On the Speech Technology Blog yesterday, an article popped up entitled “Offbeat Clients Need IVR Too.” The author, Allison Smith, is a well-known IVR voice, and she discussed some of her more interesting IVR voice-over projects. An example:
I voiced an entire IVR system for a dog (“If you are one of Scout’s friends from the neighborhood, bark once..”), and when I voiced the IVR system for a noted Los Angeles divorce attorney and joked that a prominent celebrity who is famous for her multitude of messy divorces should have her own extension, the office administrator who hired me to do the system insisted that I tack that onto the end.
We immediately found ourselves curious about some of the unique voice-overs our IVR voice recording partner GMVoices had been involved with, and reached out to their senior account manager Jay Steinworth to ask about some of their more memorable clients. He didn’t disappoint, and the following are just a few applications he shared:
- May IVR take your order? GMVoices has worked with several clients to set up voice prompts for systems that will take your order for fast food, including error handling and taking payment, including support for “Would you like fries with that?”-type upsells.
- Home cooking: Another GMVoices client makes an oven that you can call up and control by phone, after entering a personal identification number. While typical ovens might have a timer or delayed start, this oven is a better choice for those with erratic schedules: pop in your food in the morning, and it will keep it refrigerated until you call up and set up an appropriate time to cook. Or, if you’ve started baking a dish and subsequently go out to run some errands, you can place a call to check the remaining time or arrange to keep the food warm. You can also remotely turn on the self-cleaning function when the oven’s empty, so that everything’s nice and tidy when you get home.
- For an operator, say or press “Woof”: A client whose business focuses on canine products has a set of traditional voice prompts for its IVR, which it enhanced with “hold” and “closed” messages that were more likely to resonate with its audience. For example, the “hold” message encourages you to browse their website where you can “sniff out” additional information, and a “closed” message for the Fourth of July references the fun their employees and their pets are probably having at the dog park – and gives customers a subtle reminder that their pets may need some soothing when the holiday fireworks go off.
- Hello? Hola? Allô? How many different languages do you support? For one client, GMVoices had to record prompts in almost 50 languages. Now that’s a commitment to communicating with the customer in a way that resonates with them.
- Stick your left foot in, and shake it all about: This last one is too good to leave out, even if it’s not for an IVR. GMVoices recorded voice instructions for a chain of tanning salons that sound a little bit like the dictation for a game of Twister, such as “Turn right, stand with your left foot on 2 and your right foot on 4″.
The underlying thread behind all of these stories seems to be that the more unique your organization is, the more you need to use a voice and persona for your automated interactions – your customers definitely aren’t robotic, and your self-service tools shouldn’t be, either. This holds true both at the low-end, with fast-food ordering that is likely to attract younger clients, and at the higher-end, with the expectations for high-quality, polished service that would come with an expensive appliance.