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The Importance of IVR Testing

Interactive voice response (IVR) is changing the way customers and businesses interact, changing business communications for the better. Its market growth alone has been explosive — hinting at the growing demand for such technology. In 2016, IVR software was valued at $3.4 billion. By 2023, the market is expected to reach $5.54 billion. If you’ve ever picked up the phone and talked to a helpful automated voice, then you’re at least somewhat familiar with IVR software.

Today’s IVR hardware and software is a far cry from those glitchy, annoying, often reviled systems of the past. Producers of IVR equipment have been responsive to past criticisms, and have been working to deliver functionality that is smoother and more capable than before. But, as the technology becomes more sophisticated, businesses need to look out for complex issues. This is where IVR testing comes in.

Testing is the best way to uncover issues in IVR systems before they can lead to headaches for a potential customer. The voice recognition software used in IVRs was once notorious for its inaccuracy. The first IVR systems faced criticisms from customers who preferred a human element to their phone calls. However, as IVR systems became better equipped with the capabilities of machine learning, many have come to recognize IVR technology as an invaluable asset.

What Is IVR Technology?

IVR is the brains behind automated telephone systems. It relies on a computerized voice to relay and collect information. An IVR system may use voice input in combination with a user’s phone keypad to compile accurate information. With the information it gathers, it’s also capable of routing calls to the appropriate party.

How Does IVR Work?

IVR technology uses pre-recorded responses to engage customers in conversation. With the use of computer telephony integration, IVR systems can send acquired data to a human associate to view. IVR systems also make use of dual-tone multi-frequency signals — essentially what is generated when you press a phone’s dial keys — to form a line of communication between the phone and a computer that can read and understand the data via a telephony board.

An IVR system typically processes a call in four steps. The first step occurs when the customer calls your business. The IVR system responds. Then, it follows up with a list of options. Normally, these include the main menu, a set of answers to frequently asked questions, and a means of transferring the human caller to customer service. In the last step, if deemed necessary, the caller is connected with a human customer service representative.

The specific programming of IVR systems is achieved through a language called Voice Extensible Markup Language (VXML). This language is deployed to ensure that an inbound phone call can establish a live connection with the internet network. The brains of this system includes a web server and its databases, a VXML telephony server, a TCP/IP network, and the telephone network itself. They all serve a fundamental role in a basic IVR system.

How Does IVR Testing Work?

As IVR software continues to be upgraded, IVR test scripts are responsible for keeping up with the new code. Such scripts must be able to validate the efficacy of a voice portal, VXML application, speech recognition software, text-to-speech, Internet Protocol (IP) telephony and voice user interface (VUI). A business that runs an IVR system has to be aware of the risks to these components, and must update them as their needs evolve. Working with this infrastructure requires that your business has optimal functionality for its IVR system.

More advanced IVR systems deploy technologies like visual IVR, voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI), and user interfaces for conversations. Of course, this makes IVR testing an even more complicated task than it was in the past. Luckily, testing for these technologies does exist.

Comprehensive IVR testing tools should be able to:

  • Document the processes of IVR testing
  • Test for the functionality of past and new software
  • Test for speech recognition with statistical language modeling (SLM)
  • Automate the updates of test cases when changes are made
  • Track consumer experiences
  • Prepare for call spikes

Why Is IVR Testing Important?

As established, IVR systems depend on several technologies to function. This is perhaps why it is considered a system rather than a single technology. Each technology that is integral to IVR has to be tested for customer satisfaction. This has to happen both regularly and efficiently. The only way for your businesses to reap the full benefits of IVR is through competent IVR testing.

Advantages of IVR

The principal advantage of IVR for businesses is that it saves time and money. Not all questions need the attention of a professional who could better serve customers elsewhere. IVR can ensure that all customers are addressed, providing them with the help they need without diverting critical resources. Even if a customer needs to be directed to a human caller later in the conversation, traversing from general categories to the more specific needs of the given customer with an IVR system can be remarkably convenient to the live operator who eventually connects with the customer.

IVR is excellent when it comes to distributing information to a wide audience. Your business could use alternatives like text messages (SMS) or emails. SMS garners high interaction rates, but it can be difficult to tell if the contact information you have is for a landline, or if the customer isn’t a fan of text messages. Additionally, though cellphones are commonplace, SMS messages only have a 160 character limit, and emails are often ignored.

Using an IVR system increases customer satisfaction. There are no wait times and thus less frustration. Likewise, since IVR systems depend on computers, not people, their service is constant, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no interruptions in between.

Advantages of IVR Testing

Voice recognition is generally the biggest target of IVR testing. In the past, customers who interacted with IVR were critical of the system because of its inability to hear them correctly. With the latest improvements, however, IVR saves businesses millions of dollars each year.

More generally, IVR testing can monitor customer satisfaction. Any problem that customers have — from bad scripting to long menus — can be resolved with direct feedback. Customers need to be log complaints and get support and guidance. IVR testing is one way to enhance customer relations through reliable software.

