Time to Terminate Your Robotic IVR System

By Allison Smith
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Why You Should Adopt a Natural Voice for IVRs

We find the depiction of robots in movies and television shows hugely entertaining. The idea of an automated entity behaving in a human-like way is fascinating; even endearing. However, back in the real world, trying to negotiate important business with a robot over the phone can be anything but entertaining.Tips for better IVR messages

Nearly half of all customer service is handled over the phone today. And many clients and customers have rising expectations when it comes to automated messages, or interactive voice response systems (IVRs).

Today, customers want their calls managed by a modern IVR with a natural voice that can personalize its messages, as opposed to some old-fashioned robotic voice system that sounds more like C-3PO from Star Wars.

Here are some reasons to give your old robot-voice call system an upgrade to a more modern, natural-sounding IVR.

Humans Trust a Natural Voice

Increasingly, callers are becoming distrustful of many cliché robotic voices they encounter over the phone, especially when trying to convey any personal details through IVR systems. Not only are they impersonal and dated-sounding, but many callers distrust them. IVRs with such a robotic voice are often considered a troubling sign because of the increasing amount of reported scammers and con artists in the news that simulate robotic voices in order to acquire valuable personal information. Trust building is important to any company, and a natural voice call system is better suited towards greeting callers with a sense of warmth and modern professionalism right off the bat.

The good news is that new conversational IVR technology can now provide a highly-personalized touch that is much more interactive and flexible than the robotic IVR messages of the past. As computer technology has advanced, so has the statistical methods used for designing more intelligent dialogues that are able to predict and capture the intent of conversations from callers. These smarter, natural-sounding IVRs are capable of delivering answers and completing business transactions much more smoothly and quickly than ever before.

The Natural Voice is Tricky To Do

As a professional voice artist, I voice IVR prompts every day of my working life. Luckily, I’m not asked often for re-dos, but in those rare cases where a client wants me to take “another run at it,” the reason is almost always because “things sound a little too automated.” I’m always grateful for the direction, because that means the client is really thinking about the presentation of the prompts – how they will be perceived by the caller, and what the prompts say about their company.

There’s a greater awareness than ever about achieving a non-robotic sound in IVR systems – an awareness that I’m glad to see. A natural, conversational-yet-professional tone seems to be the style preferred today in an IVR. If she doesn’t already understand this style preference, it’s important to communicate that to your voice talent. Speaking “naturally” in front of a mic is trickier than it sounds. We, as announcers, get into performance mode and often feel the need to put on a persona in front of the mic. The more naturally-written the prompts are, combined with your ability to articulate the importance of a natural-yet-polished sound to your voice talent, the more success you will have banishing the “automaton” sound.

There Are 2 Comments

  • Van Leon says:

    We really need a natural voice IVR and Announcements for our telephone system to sound professional and human.

  • This is very true, Allison. At times, I even feel it’s a bit monotonic. But you’re right that it’s tricky to do. For one, even if you want to record a natural voice, that person will have this ‘model’ in mind which are the automated voice. It will take out the natural sound and would then sound robotic.

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About the Author

Allison Smith

If you’ve listened to the public airwaves, used an automated phone system, participated in a phone survey, or even used a talking thermostat, you’re familiar with Allison Smith. One of the most prevalent telephone voices in the world today, Allison has voiced platforms for Vonage, Bell Canada, Cingular, Verizon, Qwest, Twitterfone, Hawaiian Telcom – as well as being the voice of the Asterisk Open Source PBX. Clients include Marriot Hotels, 3M, Pfizer, Toyota, Victoria’s Secret, Bank of America and EBay among many others. Her website is www.theivrvoice.com and www.theasteriskvoice.com.

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