Designing better phone menus


Plenty of articles have been written about those awful voice-recognition menus that many companies use for customer service. But I came across an especially bad one recently. Not only is it poor at figuring out what you want, but you have to say virtually every choice out loud. They actually removed the ability to just punch in a number for simple things like making a payment. Worse, for the areas where you can use the keypad, like entering your credit card number, there is no way to correct a mistake. Instead, it just sends you to a representative, who would probably ask you to repeat everything again. What’s more, it says “I’m sorry that you’re having trouble”, implying that the customer doesn’t know how to enter basic data.

The takeaway? When an alternate data entry method will be popular with a large set of customers (but you need to keep the other option for business or technical reasons), you should consider giving people both options. And in any event, always let users correct their mistakes without insulting them. Chances are, they’ll get it right the second time.