Please listen carefully, as our options have changed
November 9, 2010 9:51 AM   Subscribe

My place of employment has a long and convoluted phone tree that our clients have to wade through when they call in. No one in the organization seems to have written everything down in one place, and I'm trying to create a...document?...that allows us to conceptualize which of our menu options lead where, and what they say at each point. What's the best/easiest way to do this and make it useful?

I thought about using PowerPoint, and hyperlinking menu options to other slides in the presentation. For example, the first slide has the three main phone numbers (yes, I'm aware that's its own problem), and then each phone number is linked to a subsequent slide that also has links to subsequent menu options (ie, press 1, press 2...)

I also thought that some kind of internal wiki document might be good, with a web of links similar to that explained in the PowerPoint example, but that something about using a wiki made a little more sense. But, the learning curve is steeper here, as I've not used wikis much before.

I also wondered about just a long html document that we could fire up in Firefox and click around on.

I'd use Visio, or some other org charting program, but I want to include the text of what is said at each juncture, in addition to the options, and that seemed to be too much stuff to put into an org chart.

What are your thoughts on the best way to develop a good picture of the current state of our phone tree (and to make it editable as we improve and make it better)?
posted by cheeken to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmn! Visio with pop-out bubbles at each juncture seems good to me (you get an overall visual feel for the system, as well as all the info). But I can see where that would seem crowded. You may want to do a Word or HTML document with multiple bookmarks/links in it - I'm imagining a section for each prompt (Prompt 1: Pick Your Location, for example), with each option listed as a hyperlink below it which will take you to the NEXT prompt section.

A wiki seems nice in theory, but may also be overkill for what you're trying to do.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:55 AM on November 9, 2010

I've also used diagramming software (i.e. Visio) to conceptualize the phone tree. Simply making boxes that link to other boxes and represent all the options presented to callers and how they can move around within the system. I attach the actual dialog announced at each junction in small text, so you can get a pretty clear picture of exactly how it works from the user's point-of-view.

If you don't have Visio, or something like that, you can create Google Documents of the "Drawing" type, which are similar.
posted by doomtop at 9:58 AM on November 9, 2010

All these methods are good for representing Directed Graphs like your phone tree:

* visio
* hyperlinks (wiki, one-page html document, or otherwise)
* dot/graphviz (what I would recommend, if you want to make a pic of the thing)

You are going to need the connection info (i.e., all the menus), no matter what eventual format you end up choosing. I would start with plain text. Label each action, and a short (two-word?) phrase for each option... this in itself might be a good start to showing what a mess it is :)

As an example:

#enter -> 1.english
#enter -> 2.espanol

In other words, start with the framing (a simple representation), then worry about the presentation of it (pp, html, etc.) after you have that settled!

If it was me, I would print it as a Choose Your Own Adventure book :)
posted by gregglind at 10:02 AM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I would want at least the option of seeing the whole tree at once, all on one page. Then it's easy to say "wow, it will take this client 7 button presses to get where she needs to go, that is ridiculous", and think about how we can work toward the goal of getting people to their goal with 4 presses (or whatever the goal is). The depth of the tree is the main thing you want to change, right? So pick a method that highlights the depth of the tree, and lets you see what happens to the depth as you can juggle things around.

Then maybe break it down into a one-page-at-a-time format to work on the wording, once you have the structure set?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:11 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is flowchart the word you are looking for?
posted by Carol Anne at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

But maybe you are not thinking about changing the overall structure, and you just want something that your phone people can have in front of them as they're talking to a client? What do you need the phone people to be able to do with this information?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:13 AM on November 9, 2010

I would go the Visio route, and as has been mentioned, show the whole mess on one Visio to start with. There's definitely a "HOLY CRAP" factor to seeing something like that all in one place - the messier the better, in terms of getting it streamlined.

Then maybe one tab in a Visio for each main branch of the tree - that would give you enough space to list what each step says, as well, in either blown-out Visio bubbles or links within the Visio to a separate slide with text.
posted by pdb at 10:16 AM on November 9, 2010

I like the idea of a wiki. If you get something dead simple like a tiddlywiki, you could build it up on your local machine, then place the completed version somewhere accessible to everyone.

Have a starting post that uses some sort of ascii/table diagram to layout the entire tree, with each node linking to it's own entry - which explains how you got there, and what the option is all about, etc.

Failing that, I'd just do up some html pages with a really good breadcrumb on the top, showing the navigation to whatever html page you're looking at. And a good table of contents showing the hierarchy, as well.

But if you could somehow condense the tree into a small printable pdf users could print and put by their phones, as a sort of cheat-sheet, all the better.
posted by cgg at 10:18 AM on November 9, 2010

I second tiddlywiki. It's a single page of html that has wiki-like functionality (enter/edit text in nodes, hyperlink to those nodes).

I'd keep a flowchart/tree in a separate document (maybe on paper), then try to incorporate it as a graphic index to the tiddlywiki (probably as a separate html page).

Cumulate (now from AutoDesk) might be useful for drawing the flowchart. But certain areas might have so many choices that flowcharting gets out of hand.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 11:25 AM on November 9, 2010

Just some advice along these lines...

Customers generally will not go more than three, maybe four menus deep before they start pressing "0" to get a live person.

If you're diagramming things out, consider this behavior, please. I cannot tell you how many of my clients have made this mistake. Shorten the menus, and concentrate on routing the calls to the right people immediately.

I know this isn't totally what you asked, but it's a real bee in my bonnet. Bad auto-attendant design kills business.
posted by Thistledown at 7:28 PM on November 9, 2010

I also vote for having a tree-view "index" slide linked to the others. The others should have navigation to each choice, but also "back" and "index".

While we're talking about revising phone trees: if you're going to have me punch in some information on my keypad or say it to a robot, the person I eventually end up talking to HAD BETTER HAVE THAT INFORMATION and not immediately ask me the same thing. Otherwise don't bother having the automated system get it.

Also, if I've navigated down through "I have a problem -> technical problem -> hardware -> etc. -> etc" and your phone rep at the end of the maze asks me if I have a billing problem or a technical problem, same thing—your phone tree is unnecessarily detailed. And it pisses me off when that happens, so eliminating that might make your phone reps' job a bit nicer.
posted by ctmf at 10:04 PM on November 9, 2010

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