You and your team probably gave a great deal of thought to your website and brainstormed the image you wanted to convey to customers the moment they landed on your page. You knew that people would make an instant (and sometimes unforgiving) decision about whether or not they wanted to delve deeper into doing business with you, based on seemingly ethereal factors like the layout, the colors you chose for the backgrounds, the size of your logo, or even something as arbitrary as what font you chose for the text.
That same kind of soul-searching and exploration into what “type” of company you are — and what the end-result image you want to project to prospective customers — also comes into play when deciding on IVR scripts for your company’s *other* front end — your phone system. It amazes me when — during a phone consult with someone who is interested in me voicing their system — and 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 that any thought…”
Just like those first golden seconds of someone landing on your page, the opening greeting on your company’s IVR sets the tone; establishes who the company is, and can make a powerful impression — positive or negative.
Are you a fun, casual upstart? Or a stoic grandfather in your industry? Family-run? Growing so fast you can’t hire staff quickly enough? Or one guy in his basement who wishes to sound like Apple? Is your product bubbly, fun, and playful? Or would your customers — who are calling to make funeral arrangements or to find a suitable in-home nurse for their loved one be confused by a bubbly, upbeat delivery? Even an industry like funeral homes — where a certain amount of delicacy and soothing is always called for — has room for “identity”, especially if they are appealing to a younger market of pre-planners, instead of those more traditional companies, catering to families who have been using the same funeral home for generations and expect to hear sombre tones and organ music behind their IVR every time. You need to be crystal-clear in your mission and know exactly where your company stands image-wise in your market — and have that in mind when casting and directing the voice talent who will be voicing your prompts.
It bears noting, also, that the “trend” in IVR is moving – as an industry – to a more relaxed, conversational, accessible tone, regardless of the product; the stiff efficient automaton that set the IVR industry is making way for a fresher, friendlier tone. And it’s a good thing.
I try to default to a confident, friendly, professional timbre unless directed along a specific path — 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 almost “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”-style: What fun! It tells their callers that they’re creative, open and willing to play, and implies that you, too, should have an innate spirit of fun and creativity, in order for you and the company to be good fit. Prompts that I did for a prison pre-paid platform will have an inherent seriousness which the prompts for a day spa likely won’t have – and shouldn’t have.
It bears consideration — when drafting your phone prompts — the question of what *kind* of company you are, and what message you are endeavoring to convey with all promotional materials. You’re establishing an identity. And while your web presence takes priority, it’s a good idea to include your IVR prompts as a vital and cohesive part of your “identity package”.