following: “Before the customer enters the call queue, it is good to have a system that tells them of the average wait time.”

Presenting messages in their order of importance is important because call questions vary in their length. “The customer is unlikely to hear every message that you create, which is why it’s critical that you order them in terms of importance.”

According to them, “the idea of a call-to-action message is to give the customer a little bit of information and something they can act on, to boost your revenues and their satisfaction.” An example of such a message would be: “We now have a discount on our product that is great for X. Speak to an advisor to find out more.”

Why do you need to avoid repeating the same IVR message? Because “that’s a sure-fire way to irritate the customer before they even have the chance to speak to an advisor.” Also, “contact centers need to think about the tone of their voice and the type of language used in each message, to ensure that it’s ‘on-brand’.” That is where alternating male and female voices in your IVR system also comes in.

The reasons to use professional voice actors and other elements to consider

Steve Hindley, the Creative Director at iNarratorOnHold quoted above says that contact centers “often choose to record their IVR messages themselves, but this could damage the customer experience.”

He believes that “callers will recognize the difference between a professional voice over and something that has been recorded in the back office – which has an echo, background noise, and so on.”

The same goes for the musical background that you need to incorporate into your IVR. A professionally prepared and recorded musical background is going to have a much better effect than using a popular tune everybody has heard quite a number of times.

Speaking about the main idea behind an IVR script Hindley presents the following concept: “when making a contact center script, the designers really need to think about where the customers are coming from and how that leads them to pick up the phone. So, the script needs to match that type of inquiry.”

Valur Svansson, another IVR expert and a Customer Process Improvement Professional at IP Integration (Callcenter Helper, above) explains what should be a clean simple flow of a script. He notes that “it is not always possible, but if you can, design to cover your original objectives and push the exceptions and complex cases out to advisors to let them deal with them. This will allow the majority of callers to have the best possible IVR experience while the more complex cases are quickly identified and removed from the IVR.”

What kind of language should you use in your IVR script? It is “language that customers understand and language that they would want to hear. Whether it’s formal or informal, needs to be tailored to the type of company.”

Example scripts

You need to prepare IVR scripts in a similar manner as any other script that a voice or another actor will use. Still, there are certain specifics of these scripts that do not make it easy to present their examples in 60, 30, and 15-second excerpts. Often, such scripts need to be presented in brief blocks that are an entity in itself.

That is why we present here these examples according to their purpose. The first example is one that is used as a welcome & main menu auto-attendant script presented by fitsmallbusiness.com :

“Hello and thank you for calling Company Name, insert the company’s mission statement or slogan. We are located at the address. Normal business hours are Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you already know the extension you wish to reach, you may enter it at any time. Otherwise, please listen carefully to the following menu:

To continue in Spanish, press one.

To continue in French, press two.

To reach the floral department, press three.

To reach the furniture department, press four.

For groceries and produce press five.

For all other departments or to speak to a live agent, please stay on the line and the next available agent will be with you shortly.” (116 words)

The second example is a general welcome greeting (Exotel).

General welcome:

“Thank you for calling ABC.

“Thank you for calling ABC. Don’t forget to check out www.abc.com for a list of our latest specials and events.

“You have reached ABC. Your call is important to us. Please hold while we connect your call.”

“Thank you for calling ABC. Please hold, and one of our amazing support agents will answer your call as soon as possible.”

“Thank you for calling ABC, where customer service is our priority.”

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More Examples

Here is another welcome example, this time when the call comes from an existing customer (Exotel):

“Hi, Name, happy to hear from you again! If this is regarding your previous purchase Product name, press 1

To repeat the previous order, press 2

For any other issues, press 3

Press 0 to repeat the menu”

Finally, here is an after-hours greeting script example from Holdcom:

Thank you for calling (company name). To learn more about our products and services visit our website at www.COMPANY.com.Our offices are currently closed. Our business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 am to 7 pm except on major holidays. Please leave a message with your name, contact information, and the nature of your call and someone from the appropriate department will contact you on the next business day. Or, email us at info@COMPANY.com