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Apr 2013

How to make those frustrating automated response systems accessible – Part 2

Automated telephone systems (also called Interactive Voice Response systems, or IVRs), whether in private companies or offices, don’t respect best practices in the design of voice user interfaces and in particular don’t adapt to their users’ reality.

We present here the second of a series of blogs about the accessibility of IVRs focusing on the first issue we observed in IVR: the terminology.

As a reminder, here are the most common problems found in RVIs:

  1. 43% of problems:  Terminology (choice of terms not adapted for the audio mode, etc.)
  2. 19% of problems:  Guidance and navigation (number of options, etc.)
  3. 19% of problems:  Mental workload (length of messages, amount of information, etc.)
  4. 7% of problems:  Adaptability (access to a representative, prosody, articulation and vocal timbre, etc.)
  5. 12% of problems:  Combination of two or more of the above factors.

We explored how to improve the terminology in a previous post. I invite you to read it again.
This previous post explained what elements were important to take into consideration when designing voice interfaces:

  1. Choice of words
  2. The simplicity of instructions
  3. The precision and clarity of the messages
  4. The consistency of vocabulary
  5. The popularization of vocabulary

It is essential to consider these elements to design clear instructions and create an effective navigation in the system, but it is also important to validate the terminology with illiterate people to ensure they understand all the terms. Why?
Because 1.3 million Quebecers aged 16 years and over have serious difficulties reading and writing (their literacy level doesn’t go beyond levels 1 and 2**) and 36% of young Quebecers (16 to 25 years old) are illiterate.
Because these people have to use the phone to access their information: they cannot read the information on a website or a paper brochure and even going directly to those institutions can be difficult when it comes to finding the names of the streets.
Because the following terms may not be understood by more than 1.3 million Quebecers:

  • “Menu”
  • “Directory”
  • “Radiology”

We must therefore use simple and non-ambiguous words such as:
Ex1: “cut the branches” instead of “pruning”.
Ex2: “address and phone number” instead of “contact details”
Ex3: “blood test” instead of “swab”

The goal is not to reduce language to a minimum level but rather to minimize the use of confusing expressions and unknown terms so that these users can access information more easily.

* According to an international study (in French)
Read also: LeDevoir. Article “Scolarisés et analphabètes” (in French)

**Here is a quick summary of literacy levels:

  • Level 1: The person can sign his/her name but is unable to recognize the alphabet, such as to correctly pronounce a word like “banana”.
  • Level 2: The person can read newspaper headlines but not the articles. They have a limited vocabulary.
  • Level 3: The person can read and understand the information. E.g.: Journal de Montréal? Yes. La Presse? A few articles. Le Devoir? Not at all.
  • Levels 4 and 5: The person can process complex information.

People need literacy level 3 to obtain a high school diploma, get a basic job or process the information needed to keep in good health.


Source: New feed1

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