Mastering IVR Testing, Part I: The Case for Robust IVR Testing


Contact centers have always played a vital role in enhancing customer experience (CX), and in the post-COVID era, their significance has grown exponentially. With a market value of $461.1 billion in 2022, the global contact center industry is projected to reach $741.7 billion by 2030.

In the customer journey, interactive voice response (IVR) systems have assumed an even more prominent position in delivering high-quality service. Consequently, effective IVR testing has become a crucial aspect of ensuring CX success.

Due to the increasing integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into IVR systems, the importance of testing has amplified. With greater reliance on automation and AI-driven technology, the margin for human intervention has decreased, underscoring the need for a consistently reliable IVR system.

To ensure a seamless customer experience, every contact center must adopt a robust IVR testing solution. Unfortunately, many contact centers fail to implement a comprehensive testing plan, either due to underestimating its significance or lacking the know-how to execute it. In this article, the first of a three-part series on mastering IVR testing, we will address these concerns.

What is IVR testing and why does it matter?

If you have experience in managing contact center CX, you are likely already familiar with the concept of IVR testing. Put simply, IVR testing refers to any process employed by your contact center to evaluate and verify the functionality and performance of an IVR system. It involves testing various aspects of the IVR, such as call routing, menu navigation, voice prompts, response accuracy, and overall system reliability. IVR testing is crucial for contact centers and businesses for several reasons:

  1. Ensuring a seamless customer experience: IVR systems serve as the initial point of contact for customers, so it's essential to provide a smooth and efficient experience. Testing helps identify and resolve any issues or bottlenecks in the IVR flow, ensuring that customers can navigate the system easily and reach the appropriate resources or information without frustration.
  2. Improving first call resolution (FCR) rates: Effective IVR testing helps optimize call routing and menu options, increasing the chances of resolving customer queries or issues during the first interaction. By streamlining the IVR process, businesses can enhance FCR rates, reduce call transfers, and minimize customer effort.
  3. Enhancing system reliability: IVR systems are relied upon heavily for handling customer interactions. Thorough testing helps uncover any potential system failures, technical glitches, or errors that may disrupt customer calls or degrade the overall CX. By proactively addressing these issues, businesses can maintain a reliable and uninterrupted IVR service.
  4. Validating voice recognition and natural language processing (NLP): With advancements in AI and NLP technologies, IVR systems can now interpret and respond to customer voice commands. IVR testing involves validating the accuracy and effectiveness of voice recognition and NLP capabilities, ensuring that the system understands and processes customer requests accurately.
  5. Preparing for scalability and changes: As businesses grow or adapt to changing customer demands, IVR systems may need to be scaled or modified accordingly. Testing facilitates the identification of any potential issues or limitations before implementing changes, allowing businesses to ensure the IVR can handle increased call volumes or new functionalities seamlessly.

In today’s contact center, IVR testing encompasses three primary forms: functional testing, live monitoring, and performance testing.

  • Functional testing serves as the initial phase of a continuous testing strategy. Whenever new code is launched or updates are made to the IVR system, it is crucial to conduct ongoing tests to ensure that the system operates as intended and all functionalities are working properly.
  • Live monitoring is an integral part of the continuous testing strategy, where the focus shifts to the real-time CX. It involves actively monitoring and analyzing what customers are encountering during their interactions with the IVR system. The goal is to identify and address any minor issues or glitches before they escalate into significant concerns that impact customer satisfaction.
  • Performance testing involves pushing the limits of the IVR system to assess its capacity to handle anticipated surges in demand. This type of testing is essential when preparing for events like launching a new product or ahead of a seasonal enrollment period, where an increase in call volume is expected. By stress-testing the IVR system, businesses can determine its performance thresholds and make any necessary adjustments or enhancements to ensure uninterrupted service during peak periods.


The many layers of IVR testing

IVR testing may generally cover functional testing, live monitoring, and performance testing, but it takes many forms within these three testing arenas based on the specifics of your IVR system.

  1. Customization for different IVR types: IVR testing should be tailored to the specific characteristics of the IVR system. For simple dial-in menus, the focus may be on menu mapping and instructions. For voice-based IVRs, additional testing is required for speech recognition and NLP capabilities due to the increased complexity of customer journeys.
  2. Expansion to chatbots and conversational AI: With the inclusion of chatbots and other conversational AI elements, IVR testing must adapt accordingly. Testing should encompass the entire omnichannel customer journey, as interactions can span web apps, emails, and phone calls. IVR testing solutions need to account for this expanded scope of CX.
  3. Increased complexity and potential outcomes: Voice interaction and conversational AI significantly multiply the possible customer journeys and outcomes to be tested. Testing efforts must consider this wide range of scenarios and ensure that the IVR system can handle different customer inputs, intents, and variations in a reliable and accurate manner.
  4. Importance of the omnichannel experience: The shift towards omnichannel customer journeys necessitates IVR testing solutions that can accommodate seamless transitions and continuity across different channels. Testing should ensure a consistent and cohesive experience for customers as they navigate various touchpoints.

Critical CX missteps your IVR testing solutions should address

If you’re still not convinced, consider it from another angle. The modern customer journey may follow thousands of possible paths through this omnichannel experience. Along those myriad of paths are countless potential missteps — and a customer need only hit one of those snags to become disillusioned with the experience. As a 2022 survey by Salesforce showed, 83% of customers expect to speak to a human agent and get their issue resolved on the first try. If they don’t, 48% are ready to look elsewhere for better service.

Here’s the good news, though: As many and varied as the possible locations of those missteps are, in substance, they come down to the same basic issues that contact center managers have long known:

  • Excessive prompts: There are too many prompts required before a customer can reach a solution.
  • Inaccurate responses: Answers provided by the IVR don’t sync with what the customer is trying to solve.
  • Long wait times: Wait times are too long (research shows that 44% of customers consider even 5 - 15 minutes unacceptable).
  • Lack of disruption handling: IVR menus don’t allow for disruption, meaning customers must slog through every menu even when they know where they want to go.
  • Difficulty reaching human agents: It’s almost impossible to break through to a human agent.

Whatever the ins and outs of your IVR testing solution, these are the key issues it must pinpoint and resolve. Whether these CX missteps show up in your dial-in prompts or in your website’s built-in chatbot application, comprehensive IVR testing will quickly and continuously root them out so you can assure a consistently high-quality customer experience.

These CX missteps can be devastating for any contact center, and that’s why every contact center needs a robust testing solution. But not all testing is created equal…... In our next post, we’ll cover some of the key best practices you need to have in place to build your IVR testing roadmap.