'Your Call Automation Sucks'

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Perhaps you can imagine my shock when a known speech technology expert emailed me with this column’s headline in his subject line. At first I thought it was an email marauder’s attempt to sell me some IVR consulting services. I clicked on it anyway, just in case it wasn’t.

It wasn’t. The email was from an industry associate who had responded to a reporter’s call for an interview. And, according to the email, he experienced the following when using our IVR: "a long, rambling monologue that provided virtually no value." He added that it "even had the ‘please listen carefully as our stuff has changed’ nonsense. Surprised that you didn’t have a Web hype or a couple of ‘Your call is important to us’ included. When I pressed 0, the system said that wasn’t valid and then turned around and told me to press 0 to reach an operator." Ouch!

To be fair, our greeting actually states, Please note that our extensions have recently changed, which is true. Information Today (Speech Technology magazine’s publisher) recently moved its New York office to accommodate the extra staff needed for Speech Technology magazine. With the new office we also needed a new phone system. While we were able to port our old phone numbers to the new system, our IVR integrator told us that our extensions would change. Because many of our callers already know us and likely have our old extension numbers, it seemed reasonable—for a brief period—to warn them about our new extensions.

During the implementation I was comforted to know that an IVR integrator was setting up our call automation system as our staff was very busy and we’re not IVR experts. However, based on what I’ve learned from editing Speech Technology magazine and common sense, I’ve come to the conclusion that our IVR is quite bad—actually, very bad. There isn’t enough room on this page to cover the mistakes I’ve already spotted. I suspect part of the problem is that while IVR integrators know how to implement a call automation system, many don’t know how to build a good one.

This still leaves us with a terrible IVR system that we must fix. To do this, we’re sending our IVR integrator a complimentary subscription to Speech Technology magazine. Next, we’re turning to the readers of this magazine for help. I encourage independent VUI consultants to call 212-251-0608, navigate through our IVR system, and email me suggestions for improvement. The VUI designer with the best suggestions will be announced in the magazine, win a three-month, full-page ad placement in Speech Technology magazine (our production team will even create the ad for you), and we will also place the winner on our editorial advisory board for the next year. If this isn’t enough, we may even dance around the water cooler and chant your name.

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