Setting up an IVR can sound simple, but this article goes beyond covering the “how to” of getting your call menus set up, and goes into the “here’s what you should do and why” portion of things. By taking things a step deeper, you can avoid a lot of common mistakes, and get a much better IVR call flow right out of the box. 


In this article, we tackle some of the most overlooked elements of setting up an IVR and give you all of the details you need to jump your quality score from a mid-level eight to an absolute ten. Get ready to learn the best hacks for an incredible IVR setup. 


What Does IVR Stand For?


If you’re reading this article, we assume you at least have a general idea of what an IVR system is, but in the event that you don’t, here’s a quick primer: 


What does IVR stand for? IVR stands for Interactive Voice Response. An IVR is an incredible phone system that allows callers to interact with a menu by touching numbers on their phone’s keypad. Think of it as an automated phone system that allows people to call in and have basic interactions without needing to talk to a person. It’s all handled by computers on the back-end and can be programmed in many ways for unmatched results.


One of the main benefits of having an IVR phone menu system is being able to route calls to the proper place automatically without needing to have a receptionist answer every call manually– only to transfer it somewhere else. It can also come in handy when your business may be closed for the day (or on holidays and weekends) because customers that call can still interact with a menu, and in some cases achieve what they needed.


For a much more detailed article about what an IVR is and the “how-to”, we have you covered here.


Now, onto the hacks that will make your IVR awesome out of the box.

Use These Hacks – Setting Up Your IVR for Success 


Just “having” an IVR will not get you the results you’re looking for. There are many pitfalls you can run into when you’re first setting up your IVR that could actually make using it an awful experience for your customers (or at least an inconvenient one). Here are some of the top things to consider when you’re setting up your IVR to make it sound professional, inviting, and to be convenient, and user-friendly for your customers.


Keep the Customer Experience in Mind

When you’re setting up your IVR, it can be tempting to start asking “oooh what can I do?”, and that can be dangerous if you don’t first ask yourself “what would my customers want?” There’s this strange information gap that can occur with marketers, where they forget the golden rule of treating others how they would want to be treated. 


We’ve seen IVR users set up their systems for their customers in such a way that it would actually frustrate them personally if they had to call their own IVR in their own day-to-day lives. Don’t do that. Think of your customers first, and you can do that by thinking of how you would want to be treated.


Start with the experience that you want your customer to have, and then work backward from there using the technology you have to create that experience. The easiest way to do this is by taking off your marketing hat and asking yourself what you, yourself would want in a call menu. If you weren’t a marketer and you were calling your own IVR, what would make you happy? What would make you feel like you’re experiencing great customer service? Answer those questions, and that is a great place to start.


The first hack is to keep your IVR human-centric, and you have a much better chance at winning customers over.

Automation is Key, But Access to People Is Important

Sure we understand that one of the primary benefits of IVR is its beautiful, simple automation. So why in the world would “make sure that your customers can reach a human” be one of the first things that we tell you? Good question, but you’ll see why this is so crucial. 


Especially during setup and initial launch, your system won’t be fully road-tested with real customer calls until it goes live for a period of time. Sure you can run test calls, but nothing can prepare you for the unpredictability and specific use cases of real customers when the volume of calls increases to any sort of substantial number. 


When you’re first setting up your IVR, you’re going to want to put the option of talking to a human early on in the process. It doesn’t have to be the first thing (since many people will reflexively hit their keypad to talk to a person) but it should be early enough where if the customer is experiencing issues with your system they don’t get frustrated and hang up. 


The longer your system is live the more data you’ll have and you can experiment with moving the option to talk with a human further back in the IVR menu.


Also bear in mind that for some customers, they’ll always want to talk to a person due to their own preference. Even if it’s for information they could receive quickly and easily from an automated menu (like hours of operation, location address, etc). Some folks just love the human-to-human conversation and want it every time, or they’ll get frustrated. It’s better to give that to them than have a miffed customer on your hands.


Don’t assume that having people talk to your agents is always a time-waster or bad idea either. When trying to find the sweet spot of where to put the menu option to talk to a human being in your IVR call menu flow, here’s something to consider testing. Continue to look at data, and try providing the menu option for people to talk to a live agent sooner and see if it actually does show increased call volume. Then, attempt placing the option to talk to an agent later in the call flow and see if your number of abandoned calls increases. Keep testing sliding it up and back as you attempt to keep call volume for your agents manageable, while also keeping the number of abandoned calls to a minimum. 


Choose Your Number of Menu Options Wisely

One of the themes of this article that you’re going to pick up on is “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” In this case, we’re talking about the number of menu options you offer a customer. 


When people call you they’re taking time out of their busy day, and they’re trying to get something accomplished. Remember this when you’re building out your menu. It can be tempting to load up the initial menus with as many choices as possible, but this can actually slow down the customer’s progress early on, and be a total slog for them which can cause frustration. 


When you’re starting out and first building your menus, come at this with a “less is more” approach. Especially earlier in your menu’s flow, you only want to have the menu options that are essential. As customers get further into the menu, you can definitely add more options– but how many is too many?


A good rule of thumb is to never put more than four or five options at a single point in your call flow. Anything more than that, and you risk customers becoming impatient and frustrated and in some cases abandoning the call altogether. 


