June 14, 2013

Voice prompts for Error Recovery Strategies

by Evelyn

“Mistakes are a fact of life.  It is the response to the error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni

It’s one thing to have a great Voice user Interface (VUI) design in place and another to efficiently guide your callers through when they’ve made an error in their self-serve process. A great IVR experience includes the right strategy to navigate the callers through difficult and unexpected situations towards a favourable desired outcome.

In recovery, it is essential that your callers feel orientated, in control and able to anticipate what’ll happen next. In a great VUI design, there are five simple error recovery strategies that’ll bring improvements in caller satisfaction and system performance.

#1 Allow errors to happen
Errors are inherent and essential. Know that your callers may be interrupted in the middle of the call (hence missed hearing menu options). Or your callers are just unfamiliar with your VUI. In speech technology, not everyone speaks the same way hence, again, you’ll face errors from accent, disfluency and interjections. Therefore, you must have flexibility to  address errors promptly and allowing callers to either seek help from a live agent or the flexibility to return to options that’ll help them proceed. At best, avoid a rigid VUI design where you expect your callers to self-serve to perfection.

#2 Use simple & smart re-prompts
When it comes to prompts, always pay attention when “no match” or “no input” responses are received from your callers. Then guide them to the desired outcome by offering smart reprompts.  Smart reprompts are menu options that will prompt / guide your callers to input the information you desire.  For instance, in a survey, a the IVR asks a question of, “How many cigarettes did you smoke in a day?”  If there’s no input, the IVR continues with “I’m sorry I didn’t get your response. How many cigarettes did you smoke in a day? Please say a number from 1 to 100.” Or, in another simple example, the IVR asks “Please state your birth date.  You can say for example, July 7th 1970.”  That way, your caller gets it right straight away!

#3 Use appropriate endings
What happens when the number of error recovery tries reaches its limit?  Most IVRs are designed to start from the beginning when an error occurs but you can imagine how frustrating and stressful that can be!  Here are some better ways to recover:

a) just move on from the error point
- this is especially applicable when you are conducting a survey. When no response is received for a particular question, just move on to the next so that the survey could still proceed.  There’s no point to restart the survey from question 1.

b) get “HELP”
- this could be done by transferring to a live agent or,
- to a more detailed menu option explaining further instructions on how to proceed from the current point

c) simply ending the call courteously
- just thank the caller and end the call when a maximum or tries has been reached.

#4 Use cues for disorientated callers
A caller can be disorientated during a self serve process when he is too absorbed in the task at hand that the menu options and instructions become irrelevant to him. This often results in impatience, frustrations and often callers find themselves at total lost at what to do next. What you can do is to offer constant feedback to the callers on where they’re at in the menu to maintain a degree of orientation.   For example, IVR can say, “You are now at your Account Information. Please state what you’d like to do. 1 for Balance enquiry. 2 for Change of address……..” Some organizations use different soft background music for different menus to help orientation.

#5 Keep it simple
When you reprompt, your goal is to get your callers away from the current difficulty and towards completion of the self-serve process. Hence, use simple words in your prompts as jargons will only confuse your callers even more.  Limit your information too, as you will not want to overwhelm your callers with a barrage of instructions.  Remember, IVR transactions depends largely on auditory skills and memory, so keeping things simple will help greatly in error recovery.

Evelyn has recently escaped from a 12-year maddening rat race. Managing local and regional accounts for telecommunication solution providers, she knows too well the value of a good customer experience and effective communication. As a new member of the team, she hopes to share interesting updates and random musings with you at McGirvanmedia (Asia) Sdn. Bhd.

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