Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menus are a quick and easy way to enhance the customer support experience that your company can offer over the phone. They allow callers to navigate through self-service menus by pressing numbers on their keypads or by speaking with an automated conversational response system. 

IVRs that are properly set up will spare customers the headache of enduring long, awkward wait times while also helping them find answers to their queries without the help of a human agent. 

“Properly set up” is the key phrase here, of course, because a half-baked menu can do more harm than good. In particular, a bad IVR may lead a call center to suffer from high call abandonment rates, which is a strong indication that it needs changes right away.

5 Reasons Your Customers Are Hanging Up (and What to Do About It)

1. Your IVR Menu Is Painfully Long

The problem:

An overly complex IVR menu can annoy or bore your customers so much that they decide to drop the call. This is obviously counterproductive, as IVR systems are meant to help customers fix their issues quickly.

Naturally, having a maze of menu options will do anything but that—especially if it forces customers to wait until the IVR finishes reading out every single menu option without giving them the option to skip ahead. 

Furthermore, if this happens on every single sub-menu as well, it can make customers feel like they’re in a never-ending nightmare—like Bill Murray’s character in the movie Groundhog Day. 

The fix: 

No matter how tempting it is fill your IVR menu with endless options, just keep it simple. Ideally, your IVR system should include around three to five menu options, and its sub-menus should follow the same format.

Try to put your most popular menu items at the beginning. If the majority of your callers are looking for technical support, for example, make that your first menu option. 

Also, keep the IVR’s wording concise. Every second counts, so adding a bunch of unnecessary words can test your customer’s patience for no reason. 

For instance, a prompt that goes, “If you would like to contact our customer support team, please press the number two on your keypad,” can easily be cut down to something like this instead: “For customer support inquiries, press two.” That’s a twelve-word difference. 

2. There’s No Option To Speak to an Agent Immediately

The problem:

IVR menus facilitate a variety of self-service options so that customers can take care of routine inquiries like making bookings, paying bills, and checking their account balances—but some inquiries are more complex than others and require live support right away. 

Lacking the option to go straight to an agent is a big no-no in IVR design. 

Without it, customers facing difficult issues will find your IVR system to be completely useless, and they’ll probably avoid doing business with you again. 

The fix:

Don’t make callers wait until your IVR system tells them they can press a number to contact support. It’s frustrating, especially for repeat callers who are already familiar with your menu. 

A barge-in option will fix this issue. It allows customers to press the button and get in line to speak with an agent without waiting for the IVR system to finish reading the full menu.

Although putting customers on hold is sometimes inevitable, you can bring up time estimates or mention their place in the queue to let them know how long it may take to reach an agent. 

This information gives them a sense of assurance, which helps minimize call abandonments. Offering a call-back option is also handy. This gives customers the choice to be called back by the company at a later time without losing their place in line. 

3. Your IVR Menu Is a Pain to Interact With 

The problem: 

IVRs with limited interactivity options can become unusable to customers in specific situations. 

For instance, people who have speech difficulties or impairments will find voice-only IVRs to be a nightmare. In contrast, someone who makes a lot of hands-free calls while driving will probably feel the same way about needing to press keys in order to reach a live agent. 

The fix: 

Lean into accessibility features and make sure your customers can interact with your IVR in whichever ways they prefer. Allow for both button and voice responses, and include visual display prompts whenever possible to help out those with hearing difficulties.

For more complex inquiries, you can also offer customers the option to type in their requests via a mobile app or SMS messaging. 

Visual IVRs (VIVRs) can also do the trick here, as they are web app versions of standard IVRs. They allow customers to navigate through your IVR menu on their preferred browsers via visual queues such as on-screen prompts, interactive buttons, and other icons. 

 4. You Ask The Same Questions Over and Over Again

The problem: 

Suppose you call up a company’s service center to make a payment via its IVR menu, so the system starts by asking you for your personal verification details (which can take a while), and then it transfers you over to a live agent to process the payment. 

After a few minutes on hold, you finally get to an agent who asks you the same exact details you already provided to the IVR. 

Now imagine that the next time you go to make a payment, the same thing happens. If you’re not a fool, you’ll probably look for other ways to handle your payment next time around.  

The same idea applies to other situations, too. For instance, if a customer initially tries to solve a problem via a chatbot before resorting to the IVR system to reach a live agent (who asks the same questions as the chatbot), they’ll probably look for other methods or go straight to the live agent next time. 

The fix:  

In terms of payments, it’s best to avoid forcing people to wait for agent verifications and instead give them a way to provide details one time at the beginning of the call. You can take care of this by implementing a self-service IVR payment system, which can even bypass the need for live agents altogether. 

Nevertheless, if you still need a live agent for some reason, you can link your customer database with an ANI (Automated Number Identification) service. This allows agents to view and confirm the caller’s identity independently—no questions necessary.  

To avoid other cases of redundancy, you should integrate all your communication channels and link them to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This will help centralize all your communication touchpoints and customer data so that agents can track previous interactions and quickly pull up the necessary info to provide a personalized support experience. 

5. Your IVR Menu Is Unforgiving 

The problem: 

Mistakes happen. 

If a customer accidentally presses the wrong option or punches in a number that’s not even assigned to your menu, providing no way of turning back other than hanging up and calling again can lead to a pretty miserable experience. 

Although it may not seem like much, this issue is still pretty common—and it drives customers crazy.

The fix:

Give callers the option to backtrack through the menu via a dedicated number on the keypad—and bring it up when the IVR talks through the different menu options. 

