This is a guest post by Allison Smith, an internationally recognized professional voice talent, specializing in voicing telephone systems.
You probably gave a great deal of thought to the way your website represents your company. Choosing headers, images, and logos, you probably spent hours making sure it represents your brand. Why? Potential clients often make instant (and sometimes unforgiving) decisions about whether or not to do business with you based on seemingly ethereal factors like your website's layout, background colors, logo’s size, or even fonts.
As a professional telephone voice talent, I’m often surprised at how little time small business owners spend on making sure their IVR represents their business. During a phone consult, I ask what “mood,” “feel,” or “vibe” they’re trying to create with their prompts…. and the question is met with abject silence. Or stammering. Or the admission: “That’s a great question! I hadn’t really given it any thought…”
The same soul-searching and exploration into your company’s brand, or “flavor,” is just as important for your phone system as your website. Both represent your business early on to prospective customers. Just like those first golden seconds of someone landing on your website's homepage, the opening greeting on your company’s IVR sets the tone, establishes your company, and can make a powerful impression — positive or negative.
Start thinking about your company’s brand or “flavor.” Are you…
Is your product or service…
Think about what your ideal client wants to hear when they call you. Even an industry like funeral homes — where a certain amount of delicacy is necessary — has room for “identity.” They can design an IVR depending on whether they're appealing to a younger market of pre-planners or traditional families who expect to hear sombre tones and organ music.
You need to be crystal-clear in your mission and know exactly where your company stands image-wise in your market. Have that in mind when casting and directing the voice talent who will be voicing your prompts.
Financial planning firms and banks are actively trying – in their media and online presence – to take the stuffiness and scariness of money out of the equation. They want to sound welcoming while they de-mystify investments and dispel the notion that financial planning is only for the wealthy.
Law firms and tax preparation services face this truism head on: If people are calling us, they’re likely not having a great day. How do you present your business with this in mind? If your clients are calling due to a bad situation, greet them with genuine empathy. (You’re worried about your children? You waited until April 13th to file taxes? We feel you.)
It bears noting, also, that the “trend” in IVR is moving to a more relaxed, conversational, accessible tone, regardless of the product. The stiff automaton that set the IVR industry is making way for fresher and friendlier real voices. And it’s a good thing.
As an IVR voice actor, I try to default to a confident, friendly, professional timbre. For example, I did an IVR for an independent publishing company who focuses on mystery novels and, to my delight, they wanted me to read their IVR in an “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”-style: What fun! Their callers hear a creative, open, and dramatic voice, which is such a good fit for their product. Think about what tone might work for your business.
Consider your company brand when drafting your phone prompts. What kind of company are you, and how do you want your ideal clients and customers to see you (or hear you)? You’re not just answering the phone; you’re establishing an identity. And while your web presence is important, don’t forget you are an overall brand. It’s a good idea to include your IVR prompts as a vital and cohesive part of your “flavor.”