Mastering IVR Testing, Part 2: 9 Best Practices for IVR Testing


When it comes to customer experience (CX) in contact centers, there’s often a sharp disparity between what managers believe and what customers perceive. Case in point: According to a report by Calabrio, while 79% of contact center managers think their teams are meeting or even exceeding customer expectations for response times, only 45% of their customers agree.

In our last post, we pointed to many of the pitfalls driving these disparities. From excessively complex menus to poor IVR mapping to the outright impossibility of speaking to a human agent, customers encounter all sorts of roadblocks to achieving a smooth CX. The real problem — and the root of the disconnect between management perception and customer reality — isn’t merely that these pitfalls exist, but that they go undetected due to poor IVR testing practices.

To meet or exceed expectations, contact centers must implement IVR testing solutions that consistently root out the issues causing poor CX. But what do those solutions look like, and what do they cover? To explain that, we’ll look at nine IVR testing best practices that any solution should offer. Understanding these will help you take the second step toward mastering your IVR testing.

Usability testing

A key component of functionality testing, usability testing measures how easy and enjoyable your IVR system is to use. 

Menu structures are an ideal use case for this type of test. For instance, you can set up real-world scenarios in which testers (or an automated system) dial in with a specific outcome in mind. How many prompts do they have to enter to get there? Can they do it easily, or do they bounce back and forth between menus? Are the menu explanations clear, or do they seem to confuse the caller and divert them in the wrong direction? 

These usability issues require regular testing and correction so they don’t affect real-world customers. And with the right IVR solution, you can rapidly accelerate this testing by using automated scripts and virtual agents.

A/B testing

Test variations are critical for evaluating your IVR, as they make it much easier to isolate issues and iterate small improvements to the system. Continuing with the above example, you can go beyond merely testing existing menu flows to conducting side-by-side tests of different versions to see which one offers the best CX outcome.

Ideally, your IVR testing service will provide clear reporting and analytics data to demonstrate test results for each iteration. These analytics ensure you can readily evaluate your options and continuously improve your IVR or chatbot solutions without releasing problematic menu structures or call scripts into the live environment.

Scenario simulation

Comprehensiveness is indeed a crucial aspect of successful IVR testing. It entails testing every possible scenario and user profile to ensure thorough coverage of potential issues. Merely testing a limited number of journeys leaves too much room for speculation and may overlook critical problems.

When designing test scenarios, it is essential to consider a range of caller intents, accents, and speech variations across multiple channels. In today's omnichannel environment, consistency is key. Therefore, it is necessary to verify that customers with the same intent receive the same desired outcome, regardless of whether they interact through social media, email, chat, or phone.

By encompassing diverse scenarios and user profiles, you can uncover potential issues and ensure that your IVR system delivers a consistent and satisfactory experience across various communication channels. This comprehensive approach minimizes the risk of overlooking important factors that may impact customer satisfaction and helps maintain a high standard of service quality.

Performance (load) testing

Performance testing is a critical aspect of IVR testing to ensure optimal everyday functioning of your IVR system. However, stopping at testing under normal operating conditions leaves room for uncertainty when high-volume periods occur.

Load testing enables you to simulate and test your IVR system's performance under stress and heavy loads, outside of the live environment. By subjecting the system to a significant influx of calls or chat requests, load tests reveal potential bottlenecks and areas of weakness. This process allows you to refine and optimize the performance of your IVR system before encountering a surge in traffic.

Load testing is particularly crucial before significant events such as new product releases or high-volume seasons like open enrollment in a health insurance company. By proactively identifying and addressing performance issues, load testing helps ensure that your IVR system can handle increased call volumes without disruptions, long wait times, or degradation in service quality.

By conducting load tests, you can enhance the scalability, responsiveness, and overall performance of your IVR system, providing a seamless customer experience even during peak demand periods.

Flow testing

Flow tests, although similar to usability tests, specifically target errors in your IVR system's routing rules. Unlike usability tests that assess menu usability, flow tests focus on the underlying functionality of the code governing call or chat routing. The objective is to ensure a seamless flow of interactions throughout the customer journey.

In essence, flow tests verify that the IVR system operates as intended. For example, if a prompt instructs customers to "Press one for bank hours and locations," pressing one should successfully guide the customer to the designated stage in the call journey. Similarly, if a chatbot presents the option to "speak to an agent," selecting that option should facilitate a smooth handoff to a human agent.

By conducting flow tests, you can identify any discrepancies or errors in the system's routing rules, ensuring that customers are guided through the correct sequence of interactions. This practice guarantees a consistent and hassle-free CX, regardless of the chosen communication channel. Flow testing is instrumental in eliminating any disruptions or roadblocks that customers may encounter during their interactions with the IVR system.

Voice recognition testing

Voice recognition is a key aspect of natural language processing in any IVR system. Systems built only to recognize a specific subset of customers will frustrate users with diverse accents or speech patterns. 

Robust IVR testing solutions must experiment with a wide range of user dialects and accents so that developers can continuously retrain the conversational AI to recognize a broad array of potential customers. This should be based on standardized speech samples and a diverse set of human test callers. 

Error injection testing

Like load testing, error injection puts your IVR under the microscope to assess its resiliency when faced with difficult scenarios. In this case, the goal is to see if the system can sufficiently recover in the face of input errors or incoherent user responses. 

By forcing the IVR to respond to errors, you’ll more quickly discover whether it can still successfully steer customers toward desired outcomes. Discovering any inadequacies in the testing process is much better than the alternative — discovering them through a live customer.

Personalization testing

In the post-COVID era, personalization has become a critical facet of CX. According to GetFeedback’s “2022 State of CX Report,” 73% of businesses expanded their personalization efforts during the pandemic.

When automated IVR systems lack personalization, customers simply feel like bots are trying to herd them through the system as efficiently as possible. Testing your IVR system for the accuracy of personalized recommendations, offers, and content ensures that responses fit the customer rather than a generalized user profile.

Testing automation

Testing automation is a critical component that plays a pivotal role in all aspects of IVR testing. Without automation, it becomes challenging to effectively implement the testing best practices discussed earlier at a large scale. Relying solely on manual testing limits the coverage and scalability of the testing process, which hinders the achievement of true CX assurance.

Fortunately, the advanced capabilities of the Cyara platform make testing automation a reality. The Cyara platform empowers organizations to automate and streamline their IVR testing efforts, enabling comprehensive and efficient testing across a wide range of test cases.

By leveraging the automation tools and frameworks provided by the Cyara platform, testing teams can automate repetitive tasks, such as test case execution, result analysis, and system monitoring. This automation capability allows organizations to achieve broader test coverage, accelerate the testing process, and ensure consistent and reliable IVR performance.

With the Cyara platform, organizations can efficiently execute various testing practices, including usability testing, A/B testing, scenario simulation, load testing, flow testing, voice recognition testing, error injection testing, personalization testing, and more. The platform provides the necessary infrastructure and tools to automate test scenarios, generate test data, simulate customer interactions, and validate system behavior.

By embracing testing automation with the Cyara platform, organizations can achieve higher levels of efficiency, accuracy, and scalability in their IVR testing endeavors. This ultimately leads to improved CX assurance, reduced operational risks, and enhanced customer satisfaction.

A 2023 Forrester Consulting study commissioned on behalf of Cyara and based on a composite organization suggests that with Cyara, you can accelerate your IVR testing time by 90% and trim your chatbot testing time by 70%. This allows organizations to allocate more resources to delivering the perfect customer experience.

In the final post of this series, we will explore the specifics of how testing automation works with the Cyara platform, providing a deeper understanding of its benefits and capabilities.