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Don’t make me think: Why traditional call center voice AI doesn’t work

December 6, 2023


There’s a concept in web design called Don’t Make Me Think. It was coined by Steve Krug in his book of the same name, published in 2000.

The concept is really as simple as it sounds. Web interfaces should be as simple and easy to use as possible. They should be intuitive. Users should not have to think or work out how to take certain actions.

Now some of this has made its way into traditional IVR design.

In the book, he points out that people are good at satisficing or taking the first available solution to their problem. And typically, when designing an IVR, we put the most common call type or action first to make it easier for callers.

But there are so many instances where we’ve HAD to make callers think because of limitations in staffing and technology.

Consider a typical touchtone IVR – press 1 for this, press 2 for that. It’s really easy for customers to choose the wrong options and get stuck. That’s because your customer doesn’t know your business logic.

Your call center has specialized agents dealing with different call types. But your customer doesn’t know that Agent 1 can only help with task A, whereas Agent 2 can help with tasks 2 and 4, and so on. Your callers are left trying to decipher which option best suits their query, according to your business logic.

The same goes for conversational IVRs – “Please tell me in a few words why you’re calling.”

Most people are not succinct by nature. We want to lay out the problem we’re facing in full so we can trust that the response has taken everything into account. Forcing me to be succinct means I have to think, what words will this system understand? This requires extra effort on the part of the customer.

Then there’s the effort involved in having to repeat yourself if speech recognition fails, or if the system doesn’t recognize that you already gave a certain piece of information earlier in the call, or maybe you change your mind and the system doesn’t understand.

There are so many ways in which we’re forcing customers to think, to work hard so they can access support.

Call center voice AI should be intuitive for customers. They should know exactly what they need to say without having to think about it, much like they do when speaking with a live agent.

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