Problems With IVR and IVR Testing

IVR Testing didn’t come about without due prompting. It was the result of a decade or two of customer complaints. At first, customers complained that they couldn’t get the attention of a human agent. But in reality, the situation was a bit more complex.

Old IVR Issues

Old IVR systems could not understand the needs of customers, quite literally. The speech recognition software was not ideal at that time, and customers didn’t appreciate a computer voice telling them that they couldn’t be understood. Something as innocuous as a cough or distant background noise could easily disrupt the functions of an IVR system.

Artificial intelligence is one of a few solutions to this. AI refers to a software that emulates human intelligence and can learn and adapt to new stimuli. The benefit of this is clear. With the use of AI, an IVR system — rather than list static pre-recorded list of responses — could interact as its own agent, just like a human. The specific applications of AI for IVR systems are in natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition.

Once IVR systems improved and were better able to interpret content, customers were less concerned with having conversations with a computer — so long as the computer could answer their questions.

New IVR Issues

As old problems are resolved, new problems arise. Integration has quickly become the largest worry for businesses using IVR. Businesses are aware that IVR systems have improved. However, they are not always compatible with pre-existing technology.

VUI is one of the new technologies of current IVR systems. VUIs enable spoken interactions between a computer and a user. It is similar to IVR except VUIs are usually placed in cars or smart speakers, like those from Google (Home) and Amazon (Echo). This has also prompted the creation of visual IVR systems, which personalize support by offering a friendly graphic interface. The switch from landlines to this type of interaction is a challenge for many businesses. Without the capacity to accommodate, many businesses have stagnated the growth of their IVR systems.

Badly integrated systems are also more difficult to test, making it harder for them to improve without extra resources. Some companies provide testing that considers problems with integration and updates documentation accordingly, so businesses can be better prepared.

Different Types of IVR Testing

IVR is a multibillion-dollar business which will only grow in demand — creating an essential need for constant improvements to the underlying technology. To do this, IVR testing is imperative. Every facet of IVR systems and the related technologies should be tested critically. This way, your business can ensure your customers experience continued satisfaction with your IVR system.

In the past, businesses had to choose between speed and quality in IVR development. This is because IVR testing then relied heavily on manual work. Now, the key to solving this dilemma is to realize the advantages of automated IVR testing. A holistic approach to IVR includes several different testing types.

IVR Discovery and Documentation Testing

Discovery and documentation testing addresses the lack of knowledge around new IVR software. Businesses that update old IVR systems to new technology often do this manually. It’s important to document what an update entails. When businesses migrate or modify IVR systems, they should have a clear idea of how these IVR systems were designed in the first place.

Automated IVR Functional and Regression Testing

These testing types are also closely related to integration procedures. Functional testing ensures that the development of new software fits any requirements and works as it should. Regression testing checks that old software is compatible with new software and functions as it did before.

Statistical Language Modeling Testing

Statistical Language Modeling (SLM) is a means of developing probability models. This is most helpful for speech recognition. It tests speech patterns at each level and language. An automated tool for SLM testing reduces the need for the manual labor of speech testing by humans.

Automated IVR Test Case Updating

As IVR systems are constantly updated, businesses must keep track of each test case. This is another way to document technical information. But instead of words, businesses have a responsibility to maintain the most current code of IVR test scripts. Saving test cases automatically streamlines this operation.

Load Testing

Load testing is a type of testing that stimulates an IVR system under stress or during a call spike. Too many callers can overload an IVR system if a business hasn’t taken precautions. Therefore, IVR software needs to be specially equipped to handle times of increased call volumes.

Customer Experience Monitoring

One crucial IVR tool is customer experience monitoring. This simply allows businesses to tune in to the desires of their customers. Finding IVR defects before the customer does sets your business above others and grows the IVR industry. Listening to complaints after a customer’s interaction with the software is paramount in the future development of IVR and IVR testing.

Learn More About IVR Testing

Automated IVR testing has changed the playing field for businesses everywhere. With an efficient IVR system, you can reduce overall operational costs and improve customer service significantly. If you’re a business owner, your primary goals should be to advocate for your customers and approach production with an innovative mindset. The first goal can be attained through close and constructive communication. Knowing your customer’s needs and wants is imperative. The implementation of IVR is an essential step towards this knowledge.

It is your responsibility to put in place effective communication systems between your business and client. IVR testing can help you reach that level of communication. IVR testing also serves the second goal, innovative production, by providing an automated process. Automated processes are key to running your business smoothly. The right IVR tools can promise ease of use when it comes to how clients engage with your IVR system.

To attain this goal, you’ll once again need to be creative. Consolidated Technologies, Inc. has nearly a quarter of a century of experience in providing companies with unified communications solutions. This means we are experts in managing your information technology software, whether it be IVR or something else entirely, and we can build an integrated system to handle it all. We believe in catering solutions to your specific needs, so you can best help your customers with theirs. To learn more about IVR testing and other communications options from Consolidated Technologies, Inc., contact us now.

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