Moreover, set up activity triggers so that a live agent will step in if a customer selects a non-existent option or goes back and forth through menu options for too long. This helps minimize call abandonments.   

5 (Additional) Signs It’s Time to Fix Your IVR Menu

Although call abandonment rates often occupy the top spot in any call center’s watchlist of KPIs, there are several other metrics that can tell you that something is wrong with your IVR menu. 

1. Low Call Containment Rate 

Also known as the self-service completion rate, this metric reveals the percentage of customers who handle their inquiries through the IVR system without any live agent intervention. 

An IVR system is designed for this, so a low call containment rate indicates that your IVR menu is ineffective. This means more callers are sent to live agents, ultimately putting more strain on your customer support team. 

This can be due to a number of reasons. For example, if your IVR lacks important self-service options or its menu is too long and confusing, you can expect most callers to opt for human assistance. 

The best way to figure out what’s going on here is to ask your customers straight up. Consider conducting a survey to ask callers what they think about your IVR system and how it can be improved. 

2. Poor CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) 

Speaking of surveys, you can also use them to measure customer satisfaction. These particular surveys can include a series of questions regarding your IVR system’s ease of use, functionality, and even voice quality (of the prompts). 

If you ask recipients to give a score from one to five across each category, for example, you can determine your respective CSAT figures by dividing the number of customers who gave positive results by the total number of respondents. 

Keep in mind that you can calculate this for the full survey as a whole or for each question individually. A low CSAT score can point to the reason (or reasons) why you’ve got a low call containment rate—and that you have some work to do. 

3. High AHT (Average Handle Time) 

This metric measures the average time it takes for customer issues to be resolved. It includes all the time spent waiting on hold, talking to agents, making callbacks, and interacting with the IVR system itself. 

A high AHT indicates that your call flow has a bottleneck in one or multiple locations. You can cross-reference this metric with your IVR’s average call duration (excluding live agent conversations) to determine whether the problem happens on the IVR or agent front.  

4. High Opt-Out Rates

Opt-out (or zero-out) rates highlight the percentage of callers who choose to bypass the IVR system entirely and go straight to a live agent instead. 

Undoubtedly, high opt-outs are a tell-tale sign that most customers think your IVR system is either too unhelpful, too slow, too ineffective, or too confusing. 

You can cross-reference this metric with your call containment rate to confirm whether your IVR has an issue—because high opt-outs plus low call containments equals a bad IVR. 

Nevertheless, there may be one silver lining to a high opt-out rate—because, unlike high call abandonment rates, which tell you that callers are giving up and hanging up, opt-outs merely indicate that customers are still willing to contact your live agents. This might mean that your support team is doing a great job and that your wait times are tolerably low. 

5. Low FCR (First Call Resolution) Rate 

The FCR metric refers to the number of customer calls that are solved on the first attempt. 

First and foremost, a low FCR may indicate that your customer support team is not quite trained well enough to solve the majority of customer issues quickly and effectively (assuming they can all be solved quickly and effectively).

In general, you want your FCR to be as high as possible, but you need to put things into perspective to figure out why it might be lower than expected—because it may involve one or several other metrics. 

For instance, if you have low call containments with a high FCR, it could mean that a lot of your customers are getting through to your agents to help them with routine issues. In this case, expanding on your self-service options might be a good remedy.  

How to Prevent IVR Menu Problems In the First Place

Many call centers focus on the wrong analytical data and don’t have the systems in place to monitor and manage their IVR menus properly. This causes them to take a hit in terms of customer satisfaction and probably leads to some unwanted extra costs.

That said, here’s a few tips that will help you avoid IVR issues from the get-go.

1. Take A User-Centric Approach 

Designing an IVR menu with your callers in mind will help you nail down the best practices right off the bat. 

Strive for convenience and pay attention to data from your existing customer support channels to pinpoint what users want and what they may find most useful in an IVR system. 

Again, prioritize accessibility, ease of use, and self-service options. You want your customers to go through your IVR as smoothly as possible. If you have customers from all across the globe, it’s a good idea to add multi-language support.

2. Continuously Monitor IVR Performance 

Call center metrics are not a one-time thing. Keeping a watchful eye on your IVR will help you spot any potential issues before they grow bigger.

This is especially true when you implement changes to your system—which you should also do one at a time. 

Luckily, plenty of popular call center software solutions, like Nextiva, offer IVR-specific analytics to help you keep track of everything.

3. Unify All Communications 

You should never rely on your IVR as the only customer touchpoint, as some users prefer live chat, email, SMS, or even social media for their support channel needs. Giving customers as many as possible ways to reach out to you is an intricate part of making everyone happy. 

Most importantly, all your communication channels should be under one roof. This allows support agents to jump from one channel to the other without missing a beat—and without increasing customer wait times. 

Additionally, having an omnichannel approach centralizes all of your customer data, which can be handy for other departments, especially sales and marketing teams that use VoIP phone systems.

Most VoIP providers that offer unified solutions with video, text, and voice chat come with IVR features included. You can also integrate them with your CRM and any call-tracking software you have so that all the necessary customer information is right at your agents’ fingertips. 


IVRs are a quick and easy way to increase customer satisfaction levels and boost your support team’s overall productivity, but a poorly set up menu can ruin it all just as fast. 

Nevertheless, as long as you take your IVR menu seriously, build it with your customers in mind, and continuously monitor its performance, you’ll have an entire world of opportunities to provide a great customer service experience to anyone who calls in.