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Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Research Study

UX Researcher 
Dec. 2019

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In order to maintain confidentiality for this project, specific details have been removed and some content is provided in general terms. 



The purpose of this research study was to better understand and evaluate the usability of a newly redesigned interactive voice response (IVR) system. Users made calls to receive help with typical customer service questions. Users called brick-and-mortar locations, and then, depending on the selections they made through the IVR, would be routed to the brick-and-mortar location, call center, or would have their questions answered with information provided within the IVR.


What is an IVR?

An IVR is a telephony technology that can read a combination of touch tone and voice input. It gives users the ability to access a database of information via phone. A typical IVR system has several menus of prerecorded options that the caller can choose from. While many choices are as basic as choosing a number, some options may require the caller to speak detailed information such as his name or account number. This input is read by the IVR system and is used to access the appropriate information in the database and/or transfer the caller to a person if help can't be provided by information in the database. - Tech Terms

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Fig. 1 - Basic IVR Flow


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Fig. 2 - Detailed IVR Flow


A significant number of customer calls went unanswered at brick-and-mortar locations, because employees were overwhelmed by the number of calls received. 

  • Customers experienced too many call transfers and it took too long to get their questions answered.

  • Employees had less time to spend in-person or over-the-phone answering complex questions for customers, because employees were answering simple questions that could have been answered by an IVR.

  • High call volume and time spent answering questions increased labor costs.

  • Employees and customers experienced dissatisfaction with the experience.

  • Current menu wording in the IVR may be causing confusion, leading customers to choose to connect directly with employees when an automated response could quickly and easily help them achieve their goals.


1. Limiting the number of menu items users needed to choose from would be make it easier for customers to use the IVR.

2. Content revision would make it clearer to customers, enabling them to choose the best menu option to help them quickly achieve their goals.

3. Generally speaking, users tend to dislike using an IVR.

Redesign Goals

  • Enable customers to quickly and easily help themselves when employee help is not necessary.

  • Help mitigate call overflow to brick-and-mortar locations.

  • Reduce call volume, transfers, and labor costs from time savings at brick-and-mortar locations and call centers.

  • Provide more time for employees to provide more complex assistance in-person or over-the-phone.

  • Improve the overall user experience for employees and customers.

Research Plan Presented to Team and Stakeholders

This research plan was presented to the team and stakeholders to provide a clear and concise description of the study goals, methodologies, process, and logistics. In addition, it was used to gather team feedback to incorporate into the plan.​

Research Plan Details

Secondary Research
  • Gathered and analyzed secondary research to better understand the current IVR system, the most common reasons for customer calls, employee challenges, business goals, and IVR design best practices.

  • Worked with Product Manager and Voice Analyst to identify most common customer questions. 

    • Determined that call reasons at brick-and-mortar locations were not as well-documented as those at call centers, making it more difficult to identify the reasons.

  • Requested and received historical data from call centers:

    • Ranking of call reasons at call centers and associated costs and revenue per reason

    • Ranking of call reasons by importance to users

Usability Testing and Additional Discovery Research

Due to time constraints, usability testing and additional discovery research were conducted in the same sessions.

  • Goals included:

    • More deeply understanding users' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about how and why they were using the IVR and especially determining if there is a strong dislike of using these systems.

    • Exploring and evaluating content wording, organization, comprehension of menu choices, number of menu choices, and the overall usability of the IVR.

    • Understanding if users can successfully choose the correct options in the IVR to complete their goals. 

  • Completed a detailed moderator guide and test plan with:

    • Discovery questions

    • Usability testing scenarios with real-life situations
    • Administration of the System Usability Scale survey to gain an understanding of how users' perceive the usability of the system
Research Results

This was an urgent research request to prepare for an upcoming pilot of the modified IVR. As a result, my stakeholders did not need a long, detailed report and decided a 1-page, concise report would provide the information they needed:


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