Saturday, January 10, 2009

Closing the Dialog -- Part I

Dialogs with IVR systems end in one of five ways: (1) the user hangs up, (2) the user requests to end the dialog, (3) the user requests to be directed to a human agent, (4) the system determines that the dialog has reached its end and decides to end the call, or (5) the system determines that the user needs to be directed to an agent.

There is little that the system can do in reaction to case (1). For the other scenarios, we provide in the next few posts some guidelines that should be kept in mind on how to design the closing of a dialog.


1. Allow the users to explicitly end the dialog

In a dialog contexts where a valid user option is for the user to simply hang up (e.g., after they have successfully executed a transfer and are back to the main menu), let the user know that they can say, “goodbye” or simply hang up. Make sure you include the option of saying “goodbye,” since many users find it unnatural (and impolite) to end a conversation by simply hanging up.

System: Main menu. You can say, “Check balance”, “Withdraw funds”, or “Transfer funds.” If you are done, you can say “Goodbye” or simply hang up.

2. Allow the user to request a human agent

You should let users know, especially when they are having trouble using the system, that they have the option to be connected to an agent.

3. When transferring and the user has to be queued, provide a waiting time estimate

If transferring to an agent, provide the user with an estimate of the time the user will need to wait prior to talking to a human.