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Everything functioning like it should?

Real-world reasons your contact centre testing isn’t working



Everything ok?

Customer Experience testing is serious business, although professional tester Thanh Huynh gives that some perspective in his amusing Testing Humor blog. Jokes and urban legends aside, the entries humorously highlight some very good points about the approach developers, testers, QAs and even managers have towards testing, e.g:


  • Unit manual testing is enough - When the application crashes: “It worked on my system”

  • Load testing is unnecessary – When the application crashes: “Never before have we had so many calls on one day”


Real-world testing

Would you drive a car that hadn’t been tested? Operate machinery that hadn’t been factory tested? Use electrical appliances that weren’t compliant with electrical regulations? Let’s for a moment consider a newly purchased fictional un-roadworthy car. There are two types of potential failures comparable to call center testing that could have been averted by holistic testing:

  1. System failure - As you drive off the lot, the wheels fall off: “It was fine when the factory delivered it”/ “We didn’t test what would happen if the user didn’t respond to the IVR prompt for so long; we imagined they’d have put the phone down by then”

  2. User error - Leaving the dealer, you turn back to wave him goodbye and drive into a pole; unfortunately the air bags don’t deploy: “The user wasn’t supposed to do that”/ “The user kept on entering invalid data and we thought it was a bot”

The common thread is that both failures could have been anticipated if testers had considered the behaviors of real people. In the first instance, it was predictable that the new owner was going to drive the car off the lot. In the second, people do stupid things every day, that’s why we have vehicle insurance for accidents.

When it comes to contact centers, some – and this is really the tip of the iceberg - of the critical tests you must perform include:


  • Power outages, e.g. due to bad weather

  • Load testing, e.g. at high volume periods

  • Back-end monitoring, e.g. user interactions that impact back-end, non-interactive components, e.g. database updates


In all three cases, vital to be tested is how the system reacts to failure. In our fictional car incident above, it’s not great our user drove into a pole, but, more importantly, what happened when he or she did? Did the air bags deploy? Similarly, what happens when a customer can’t get through to you in an emergency? Heck, what if a customer can’t get through to you in a non-emergency or your system fails, and therefore they take their business elsewhere?

Cost savings

Modern technology methodologies enable you to develop holistic testing plans that cover the entire gamut of human and system behavior, from customer experience testing to system memory leaks. The majority of businesses are often loathe to pay for this expertise, which is usually short-sighted:


  • Usability testing helps you to identify the scope of what needs to be fixed, changed or added before you spend money on development, testing, QA and support

  • Testing protects your brand’s image and reputation, and, by extension, your financial bottom line

  • IVR system design and the public’s perception of what they should receive in terms of service are often two very different things, IVR development often being created in a somewhat sterile environment where the assumption is that users act in a predictable way

  • Technology is changing and, with it, the way customers use it. Today, no self-respecting consumer will put up with shoddy service without a murmur on business and social media.

Usability versus Usefulness

Usability is about how your IVR responds to the unexpected. Usefulness is another concept; it’s about collating useful information about how your customers use your IVR in the real world and what they expect from it. Using this data in future testing scenarios will help you to make your system more usable. For example, are you still trying to sell your products to users who call in before offering them the option to get as quickly as possible to a solution to their problem? If you are, are your consumers being tempted by these special offers or are they getting annoyed?


Food for thought

“To those who say that “if you need testing at the end, you’re doing it wrong”, would you prefer a Boeing, or are you going Air Icarus?”— Michael Bolton


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