Is your IVR system ruining your S.H.I.T score?

Before your imaginations run wild, let me mention that Citibank secured a commendable 3 minutes as their S.H.I.T score while Amazon scored 1 minute. S.H.I.T scores reveal how much businesses care about their callers. In fact, we think it is the most important parameter to consider while setting up your IVR system.   

Why IVR?

IVR or Interactive Voice Response systems debuted in the 1980s and was rightly balked at for being crude and visibly robotic. Nevertheless, businesses implemented IVR as the de facto system for receiving calls owing to cost savings. Do businesses implement IVR only to save cost? Why do people hate IVR? And how is IVR connected to S.H.I.T?

IVR removes manual routing of calls thereby saving valuable time for callers and businesses alike. The time saved here leads to reduced wait times for callers. Phone teams are able to engage in more conversations than before. I recently conducted a survey asking people to share their IVR experiences. Respondents believe that businesses understand their problems better when they navigate via an IVR. However, they also felt that brands needed to put in more efforts to iron out the deficiencies in the system.

What does a typical IVR System look like?

Typically, an IVR system consists of

  • Welcome messages
  • User input based call flow
  • Hold messages
  • Hold music

IVR system in action An IVR system in action


A caller navigates through one or all of these before being able to speak to the phone team. With the advent of other conversation channels, the volume of phone calls may have changed. However, its importance has actually enhanced because you get calls when someone needs an urgent fix or other conversation channels have failed to fulfill needs.

Callers are making the choice of picking up their phone and talking to you directly instead of moving on to a different brand.

A chance then to redeem yourself by striking a fabulous conversation that removes all queries or worries from their minds.

To have a great conversation it is important for the set-up to be conducive. We all have our own prerequisites for good conversations. Some prefer quiet places, others love a cup of coffee with crisply burnt toast or a chess game (my favorite). Similarly, you need to impress such that your callers feel compelled to strike up a conversation. The call journey assumes great importance in order to suitably impress your callers.

The objective of every caller is to reach that person from your team who can fulfil their needs. Everything else that happens during this navigation is delaying the fulfilment of objectives for the caller.

We are going to label the time spent to reach the right person as the Seek Human Interval Time or S.H.I.T. When customers complain about your phone systems, it is usually about their S.H.I.T experience.

What is S.H.I.T or Seek Human Interval Time?

Calls to the Citibank helpline are answered by an IVR system.  We can select our preferred language before being asked to enter card or account details followed by a personal identity verifier. We can choose options to solve our specific banking queries or press 0 to strike a conversation with their phone team. It takes 3 minutes on an average to speak to a human. Yes, three minutes is probably for the shortest route to a human and there are more complex routes that might take longer. However, kudos to Citibank for providing the option of talking directly to a person from anywhere in their IVR menu.

Amazon offers you a toll-free number with just three options – Sales, Support, and everything else in the world. Yes, they may have millions of products but their IVR has only three options on the first level. From a caller’s perspective, the S.H.I.T for Amazon is only a minute. Take a moment to let that sink in. These are huge institutions that can get away with a large S.H.I.T score. In spite of their call volumes, they have stuck true to their customer needs. 

Modern-day call center solutions like Freshcaller do provide various options to make the experience better. However, while call center solutions do provide features to reduce the S.H.I.T score; it is the businesses themselves who need to utilize the capabilities better. We want all businesses (partners & rivals) to reduce S.H.I.T and become better. So without further ado, presenting 5 simple ways reduce your S.H.I.T.

5 best practices for your IVR system to reduce your S.H.I.T

1) Stop hiding the ‘talk to our agent’ option

Standard practices dictate that you dedicate one key-press in your IVR system to connect your caller with an agent. Businesses typically use ‘0’ to connect callers to the agents.

Are you priding yourself in cleverly restricting the number of calls to your agents? Did you accomplish this amazing task by hiding the option deep within where no sunlight or caller can penetrate? Nothing infuriates a caller more than having to work out where you have hidden the ‘talk to our agent’ option.

2) Sound friendly & warm

Make the conversation casual. Your phone system should be smart enough to let you record or upload your voice in addition to the default Text-to-Speech capability.

People make phone calls to talk to someone and fulfill their needs. They are expecting to have a conversation that is going to help them feel better.  Your on-hold messages need to sound as close to a real human interaction as possible.

3) Do not convert your IVR system into a Mario game

It is not advisable to announce more than 5 options in the first level of IVR. And definitely not more than 3 options in your second and third levels.

If you are wondering what happens below level 3, your customer is looking for a better partner, one who is available for an actual conversation as opposed to hiding behind artificially constructed walls.

4) Stop self-promotion in hold messages

It is highly doubtful that someone making a phone call to make an urgent complaint enjoys listening to your promotional messages.

While there are reports that suggest playing promotional messages increases sales, we would advise you against it. Your callers are not there to listen to your promotional messages. But that doesn’t mean, you cannot humor your callers or play them some good music. Invest in a good catalog and entertain them.

5) Remember preferences

Make me feel special by remembering my preferences.

IVRs typically ask for your language/location preferences. However, if these preferences are asked every single time, it is bound to be harmful to the caller experience. Request for a preference, save it and provide your callers with an option to modify it directly using the IVR menu. 

If you want us to calculate S.H.I.T for your company or your favorite (or not) brands, leave us a comment below.

Illustrations by Karthikeyan Ganesh

The characters used herein are owned by Warner Bros.Animation and have been used for illustrative purposes only. Warner Bros.Animation is not associated with Freshworks and does not endorse any of the Freshworks products or services.