SIMPLIFYING IVRs Brought to you by Messages On Hold 20 tips to take your IVR from drab to fab
IVR systems have a reputation for frustrating callers rather than helping them. If you don't want to make the same mistake follow these 20 simple rules. And keep reading if you have a VoIP, IP-enabled, Hosted-PBX or Auto-Attendant system - these tips apply to you too!



How many levels is right for your system? Is there such a thing as too many? What should you do when someone makes an "invalid entry"?



How do you script your prompts so they're easy to understand and follow? What does "writing for the ear" mean? Why is language so important?



Is one voice, two voices or several voices best? Who should you use to voice each prompt? What do callers listen for in a voice?

About Us


For over 30 years Messages On Hold has been helping small and large businesses deliver outstanding caller experiences inside their IVR, VoIP or Auto-Attendant system. It's something of an art - expertly scripting, voicing, recording and mixing each recorded prompt - and something we'd very much like to share with you.

We specialise in the
following IVR recordings:

Phone Greetings

Welcome Messages

Voice Mail Greetings

Menu Prompts

Marketing Messages

Customer Announcements

Call In-Queue Messages

On Hold/Wait Messages

After Hours Announcements

Night Messages

Emergency Announcements

Music On Hold

Why Choose Messages On Hold?

There's nothing our team doesn't know about crafting the perfect caller experience inside your contact centre. We streamline the entire process by offering you the full suite of audio marketing services including IVR call flow planning, scripting, voicing, mixing and more.

It doesn't matter whether you're a Contact Centre Manager, IT professional, Marketing Manager, Brand Manager or CEO. If you want beautiful sounding voice prompts that bring your brand to life every time a customer calls, hassle-free, speak to a Messages On Hold team member today.

60+Professional Voice Over Artists


20,000+IVR Prompts

Call Flow Tips


How Many Options Is Too Many?

Your caller's time is valuable. The more options you present, the more room for caller confusion.

The Main Menu

Stick to four or less.

The 2nd Level Menu

Stick to three or less.

The 3rd Level Menu

Again, stick to three or less.


What Is The Maximum Number Of Levels Acceptable?

Three (including main menu) is plenty. Four is really pushing it. Five is simply just too many. Keep it short and sweet.


"0" Always Goes To A Live Agent

Ensure your system is programmed such that pressing "0" puts the caller through to a human. It's an industry standard.

What Is An Invalid Entry?

In a touch-tone IVR system an Invalid Entry is a pressed key that doesn't relate to an available option, or too many or too few keys entered. In a speech recognition system, an Invalid Entry is any speech pattern the system doesn't recognise.


How To Handle An Invalid Entry

Ask them to try again. The second time,
provide additional information or guidance.
The third time route the call
to a live agent.


To Barge Or Not To Barge?

Always allow callers to key ahead
at any stage.


Remember The Final Review

Is every prompt absolutely necessary and in the right place? Review and challenge all prompts and messages in your final call flow.


When To Take Callers Off Hold

Never take callers off hold to tell them "their call is important" or they're "still on hold". The pause before the announcement sounds like the agent has picked up and you risk angering callers by teasing them this way. If you want to state the obvious, include these messages in your On Hold productions.


Enough Said. I Want To Talk To The Experts!

Scripting Tips


How to Rank Options

Place the most frequently selected choices at the beginning of each menu. An obvious rule but often overlooked.


How To Construct Prompts

Callers inside your IVR are listening firstly for info that relates to their call, and secondly for which key to press. "For sales, press 2" is a better alternative to "Press 2 for sales".


Keep Commands Consistent

If pressing 9 takes the caller back to the previous menu, the same rule should apply throughout the entire call flow. If the caller presses the # key after entering data, every request for data must end with pressing the # key. It’s just logical!

Avoid Jargon

Industry-speak alienates listeners. There's always a clearer way to explain in plain English. A professional copywriter can help you spot the jargon and rewrite it.



How To Relay Information

When relaying information the caller may need at a later date, such as an order number, allow time for them to locate a pen and paper. Give notice first, let the user choose when to recite the info, and include an option to repeat at the end.


Brand Your Phone Greeting

Mentioning a point of difference or your company motto in the welcome message/phone greeting has a powerful impact and reinforces your brand. Just remember to keep it short and sharp.


Add Targeted Messages

Insert the occasional subtle marketing message into your menus - the shorter and more targeted the better. A Messages On Hold copywriter will recommend ideas.


Enough Said. I Want To Talk To The Experts!

Voicing Tips


Pace The Announcements

Too slow and callers feel like you're wasting their time. Too fast and they're likely to select the wrong option. Either way, they get frustrated and zero out. Use a professional voice over artist who'll deliver a perfect read at the perfect speed.



The delivery must sound warm and friendly. Whoever is voicing the announcements must smile to avoid sounding dull and disinterested.


How Many Voices Is Too Many?

That depends on where the caller is in the call flow.

Menu Prompts

Multiple voices prove distracting and can throw the caller off when the voice changes between prompts and menu levels. Use one voice only.

Call In-Queue, Wait Messages and On Hold Messages.

Use two. A well matched male and female duo works best at keeping the caller's attention focussed on your messaging while they wait to speak with an agent.

Don't Voice 'Down The Line'

Telephone technology and noisy offices aren't conducive to professional sounding voice recordings. Opt for a professional voiceover produced in a recording studio. (Messages On Hold has 9 studios and dozens of pro voices!)



Male Or Female Voiceover?

More than 50% of callers prefer a female voice but only by a slim margin so if your brand or products suit a male, by all means use one!


Should I Use A Staff Member?

No – never! In most cases, they’ll sound second rate. If (or when) they leave, you’ll need to record all prompts/messages again for consistency – an expensive and time consuming exercise.


Enough Said. I Want To Talk To The Experts!

What Next?

If these 20 tips have inspired you to take another look at your phone announcements, fill in the adjacent form for an obligation-free consult with one of our IVR experts.

We've learnt a lot in our 29 years of business and we'd like to share this knowledge with you. Don't accept mediocrity in any level of your phone system – have a chat with our IVR experts today and take your IVR from drab to fab.

I Want To Learn More!

Contact Us.