To achieve success the first time out with your IVR solution, heed these pieces of advice.

1.Don't skimp on the platform. Choose industrial-grade PC platforms that are robust enough for network servers. Anything less can result in crashes, premature failures, or worse. Before you shop, do your homework because IVR systems have a wide range of platform needs. For example, a 4-line IVR system can get by with a 486-based platform, while a 24-line system requires a Pentium.

2. Be aware of PBX integration requirements. You cannot just hook up an IVR behind a PBX and expect it to properly transfer calls. In many cases, IVRs must be trained to the target PBX environment.

3. Provide paths to a live company representative. Be sure rotary phone callers are quickly connected to a live person. Avoid trapping callers in "IVR jail" without opportunities to get to a representative quickly.

4. Do load testing. Before placing your system online, generate call traffic on multiple lines and verify correct operation. Make sure that other server modules in the same box are not negatively affecting performance.

5. Don't record the prompts yourself. If you build your IVR, don't record your own speech prompts. Use a company that offers this service--your IVR will sound much more professional.

6. Analyze call logs weekly. Be prepared to modify the call flow of your IVR as you discover which menus callers are frequently and infrequently using. Be on the lookout for early hang-ups because they indicate caller frustration.

7. Be ready to scale up quickly. Your IVR needs to be scalable and allow quick upgrading to handle more lines. Be prepared for a flood of calls that exceed your best estimates.