Another thing to keep in mind: It can be tempting to place extraneous information into your menus to “maximize” their use. For example, you might think it’s a great idea to tell all of your customers about a promotion you’re having before giving them menu options. Be careful with this, and don’t overdo it. Your menus should be accessible quickly without the customer hearing too much about how they should “follow you on social media” every time they push a button. 


Use Fantastic Recordings

When you’re making an IVR, you’re going to want to remember that one of the linchpins to building and maintaining trust is that every time a caller hears any kind of recording, it needs to be high quality. If callers are navigating through your menus and the quality of your recordings don’t instill trust and professionalism, you’re hurting your business. 


When it comes to greetings, be sure that you have a recording that gives a stellar first impression. Make sure it isn’t too wordy and speak in your company’s “brand voice”. To be more specific, your recording’s language, tone of voice, and exact wording should match your business’s brand perfectly. 


We also recommend that you identify the company immediately so that people know they’ve reached the right number before they’re thrown into a list of menu options. Let customers know right away clearly who you are, and you can even throw in a short tagline (short is key). For example: “You’ve reached, the simplest tool for phone menus on the market.”


Overall, don’t let your introductory message go any longer than seven to eight seconds.


Additionally, be sure that you keep the recordings consistent across the various menus you have. This means that you should keep the volume and energy level similar, and never use different people for different recordings. 


This also brings up the point of who should be recording your menu’s messages. If you choose to go with someone in-house, be sure they sound great. Don’t lightly choose the person who will record your messages– give it some real thought. They should have great voice inflection and represent the personality you want to come across for your company. If you’re a business owner, you can absolutely be the one who does the recording but don’t default to yourself just because you’re the business owner. Choose someone from within the company (or hire someone online) who has an incredible voice for all of your menus.


Go the Extra Mile With User Experience

Think of convenience and overall user experience when setting up your IVR. It’s the little details that matter. 


For example, give your customers a menu option at each stage to go back to the previous menu if they hit the wrong entry. This might not seem like a big deal, but put yourself in the customer’s shoes: you’re three menus deep and you fat-finger the wrong number, and now you’re stuck in limbo or forced to hang up and call back. That’s an immediate way to get a customer feeling frustrated. 


You should also use hold music that sounds good, and evokes the mood you want your customers to be feeling when interacting with your company. Hold music is often an afterthought, and we think that’s a mistake. There are many options for incredible hold music that are free to use with attribution (an example is something like this). 


Choose hold music that surprises your callers with how good it is. You can also interject short promotional messages over your hold music as well– but be warned — if you use something limited time or seasonal you have to stay on top of that. It’s incredibly unprofessional to hear about a company’s “Big End-of-Year Holiday Blowout” in early February. 


Don’t Leave Customers Hanging

It’s a mistake to let calls end abruptly. Even when the caller has reached their destination and has done what they called to do, don’t just disconnect the call without any sort of ending message. When possible, you want the customer to know with certainty that their input was received and acknowledged. If you don’t the customer will likely have a nagging thought of “did that go through?” It’s also appropriate to thank a customer for calling. 


Finally, a resource that can help your company (and your IVR) a great deal is something known as an exit survey. When the caller has come to the end of the menus that they needed, you can have a message that thanks them and asks them to complete a short survey. Then you can have them rate their satisfaction and give you feedback. You can match questions to menu numbers and get a sense of what people think about your company or IVR. Keep this to one to three questions to start and test the results before you go crazy with a ten-question survey.


IVRs are Not Set It and Forget It

The setup is only the first step, and a fantastic IVR comes from testing and tweaking as you get more customer data. Take a look a the data. Where are you experiencing the most drop-offs? Where are customers seemingly going the most often? Look at the way that callers are using and interacting with the system, and look for the most positive patterns, then, attempt to improve any problem areas by testing new fixes and methods on the weakest points. 


It’s also important to audit and double-check your menus with regularity. Call your own system and test it out going through your user experience first hand. Never do the work in your IVR’s dashboard and assume you nailed it without thorough testing. By calling and working through your menus you’ll also get ideas for new options and different optimizations. 


Between any satisfaction survey results you get and your own testing, your IVR should be a living, breathing thing that is consistently improving and always evolving in some form or fashion based on user data. is the Phone System You Need is the absolute gold standard when it comes to robust, functional IVR software that is super powerful but also simple to use.  If you began reading this list and found yourself saying “wait, I can’t do that with my software” or “where is that option?” you definitely need to rethink your software. And even if your IVR can do some of these things, we assure you it won’t be as simple and reliable as 


You’ll have every tool you need at your fingertips to manage incoming calls seamlessly eliminating missed leads or frustrated callers. You won’t have to leave opportunities on the table anymore. 


We know what you’re going through. The very reason that we developed is that we saw a rampant problem within our own organizations. We were missing opportunities to connect with customers, so we developed the solution that we use today– When you use our software you’ll be able to route all of your incoming phone traffic for ultimate monetization. 


Not only will be a solution that resolves any of your customer issues quickly, but you’ll also see an increase in call center productivity because the calls will be routed properly from the start. Have your agents focus on the people who are looking for help. 


It’s time to try today and immediately improve your sales efficiency, increase your profits, and give your customers quicker and better service. 


Start using today.