Archive for the ‘“Hold It!”’ Category

10 Rules of Auto-Attendants (Part 9)

There are times when your Auto-Attendant or Integrated Voice Response (IVR) system simply isn’t going to provide what your caller wants.

Those times are one reason you have live agents, and you shouldn’t make it difficult for callers to find them.

And this brings us to Rule #9 of Melanie Polkosky’sThe Hooptedoodle of Phone“ article:

9. Don’t go into detail explaining why you can’t do what the user wants: These details, provided in the impersonal context of an IVR, only reinforce the perception of poor customer service. If you want to retain customers, then give them what they want, quickly and without fanfare. If you can’t accommodate a customer request, then the most appropriate response is apology and restitution.

Simple. If you can’t deliver it with your automated system, don’t spend time explaining why.
Either fix it so you can provide that, or gracefully hand callers off to a live person that can handle their request.

Nobody likes a whiner. Don’t let your Aut0-Attendant whine!


10 Rules of Auto-Attendants (Part 8)

This post is guaranteed to be legalese-free!

Over and over we call companies that have filled their Aut0-Attendant messages with legal disclaimers and notices. It creates a very skeptical caller, and it frustrates the true purpose of the Aut0-Attendant. Which is to quickly and efficiently route your call to the proper destination.

But like the old saying goes “The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.”

Once again, I give you Melanie Polkosky and her 8th Rule of Auto-Attendants (From “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“):

8. Avoid legal explanations: True, legalese serves a protective function, but it also characterizes an organization in a generally unflattering light.

The most common reason we hear that companies include legal jargon is because they don’t know if they have to or not!

Please find out.

In some situations, the requirement to include the legal disclaimer is based on the length of the message.

Yes, it may depend on your state. Yes, it probably depends on what legal statement you are discussing. But there are resources for finding this out, and not just having to default to include it.

Don’t believe that you have to include a legal disclaimer just because that’s what you’ve always heard on other phone systems. There is no rule that your Auto-Attendant has to sound like every other company.

Consider being a refreshing difference!


10 Rules of Auto-Attendants (Part 7)

Using technical jargon is one of the easiest ways for a business to get tripped up in any of their marking or customer communications. Technical jargon…insider lingo…industry acronyms…it all comes from what I call “The Curse of Knowledge”.

Because you’re immersed in your business, jargon, lingo, and acronyms all come natural to you. They simply “make sense”!

And yes, it happens to me all the time as well. (Doesn’t everyone know what an IVR is?)

And using jargon, lingo, and acronyms in your Auto-Attendant is certainly not a good practice.

In her recent article  “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“, Melanie Polkosky puts it this way in her 7th Rule:

7. Use technical jargon—marketing patois—sparingly or not at all: Once you use some fancy terms simply because they appeared in a marketing brochure in 1996, you won’t be able to stop. It’s a form of self-congratulation on your effectiveness. A company’s usage of a slick, new term does not imply customer comprehension of it.

Just think if the Department of Transportation used jargon or their marketing speak on interstate roadsigns!

“Special Event ahead, expect higher than normal AADT”

“Do not drive on the SBL”

“Caution: DDE Work Ahead”

“K-118 1 Mile”

Telephone communications especially have low bandwidth to deliver your message, and unlike reading an ad, callers have to continue at the pace you set for them. You want to make the communication clear and precise.

The best way to eliminate jargon, lingo, and acronyms from your Auto-Attendant (and your marketing) is to have someone outside your industry review it for clarity.

Does it make sense? Do they understand it? Is it clear to an average caller?

If not, clarify and revise it until it’s clear, simple, and understandable.

Your callers will be delighted!

10 Rules of Auto-Attendants (Part 6)

In order to read this blog post, please choose from the following options:

To read straight through, press 1.

To skim, press 2

To jump to the end to find out why in the world I would write this way, press 3, or just keep reading.

In keeping with designing Auto-Attendants to be as invisible as possible, and as quick and easy to navigate, you do not need to tell the caller what they already expect from your system.

Melanie Polkosky puts it this way in her 6th point (From “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“):

6. Never use the phrases “in order to” or “choose from the following options”: These phrases are the mark of a writer who doesn’t understand his medium (spoken communication) or lacks imagination. Such phrases are more appropriately placed in written academic papers, legal documentation, medical reports, and other writings of that ilk.

As soon as a caller realizes they’ve reached an Auto-Attendant (which happens approximately .5 seconds into the call!), they already know there will be “following options” from which to choose. That’s a given. They’ll be ready without you having to get them on their mark!

