Providing solutions to customers’ problems is essential — and, it’s why so many contact centers invest in Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology.
What is an IVR? Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology has been around for more than 30 years — and for good reason. This convenient, cost-effective solution allows incoming callers to navigate phone systems to speak with an agent, resolve an issue, or make an inquiry. Many IVRs serve as an effective self-service solution that helps customers find the answers to their own questions without ever speaking to a live agent. Others are designed to collect information and route callers to the right agents.
While IVR technology has been a mainstay of customer contact, a number of factors in today’s world have made it more integral than ever. These include the renewed importance of automation, an increase in the number of calls on mobile devices, and the addition of speech recognition conversational interfaces. Essentially, IVR technology is not only a tried-and-true customer self-service channel, it is also the wave of the future.
But even with proven technology like IVR, growing pains are possible. One of the greatest challenges that companies now face is how to handle the growing complexity of increasingly sophisticated IVR systems. These complex systems need to be carefully monitored and maintained to ensure they continue to deliver the experience customers expect. As a result, the need for comprehensive IVR testing solutions has also grown significantly.
The Importance of IVR Testing
Your IVR is at the forefront of customer experience. A customer calling with a simple question can easily become frustrated if the call is mistakenly disconnected by the IVR, or if “pressing two” does not lead to the logical next step. Simply put, if your system doesn’t work the way you intended, you risk needlessly alienating your customers.
IVR testing gives you a line of defense against errors like these. An IVR test checks that your call transfer and routing options do exactly what they say, each and every time — as well as to measure and monitor the maximum call volume at which they can continue to work.
In addition to catching mistakes, IVR testing makes it possible to view the IVR journey from the customer’s perspective and ensure it’s as convenient and easy to follow as possible. You may think you’ve designed an intuitive system, but without proper testing, you could be leaving users confused and unable to get the answers they need.
Finding the Right IVR Testing Solution
Clearly, IVR testing is an essential practice that helps contact centers operate at peak performance. But not all testing methods are created equal. Some call centers rely on manual testing, often performed by agents or IT staff, to spot-check that the IVR is functioning at the start of the business day. Alternatively, some businesses rely on IT staff to manually test that changes to an IVR have been deployed correctly. However, manual testing is both time-consuming and expensive.
Automating the process of IVR testing removes these barriers. With an automated solution, it’s possible to test more often and more thoroughly, to ensure performance consistency and catch issues before they affect your CX.
Regardless of the testing method you choose, the main challenge to address with modern IVR testing is system complexity. Most voice self-service environments incorporate different technical components, such as IVR software (voice portal), VoiceXML applications, speech recognition, VUI, text-to-speech, and IP telephony infrastructure that must all work together. New technologies, such as visual IVR, voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI), and conversational user interfaces exacerbate the challenge.
Additionally, IVR systems are famous for housing out-of-date call flows, many of which are undocumented. The effort it takes to document a large IVR system is slow and resource-intensive, and many companies simply do not do it. Without proper IVR documentation, it’s very difficult to create an IVR map and write test scripts. Solutions that perform IVR discovery and document findings are among the most effective ways to remedy the issue.
These common challenges with IVR system management often lead companies to seek automated IVR testing solutions that can cover the broad range of testing needs without the additional headcount or staffing costs associated with manual testing.
To assure a flawless CX, organizations should invest in comprehensive IVR testing solutions that can:
- Automate the documentation of existing IVR call flows and applications
- Automate functional and regression testing
- Provide statistical language modeling (SLM) testing for speech recognition
- Update test cases when IVR design changes are made
- Perform load testing to ensure that the IVR functions as designed during peak times
- Monitor production to proactively identify issues
IVR Testing Best Practices
Effective IVR testing measures the accuracy and reliability with which contact center systems answer calls, play correct messages, offer the right prompts, and route callers to the correct agents. The right solution will automate IVR testing on as many of these factors as possible, for a trustworthy, end-to-end view of your IVR system.
IVR Discovery and Documentation Testing
Many enterprises have an updated IVR system, but they lack current call flow and customer journey documentation. Companies in this position have to either manually explore their IVR software or deploy system changes based on risky assumptions and hope for the best.
Automated IVR Functional Testing
IVR development teams are under tremendous pressure to add new functionality and improve CX. While Agile and DevOps processes have accelerated development, the reality is that IT teams often deprioritize IVR testing in favor of devoting resources to newer or higher priority projects. Testing dates are pushed out while ”go-live” dates are not, reducing the time to test and increasing the risk of defects slipping into production.
Functional testing is a quality assurance practice that ensures the software your teams develop and deploy conforms to all your business requirements. That means ensuring newly developed or updated IVR systems perform as designed.
Automated scripting is the best practice for these kinds of cases, as it ensures your test scripts are always up-to-date and in line with expectations. Solutions like Cyara Velocity can automatically document and create test scripts.
Automated IVR Regression Testing
Regression testing is a type of software testing that checks that previously developed and tested software still functions as designed, even after code changes, updates, additions, and integrations. For IVRs, regression testing should ensure that updates have not broken any other elements of the IVR system, such as call flows, recordings, or routing connections.
You can conduct automated IVR regression testing by creating a library of test cases and test blocks that can be used individually, as needed, or as part of entire, automatically run regression testing campaigns. This method takes less time than manual testing, so you can cover more of your system on a regular basis.
Statistical Language Modeling Testing for Speech Recognition
If you choose to implement Statistical Language Modeling (SLM) for speech recognition, you’ll need to test the Voice User Interface (VUI) for each language, application logic, and performance at the interaction level. IVR testing platforms that are tailored to SLM can perform these tests and reduce the manual work of speech testers.
Automated IVR Test Case Updating
IVRs need to be tuned and updated constantly — whether you’re adding a promotional offer, altering the menu, or making improvements to the customer journey. If you’re not regularly testing changes to stay on top of quality, you limit your visibility and understanding of your IVR system’s overall performance and risk letting development defects sneak into production.
The best way to keep pace with changes is to employ a testing solution that automatically updates IVR test cases when you modify your call flow or make changes to recordings.
Load and Performance Testing
Call spikes are often triggered by external events that are difficult to predict. A sustained high volume of calls can put pressure on IVR software and lead to outages or failures. The most effective way to ensure that IVR software is prepared for call spikes and sustained traffic is to use a solution that automatically generates thousands of simultaneous calls. Load and performance tests put intended pressure on your system with synthetic traffic to identify potential breakpoints at individual and whole-system levels to find and address possible issues before they impact your customers.
Customer Experience Monitoring for IVR Software
Can a customer reliably connect and complete interactions with your IVR? Will your organization discover an IVR defect before the customer does? These are questions that plague many companies. An IVR testing platform that evaluates systems from the user’s perspective, mimicking their behavior and following specific customer journeys to give your business a clear view into how customers actually interact with your IVR and alert you to any problems they may encounter along the way will provide the answers.
An advanced IVR testing solution can continuously send calls into IVR software and follow call flows just like real customers. The result? Data that gives companies a clear view of their system performance from the customer’s perspective and uncovers issues before customers ever have to experience them.