Contact Center Transformation Featured Article
Putting Speech-Enabled IVR Systems through 'Negative Testing'
November 19, 2012
By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor
Do you do testing of your call center systems? Of course you do. You probably want to make sure they work well and do what they are supposed to. But successful companies often take testing further than that by engaging in something called “negative testing.” Negative testing refers to a company’s efforts to get their systems to fail in order to see where the weak spots are. It’s sort of like a bank hiring a reformed bank robber to break in so bank management can understand where the vulnerabilities lie.
This is particularly true for contact centers, which tend to have a lot more moving parts than other types of businesses. Not only that, call center processes tend to be the most “customer-facing” in the entire company. It’s one thing to have a system fail internally, and quite another to have it fail before customers.
“For instance, an IVR system tester may want to know what happens if an utterance is unrecognized by the system so they can test that the application handling is appropriate,” writes West Interactive’s (News - Alert) Amy Goodwin in a recent blog post. “This has merit, of course, but can often lead people astray when they are testing — specifically when testing speech recognition.”
While most callers won’t be trying to break your system, humans sometimes do curious things and it’s important to know how your system will react. So how do you even begin negative testing your IVR/speech recognition solution?
“At a menu [‘’say ‘one’ for English”] I like to recommend the tester say something really ridiculous and long, such as, ‘I love to eat hamburgers in Minneapolis.’ The phrase will not be recognized and the tester will able to evaluate the error handling,” writes Goodwin.
While all call centers should regularly run through their speech-enabled IVR to make sure it’s robust enough to please callers, Goodwin says it’s important to keep in mind that negative testing is much harder on the system than callers would ever be. While you will occasionally get a caller who goes out of his or her way to confuse your system, changing the application for a rare incident like this would be like changing an application for a .1/99.99 rule. It’s completely understandable during testing that something like this could become like the “pea in the princess’s bed,” according to Goodwin.
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Edited by Rich Steeves
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