Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Testing

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Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems tend to be complicated system elements giving an intensive set of features and functionality in order to complete or even replace human call agents.

The IVR system is very often the only contact a caller possesses with a company when he requests a service, such as arranging a ticket for a movie. It is therefore essential that the IVR system provides high quality, in terms of robustness, stability, correctness of the menu branches in addition to quality of the voice announcements.

The Challenge of IVR Testing

IVR testing tend to be sophisticated. While they offer many functions along with functionality such as DTMF tone detection and voice recognition, they also provide distinct interfaces to other applications, literally rendering countless transactions possible:

• Bank account information and payments management

• Customer Relationship Managements (CRM) systems

• Personal voice mail systems

All reservation systems, including air travel reservation and check-in systems and cinema booking
If managing an IVR system isn't challenging enough, consider the complications in connection with the testing of an IVR system.

The Human Element

The testing of IVR systems involves a test tool that can simulate the behavior and abilities of the caller - a rather daunting task indeed.

Pushing the keys of a phone to send DTMF digits

The DTMF tone is the basic unit utilized to communicate with and take control over an IVR system. A caller sends the DTMF tones by pressing appropriate keys on a touch-tone phone to move through the menu tree of the IVR system. This specific menu could be a complicated maze of menus, branches and choices. Complex systems of this sort require in-depth testing in order that customers are not confused or become stuck without a defined exit.

Distinguishing between different languages

Advanced IVR techniques offer caller-selectable languages in which to play announcements.

Speaking, listening and understanding voice prompts

Several IVR techniques usually do not only accept caller interactions with DTMF tones, they are increasingly capable of recognizing voice prompts spoken by the caller.

Rating the voice quality of an announcements

IVR system announcements must be of excellent. They must end up being transmitted clearly to be sure the caller can comprehend every word.

Behavior under load conditions

An IVR system can be put under very different load conditions for testing once it really is deployed in a live network (e. g.,during a tele-voting occurrence, when several callers setup up a call within a very short time). Thus IVR systems must be tested under different load conditions prior to their deployment to ensure:

• The IVR system works correctly beneath real load conditions in a live network.

• The IVR system recovers properly from overload conditions

• The IVR system is stable over a long period of time

Integration of the IVR system in a complete network

Since IVR techniques do not occur as "island" devices but tend to be always integrated into an entire network, it is very important test these folks not only as stand-alone components but additionally as integrated parts of the network.

These challenges can be addressed by smart test solutions that offer a wide range of interfaces, applications, testing features and functionality. 

Figure 2 shows a typical setup for testing an IVR System.

IVR Testing

To support this test setup, the test tool must present the examples below key features:

• It needs to be able to set up message or calls on different interfaces in addition to applications to be able to simulate the behavior of human callers. Since calls usually are established using DTMF tones, the tool should allow you to sending any sequence of DTMF tones. In order to analyze the behavior of the IVR system with different caller profiles, changing the executable test scripts must also end up being quick and easy.

• It must be capable of simulating the interfaces into the various applications, including access to a bank account information procedure or to a personal voice mail system. In fact, the test tool must support all relevant interfaces provided by the IVR system to the outside world, thus allowing testers to treat the IVR method as a "black-box. " Thus the tool has to supply multi-interface / multi-application capability for test execution on several interfaces running different applications.

• To test the voice recognition functionality of advanced IVR systems, the test tool should support the sending of pre-recorded voice prompts (e. g.,*wav files) and DTMF tones. More importantly, it must be easy to both import available and generate new *wav files into the tool. This is crucial since IVR systems are often deployed with different language sets, all of which ought to be tested prior to their rollout.

• Testing the voice quality of the IVR product is necessary in order that it plays its announcements clearly when deployed later in the live network.

• On-line audio access to the content of the voice channels during test execution is quite helpful in terms of receiving immediate information about the status of the IVR system that is being tested.

IVR testing usually will be with telephony applications (voicemail and related, or audio conferencing) and tools used are such as Hammer, MGTS, Ameritec, SIPp for automation. SIPp is the only free item in that list (telephony tools are usually expensive). If your IVR is also a telephony app and you can get a call into it using a SIP softphone, you could use SIPp to drive your interface, using SIP INFO messages to carry the DTMF. For more information refer http: //sipp. sourceforge. net/

Notes:

1) OPTEC, an easy-to-use, macro-based method for creating test scripts. OPTEC supports all kinds of testing service, including DTMF tone handling, speech path verification, voice pattern recognition, the sending and receiving of *. wav files, speech quality analysis and also the ability to make several caller and load profiles.

2)During test execution, the tester should be capable to individually access the payload channels in addition to directly listen to any voice patterns that are sent to or received by the IVR system.
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