IVR Solutions

So how do we fix the problems with the IVR? In a word, persistence. In a little less brevity we have a few layers to tackle and the plan is to tackle each layer in order. Naturally we want to hit the problems with the biggest impact, but some of the issue will take rebuilding the system from the ground up and some will take new software from the various vendors. Therefore, like other big Goliaths, we tackle the items that will be the quickest to resolve with the biggest payback for the effort.

– Fix the script errors as quickly as we find them. As mentioned before, the number of places that something can go wrong in a system this size is staggering. So while we are looking at the system regularly to find the errors we can, the fastest way to find the issues is to foster feedback from the community that uses the system. When we hear that there is an error in the IVR we have our team take a look and attempt to fix the problem. If it is a simple “misalignment” of the script we try to correct it immediately. If it is a more complex problem, then we often have to refer back to the vendor and are therefore more constrained by their schedules.

– Work on the source of internal data issues. Unfortunately some of the errors in the IVR system are squarely our fault. Bad data in = bad data out. When we forget to include a bus stop, or we misspell one of Austin’s more creative street names, our customers feel the pain at the IVR. Along with the script errors above we will correct these as we become aware of them. But more importantly, our strategy is to work with each of the groups within Capital Metro to make sure everyone puts good data in.

– Add touch tone to every part of the script that we can. This I think is one of the biggest issues with the IVR today. When I first heard about the issues with the speech recognition, my initial reaction was to pull it. But then when I started floating the idea of dumping that feature, I had numerous reactions from people that liked that piece and that had positive interactions with the voice recognition component. In the end, the best solution seems to be ensuring that we put touch tone everywhere we can in the system along side the voice recognition, and give the callers a choice. (Shocking conclusion I know. Choices are good.)

– Rearrange the script to be simpler and easier to use. Include better structure for the voice recognition. By changing the way we approach the voice recognition prompts, by making it easier to “get out of” the IVR cycle, and by better communicating the options that a caller has at any point in the script, we believe that we will have a better product. This change will be tied in with the previous change so that what you get is a more effective tool and will allow us to better pair touch-tone and voice recognition throughout the system.

– Add additional, obvious, and beneficial functionality. This actually will be the hardest change, which is why I saved it for last. The reason new functionality is tricky is because it depends on pulling information out of other systems (sometimes 2 or 3 simultaneously) which requires coordination and boundary discussions. Of course, the easiest changes are the ones where the underlying database or application has the information you want. But it seldom seems to be that easy.

In a nutshell this is going to be a long process to fix the system. I am hoping that as we progress we can stabilize quickly, make some obvious improvements early on, and then continue to deliver a better IVR month after month into the foreseeable future. If you have ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

6 thoughts on “IVR Solutions

  1. Don Dickson

    Kirk, how many calls do you receive per day for schedule/fare/route information? (Not counting lost-and-found, complaint calls and other miscellaneous stuff.)

  2. Kraft

    I can understand the challenges in improving this system.

    My two major issues with the system, both of which I think would be solved with a touch-tone option.

    1. When a call is first placed, there’s a prompt asking to say something for Spanish. Most of the time when I call, I’m outside because I’m making up a new route away from my computer. Way too often, a car driving by or the wind picking up during that initial “wait for English” time period will switch me over to Spanish.

    I have no idea how to exit that without hanging up and reattempting the call.

    (Not to mention, it’ll be nice to be able to press something and kill the time that English-speakers must just wait through now.)

    2. Secondly and related, it can be really difficult for the system to understand the prompt responses over background noice. Folks probably think I have some issues that I need to work through when they see me yelling “INTERSECTION!” into my phone after multiple failures.

    Thankfully, Google Maps on Blackberry now does CapMetro trip planning…

    (OT: Is there any way to purchase the old Destinations book? The System Map is nice, but sometimes you just want to see one route. I have a family event coming up soon and the System Map would confuse all of the out of town visitors.]

  3. Erica McKewen

    Kraft: Thanks for the feedback. Regarding the Destinations book, yep, it’s still available, and you can buy it for $1 at your local HEB store or our Transit Store on Congress @ 3rd Street.

  4. Erica McKewen

    Very belated, kraft, but I failed to mention that we have pocket schedules for all of our routes… individual maps and schedules for each route. These are free and are available on most buses.

  5. Kirk Talbott


    Sorry for the delay, but I wanted to get you the accurate numbers.

    In the month of May, Capital Metro took 137,312 calls on our Go Line. Of that, 60,318 calls (or almost 44% of all calls) were handled by the IVR system.

    We do not have reports that detail the call type breakout like you asked about, but our professional estimate is that about 90% – 95% of all inbound calls are related to schedule/fare/route requests. So the math works out to 1910 calls a day were handled by the IVR on these topics.

    Does that give you the info you were looking for?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s