“In order to route your call most effectively…” How many callers are expecting the system to give them the long route to their telephone destination? This tells the caller “If you cooperate with what we want you to do, we’ll reward you by sending you nicely to the place you ask. But if you don’t cooperate, we’ll be sure to send you places you didn’t want to go, with no options to return.”

“In order to make your Auto-Attendant experience better, remove this phrase at once.”

Instead, simply say the option:
“For sales, press 1”. Or in the emerging voice aware IVR: “Tell me where you would like to go.”

There. Now your callers will like you better!



10 Rules of Automated Attendants (Part 5)

One of the first things to look at in an Auto-Attendant design is eliminating branches. The more branches there have to be, the more likely you will be frustrating your caller.

We recently completed an Auto-Attendant redesign for a car dealership, and used this very technique.

Callers were given the choice of what car franchise they were calling, then whether they wanted Sales or Service, and when they selected Sales, were then given the choice of new or used car sales.

Only problem was, both of those final selections rang the exact…same…phones! So having the caller select whether they wanted New or Used was a complete waste of the customer’s time and mental energy! We re-programmed the system to simply ring the Sales group whenever someone selected Sales from the menu.

This uncovery trimmed the Aut0-Attendant flow from 3 branches to just 2. A much more simple and quick experience for the callers!

Melanie Polkosky talks about unneccessary “turns” (or branching) in her article The Hooptedoodle of Phone. Here’s Rule #5:

5. Keep your turns under control: The number of turns is usually inversely proportional to usability. If an interaction requires more than about four turns to get someone where they’re going, then it becomes increasingly likely the user will seek a shorter or alternate path.

We notice two payoffs in following this advice:

1. Your customers will be less frustrated by the time they reach a live person.

2. They will be less likely to “zero out”…simply give up and find an operator…which means your operators will some releif in their workload.

And aren’t those two outcomes really the goal of an Auto-Attendant in the first place?

10 Rules of Automated Attendants (Part 4 of 10)

When it comes to writing for Aut0-Attendants, there’s a lot that can be learned from rules of writing in general. Rules of good writing shouldn’t be simply thrown out the door just because the application is to fit inside the constrains of a phone system.

Melanie Polkosky recast Elmore Leonard’s 10 Tips for Writing advice for her article for Speech Technology Magazine. Here is Melanie’s 4th point(From “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“):

4. Never use multiple words and phrases when fewer will suffice: As Leonard suggests, overly verbose language usage is the designer “now exposing himself in earnest.” When a designer excessively sprinkles his words, he risks being invasive, overbearing, and full of himself. The only people who think an IVR should say much of anything at all are the people behind it; the extent to which they lack self-control determines whether they will be the only ones willing to participate in the exchange.

It’s always harder to communicate what you want to tell your callers, in the least amount of words that will still be effective.

Anyone can ramble on, but to be able to choose each word carefully, for the power it will bring, and the clarity it will add, takes a lot of skill, focus, and understanding of the telephone medium.

The Aut0-Attendant should be almost invisible to the caller…so they don’t even have to think about it. It just offers them what they need, in a way they can use it, so they can accomplish what they want to in the easiest way possible.

And, in the interest of fewer words, I’ll leave you with that!

10 Rules of Automated Attendants (Part 3 of 10)

Guiding or ordering? Which one are you doing in your Auto-Attendant? People want to be drawn in, not ordered around. After all, the reason you have an Auto-Attendant is to give your callers options…which by very definition means they are free to choose what they would like.

But often a company’s Auto-Attendant will designed in such a way that it sounds like it graduated from drill sergeant school, and is eager to make it’s mark on the “new recruits” (also known as “your callers”!)

Here’s what Melanie Polkosky has to say in her 3rd Rule of Auto Attendant design (From “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“):

3. Never order a customer to do anything: Directives are the mark of customer service overstepping its bounds. Requests cloaked in the language of demands do not endear themselves to the customer; in contrast, they are an invitation to seek a new provider. The designer is sticking his nose in, as if he has a power he does not possess.

There’s at least two aspects in which this can happen.

The first is probably the most obvious…how the script is written. What words you use, and the order you use them in, to let callers know what options they can choose. Companies can get over-zealous in funneling their callers to where the company wants them to go, and in doing so, the wording becomes very forceful.

