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System Messages

Think of them as hurdles for your callers.

Resist the urge to put lengthy upfront messages in your IVR.

Life-threatening, strictly emergency call types (i.e., gas leaks and downed power lines) are utility callers’ top priority, so recorded messages should not delay callers from accessing those IVR option choices, if at all possible.

Upfront, broadcast messages should only be ones that apply to and that you want every caller to hear, every time they call. Keep in mind your frequent/repeat callers, who have heard a message one time or more, may not need or want to keep hearing it
on every subsequent call and may seek a way around it out of frustration/impatience, barge through it, choose to skip if there’s a choice, or simply zero-out to a rep.

Make any message as concise as possible and delivered in a way that can be absorbed quickly.

Since any message disrupts the call flow for any caller, ensure that disruption is as short as possible. In addition, deliver messages in a manner that’s not so rushed that callers don’t catch it and in a technical quality that matches the rest of the IVR, not a patched-in sounding afterthought.

Allow for message barge-through for callers who simply want to get to their reason for calling.

Allow ‘mental-mappers,’ frequent or repeat callers who know what they want and how to navigate your IVR, the option of not having to listen to a message they may have heard multiple times before. There’s no need to put frustrating ‘speed bumps’ along the road to an otherwise smooth IVR experience.

For example: “To hear how <company name> can help you with payment assistance press [star] [pound] or say ASSISTANCE.” If there’s no response within 2-3 seconds, continue with the Main Menu choices.


Upfront messages should be played after the Greeting, to avoid welcoming a callers multiple times on the same call.

Some of the hurriedly patched-in messages we’ve heard precede the standard system Greeting with its own “Welcome to …,” only to be followed by the basic system’s “Welcome to …, Greeting after the message has been played. One “Welcome…” is enough.

Marketing messages on hold (while, beguiling to company marketers) often make callers feel that is the reason you put them on hold!

Callers in our IVR Usability Tests have said they resent being marketed to when they are on hold to resolve a matter of importance to them. There may be a useful one-time message, say a push to the web for a specific purpose, down a select rep path when appropriate, but exercise careful consideration to using any marketing messages. You don’t want to make an efficient IVR less so and drive caller dissatisfaction in the process.

If you'd like to discuss your IVR's messaging philosophy, click here.


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