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Easy solution to a user-friendly, automated telephone system menu?

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Question: “Because of budget cutbacks, we had to lay off our telephone switchboard operator and convert to an automated telephone system. By dialing 0, patrons can still talk to a live person.  Many bypass the menu and immediately dial 0. We are a public library, and we composed our own menu options. It is difficult to navigate and much too long and wordy. Any suggestions for making the menu more user friendly?” — Kate Zimmerly

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kate March 31, 2009 at 9:34 am

LaToya: Thanks for the helpful hints! I’d like to check out your website. Will you provice me with the address? My email is zimmerlyk@limalibrary.com. Thanks so much.


LaToya Davidson March 30, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I’m the Assistant Director for a public library system and we’ve been using a phone system for several years now. I like the suggestion of placing the “if you know your party’s extension” first. We also do list the most frequently used options first. However, one thing to keep in mind is to speak in terms patrons understand. I have tweaked our system several times and patrons seem to have difficulty understanding that ‘renewals’ is the same thing as ‘re-checking’ out their books. And of course most people say they hate that they don’t get a live person when they call in. However, if they would actually listen to the options they would see that all of their possible needs are addressed. Feel free to check out our website which roughly spells out what our phone message says. It’s on the “Administrative Staff” page. As for the taking out the ‘0 option’ that’s not possible with our present system. We have to designate an operator.


Barb G March 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm

If possible, I would suggest you do not have an option that someone can press 0 on the main menu of it, at least get to the correct department first. Good luck!


mary March 25, 2009 at 2:16 pm

It’s possible that people don’t know the extension they need as they have always been directed by the switchboard. As a library, maybe you could make a “bookmark” to include at checkout listing your various extensions. Then have the option of entering that extension at any time.


Karen March 23, 2009 at 12:48 pm

If you haven’t already done this, I suggest evaluating where most of the calls should be going and have those options listed first. As celt365 said, start with “If you know your party’s extension…”. Then make the next option the one most used. You may even want an option for hours of operation early on in your menu – I bet that’s a popular one.


celt365 March 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm

If possible, try to have the first option (right after the greeting) be something like “If you know your party’s extension you may dial it at any time.” Then go right to Option 2: The extension list. List everyone sorted by Last name, first name or extension number. Leave (Option 3) the “Dial “0” for the Front Desk” until the end. Brevity is key here as well as clarity. Unfortunately, most folks won’t listen to a heavily accented (even extreme Southern-unless that’s your locale) or a nasally voice. Good luck and thak you for providing the wonderful service you do!


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