The second way is a little more subtle…how the script is voiced. How the voice talent reads the script, and applies their inflection to the message has a lot to do with how people perceive it. Is it warm and inviting? Cold and calculating? Some guidance to the voice talent on this is critical to keep the sound of the message inline with what will be well received by your callers.

10 Rules of Automated Attendants (Part 2 of 10)

What’s more confusing…a poorly designed Auto-Attendant that leaves you to flounder around all by yourself, or one that is so poorly designed that the creator chooses to put roadsigns and instructions for how to navigate?

In this Part 2 of 10 in our series of posts looking at good Auto-Attendant design, we’ll explore that very question.

Melanie Polkosky‘s advice for this 2nd point is excellent! (From “The Hooptedoodle of Phone“)

2. Avoid verbal landmarks: They are annoying. People lack the energy or desire to simultaneously re-create a flowchart in their minds while marching through a phone system. The dialogue itself should get them where they need to go; if you need to create signs to get around, then your tree has become a forest, and you should expect people to get lost.

The visual flowchart that represents your Auto-Attendant design should look a lot more complex than your message sounds once it’s implemented.

Not quite sure what I’m talking about? Here’s an example of verbal landmarks:
“Main Menu…For Service, press 1, for Sales, press 2…”
“Service Menu…to make a service appointment, press 1. To check the status of a service, press 2…”
“Service Status Menu…enter your 34 digit service request code…”
…and so on.

People know what they just heard that made them select that option, and they don’t need it to be repeated or even confirmed. We’re smarter than that! If you press 1 for service, you don’t need it to confirm that you went to the Service menu. It simply takes more time, and makes it a more frustrating experience!

I believe this type of design stems from designing “on paper” rather than “on the phone”. In other words, when you’re deep into an Auto-Attendant or IVR design, it’s easy to forget what it actually sounds like. You’re looking at one box on a flowchart, and it seems that the text isn’t stating what location it is, but in reality, if you follow the call flow on the phone, it makes perfect sense!

So don’t use Verbal Landmarks in your Auto-Attendant. If you have them, remove them. It will streamline your greeting…allowing callers to get in, accomplish what they want, and get out, without adding frustrations!

10 Rules of Automated Attendants (part 1 of 10)

Have you ever wondered who thought of writing the Auto-Attendant you are listening to when you call a company?

How many times have you been frustrated by the options?

How often have you thought “they sure weren’t thinking of me when they designed this thing?”

One of the things that has always puzzled me is the fact that there seems to be an unspoken rule that Auto-Attendant messages have to be frustrating! I mean, that’s the majority of experiences out there, right?

Well guess what…we’ve done the research, and there is no such rule. Not a one!

In fact, just the opposite. The same rules that apply to good writing, also apply to crafting a good Auto-Attendant, and giving your callers a great Caller Experience.

Recently Melanie Polkosky wrote an article where she applies the top 10 rules of good writing to Auto-Attendant scripting.

Today I’m starting a series covering each of these rules in detail. But first let’s see what Melanie has to say:

1. Never open with platitudes: It only signals antagonism for the listener to utter something as trite as, Please listen carefully as our options have changed. The listener is more apt to roll his eyes in exasperation and stop listening altogether. It creates atmosphere for your interaction, no more positive than a book that begins, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Have you ever been calling a company for years, and heard this same message for years? Of course you have! But it’s rather insulting to your caller. As if they WEREN’T listening carefully? “Listen carefully” as opposed to just doodling while I am talking?

It’s ok to change the options. But do you think callers really have memorized your phone tree options?

You might say “but our callers are power users. They know exactly what they want, and jump to that option without hearing the message.”

But think about it for a minute. Your power users  aren’t going to listen to it because they’re going to just jump ahead like they always do. And if they do get to the wrong menu, they know how to back up (you do have the “*” key as your universal “Go Back” key, right?), and they’ll listen to the menu.

But the callers who are not power users don’t need to know that the menu has changed!

Just leave it off the greeting, and you’ll have a more simple, brief, and pleasing main greeting!

Connecting with Interest

When you answer the phone for your company, make an extra effort to Connect with Interest.

Because the caller can’t see you, it’s even more important to convey the cues to them that you are glad they called, and are ready to help them.

Answer with a question mark at the end of your greeting…you voice going up slightly at the end…inviting the caller to say the next thing. You can do that whether you say “Hello?”, “How may I help you?”, or answer with your name, as in “This is Chester?” Later on we’re going to get into how to choose what you say when you answer the phone. Just remember that you want to invite the caller to participate with you in the conversation. Make them feel welcome.


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