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Keep Your IVR Menu Simple
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Keep Your IVR Menu Simple

September 26, 2011

  By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

It’s simple: There’s really no getting away from menus as the best way to get information from those who use your IVR system.

That’s the conclusion of IVR company Angel, and if there’s anyone whose word you can take when it comes to IVR, it’s theirs. They’ve been in the business a long time.

It’s the simplicity and efficiency of menus that ensure their superiority. They give a list of options, users pick what they want and the system moves on to the next step. As the Angel blog writes, “nothing could be more straightforward.”

They’re simple to create, too -- but not easy. (News - Alert) officials say, “If certain basic principles are not observed, menus can become difficult to use.” Probably it’s their intuitive simplicity that leads people to wrongly assume hey, this is easy. offers some best practices for effective IVR menus:

Present the most requested items first. This might take a bit of trial and error, but know which items are requested most frequently and put them at the beginning of the list.

Keep the menu list to four items or less. It’s a mystery to this reporter why IVR lists have six, 10, even -- we swear we’ve experienced this -- 12 items on a list. Friends, do not do this to your customers. “If you need to present the user with more than four items, split the list into two,” Angel officials recommend, “with the last option granting access to the second list.” You know you would have difficulty remembering more than four options, your customers do too.

Keep the menu depth to three or less. Angel officials are right on the money here: “People hate deep menus. They are exasperated by them. And the deeper the menu, the stronger their feeling that they are being led into a blind alley with little hope to get where they want to go.”

And make it seem a bit more human, as well as efficient, for your users. Use the construct “You can say...” as well as giving options for buttons to push. Take a cue from IVR systems that let users say the name of the person they want to be contacted to in a personnel directory, for example. Along with this, let them speak simple functions -- “check balance,” “open account” or “transfer funds.”

Oh, and there’s never a good reason to use “Please select from the following options.” The person knows they’re going to select from the following options.


David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Tammy Wolf
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