The economy’s doing better. You’re a start-up — but you’re great about staying within budget, prospects look good, and all things are on track. You realise that there’s an outlay of cash required to get your “framework” set up properly — there’s hiring, and office space procurement, and getting a website up and running (and making sure it pops up with the prevalence and frequency so that people can find it) — the very last thing on your mind (and the very last thing you imagine throwing cash at) is who will voice your telephone system.
After all — everybody speaks, right? People may even have told you on occasion that *you* have a “nice voice”, or — there’s Caitlyn at the front desk! She’ll be answering our phones — let’s just get her to record our outgoing greeting! Besides, have you looked for voice talent on the internet? Those guys make a killing! We’ll just get one of us to voice it.
How hard can it be?
Well, like any skillset, it’s not hard for anyone experienced at it.
I’m a professional voice talent, which simply means that I’ve parlayed a voice of reasonably agreeable tonality into an actual job. I voice telephone systems in a consistent, well-modulated way which has made repeat customers comfortable in coming back again and again for that same “sound”, and word-of-mouth referrals feel safe in knowing that same work I did for their colleague will be replicated for *their* telephone system. I am capable of great many different styles and accents — but typically, a straightforward, no-frills, under-the-radar neutral telephone voice is what people want (and what I can repeatedly give them.) Even though I am human, energy levels when recording are kept at an even keel. As a plus, I run professional recording gear, and manage to keep the settings and parameters fairly unchanged, so as to not interfere with the sameness of recordings done months and even years apart.
No big science to it.
But just as I can (and do) make a fairly reasonable pizza from scratch at home, I couldn’t compete in the arena of those who make high-volume (and consistently high-quality) on-demand pizzas every day. Those who make a skillset their full-time work have a discerning eye for quality; they instantly know what works and what doesn’t, and they have a keen sense of what their best work is, and what needs to scrapped and re-done. With repetition comes an expertise which sets a standard that cannot be upheld by an occasional dabbler.
With every respect due to our prototype receptionist “Caitlyn”, let’s explore why having her — or any staff person abducted in the hallway, put in a quiet boardroom with a phone and a legal pad with prompts scrawled haphazardly over it — may not be your best choice as your telephone voice:
They’ll Be Recording Over The Phone
I was recently asked by the authors of the new Asterisk book to weigh in on the chapter on IVR, where — as heartily as they encouraged Asterisk implementors to utilize the services of a professional recording artist (specifically: me), they also encouraged telephone recording for Asterisk — perfectly fitting with the turnkey aspect of the system itself. It’s ready out of the box, and it makes sense that all stages of the installation should be completely self-managed, without any need for outsourcing. My comments back to the authors about direct-to-phone recording were borne out of my own experiences at being asked to do them: I despise it. It evokes abject terror in me when I’m asked to record over the phone. People’s instructions to get into their systems are rarely accurate (there’s usually some crucial missing step); the handset itself is a terrible microphone and prone to registering any and all plosives; there is no luxury of editing out breath noises (clients assume I have the lung capacity of a Japanese Pearl Diver; I simply edit out all evidence of breathing..) — and most importantly: if there is a screw-up, there is no clean stopping and re-starting where you left off — the whole recording is scrapped and you must start from the beginning. With recording into a computer system, there is very little that editing software — once you get skilled at it — cannot fix.
She has responsibilities of her own, and can hardly be expected to drop everything at the last minute to update the phone tree when there’s a shift of personnel. She may be unavailable to record; she may receive a promotion or move to another department or get hired somewhere else — and you’re stuck with a phone tree which can either be added to with different voices (creating a strange, multi-personailty pastiche of voices on your system) or scrap the entire thing a start all over again with the new receptionist.
It’s Not Caitlyn’s Passion — And It Shows
Recording the outgoing message — from a busy receptionist’s perspective — would rank right up there with having to clean the microwave in the break room. It could easily be seen as an onerous task — and that will translate in what she projects in the recording. You can tell when a job is perceived as chore, and when it’s done with the gusto that comes from pure love. We love what we do (even if the scripts are usually fairly formulaic, we try to treat each one as a completely new and fresh entity). My hairdresser *loves* hair — she can’t imagine a day without fiddling with or manipulating hair in some way and was beside herself with anxiety when she had to take some time off for a surgery. Hair is her canvas, and she looks forward to every day she goes to work. That’s why she’s my hairdresser.
Maybe not with word processing, but Caitlyn does not have the experience or the discipline to make sure the that prompts she’s updating today will match in volume and energy of the ones she’s previously done. As an ancillary task, the voicing of the prompts will not be anything that she will be able to maintain a level of consistency with, the way she can with her principal tasks.
You take your car to an expert; those who have had their bathroom remodeled by a hobbyist have done so at their own folly. Your telephone system sets the tone for your company and establishes an irreversible impression about your company for your callers. Sourcing out the voicing of the system to someone who takes the job seriously; who is always available for redo’s; who keeps the quality consistent — it’s one less thing to worry about.
Next week, I’ll be speaking at IT Expo in Miami about “IVR Mistakes and How to Avoid Them” — in my next blog, I’ll delve into public speaking and how even someone who speaks all day/every day is not immune to the same public-speaking gremlins that everyone feels.
Thanks for reading!