Use a yes/no prompt in place of a two-item menu where you can
Two item menus present some challenges. They don’t always sound like a menu, and often sound like a yes/no question. It’s hard to get the recording just right to imply choosing an option rather than yes or no. Consider this prompt

  • Do you want arrival or departure times?

Depending on how you read this, it’s either a yes/no question or a choice between arrival and departure. The voice talent can do a lot in the recording to indicate a choice, but there will still be callers who fall into the yes/no trap.

Whenever you’re faced with a two-item menu, turn it into a yes/no and see if it still works. If the alternative to what you’re asking is crystal clear, then do it. If not presenting the alternative sows seeds of doubt in the caller’s mind, then stick to the two-item menu. The above example offers two options that are clear in the vast majority of callers’ minds even when the other isn’t presented and could be presented as a yes/no:

  • Do you want arrival times?

Another thing to consider is how a “no” response makes the caller feel. Will they feel like their request isn’t the norm by having to answer “no?” If so, presenting both options might be better.

Here’s an example of where the alternative isn’t clear. Suppose you have a health insurance system with this first prompt:

  • Are you calling as a health care provider?

The purpose of this prompt is to segregate members calling about their own insurance from providers calling about their patients. Two problems exist in this situation. One is that while providers know that’s what they are and that there are two paths into the system, members generally don’t. The two groups don’t come into the call with the same mindset. The other problem is the terminology for providers. If the health insurance is purchased through my employer, then I’m the provider, right?

Despite the most well-crafted prompt, however, the system should be designed to handle yes/no responses to small menus like these.

Use the words “whether” or “either” to indicate a two-item menu
“Whether” and “either” are magic words that clearly indicate a two-item menu rather than a yes/no.

Go back to our health insurance prompt in the previous section. Rewriting this as a two-item menu results in something like this:

  • Are you calling as a health care provider or as a member?

This will result in as many yes/no responses as anything else, regardless of recording. Try writing it as a statement.

  • Tell me if you’re calling as a health care provider or as a member.

Same thing results.

Now try the “magic” word:

  • Tell me whether you’re calling as a health care provider or as a member.

This will elicit a choice of one or the other. (Only tuning and testing will tell you if you’ve gotten your choices right. You might need “health care professional” or “individual member,” but this structure will work.)

“Either” is our other magic word, but it’s more often used when giving explicit “say” directions:

  • Tell me which of these you’re calling as. You can say either health care provider or member.