The IVR Clinic – with Allison Smith: #8 of The 15 Commandments of IVR

By Allison Smith

The 15 Commandments of IVR – Commandment #8: “Thou Shalt Not Give Directions to Your Office/Facility”

We’ve probably all heard the option in a typical IVR tree, offering “…for directions to our office, press 7”. You have also probably speculated as to whether or not anyone actually makes use of that option, and whether the option is even remotely necessary, especially with the prevalence of GPS mapping available in most hand held PDA devices, and being pretty much standard in most newer cars.

I can tell you that almost every day I have to read extremely long, convoluted, and complicated instructions on how clients can make their way to offices, which I record for IVR trees for both Asterisk and non-Asterisk customers – it’s a feature of the phone tree which people think of as a courtesy; a necessity, and a lovely considerate “extra” to work into their menu.

What seldom gets taken into consideration is how overwhelming it is for clients to hear a description of each turn onto every off-ramp described as you approach the office from all possible directions – and some of them can get frighteningly detailed: (“…drive to the end of Storwich Road. Keep left and take the traffic circle, exiting at the first left. You’ll see a Piggly Wiggly on the left, and a war memorial on the right. Turn right at the war memorial. Drive 1.5 miles. If you pass the Staples to your left and the Starbucks to your right, you’ve gone too far.”) Additionally, no one can possibly listen to the instructions as they’re driving and make all necessary turns, real-time — as the message is playing — the same way that a GPS “meters” out the instructions, mapped by your position in relation to the next instructed landmark.

It’s one of those aspects of the modern phone tree which many people feel compelled to include. My “IVR Dojos” and I agree: they’re time-wasting, they’re by and large obsolete, and IVR menus would be refreshingly more concise and streamlined without in-depth directional instructions. How wonderful, instead, would it be to hear: “We’re located off Drake Avenue, in the Fisher Medical Park. Program 1225 Fisher Lane, Detroit, Michigan into any GPS-enabled device for detailed directions to our facility.”

Wonderful simplicity! An economy of information. And I guarantee: less overwhelmed customers.

Thanks for reading, and when we pick up the “15 Commandments of IVR” Series in about two weeks time, we will delve into a very pivotal, but surprisingly often-neglected aspect of IVR scripts: “#9: Give a Pronunciation Guide for Proper Names and Place Names” – sometimes tricky challenges of pronunciation, for which I get surprisingly little coaching!

Thanks for reading. Comments are most welcomed!

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About the Author

Allison Smith

If you’ve listened to the public airwaves, used an automated phone system, participated in a phone survey, or even used a talking thermostat, you’re familiar with Allison Smith. One of the most prevalent telephone voices in the world today, Allison has voiced platforms for Vonage, Bell Canada, Cingular, Verizon, Qwest, Twitterfone, Hawaiian Telcom – as well as being the voice of the Asterisk Open Source PBX. Clients include Marriot Hotels, 3M, Pfizer, Toyota, Victoria’s Secret, Bank of America and EBay among many others. Her website is and

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