The IVR Clinic – with Allison Smith: #13 of The 15 Commandments of IVR

By Allison Smith

The 15 Commandments of IVR

Commandment #13: “Be Clear on Your Company’s Vision/Image – And Be Able to Explain That to Me”

This is an aspect of writing an IVR which many people don’t even think about – when I pose the question of what “image” they’re trying to convey to companies who hire me to voice their systems, the question is usually met with silence or an overwhelming sense of “That’s a great question!” To have a strong picture of what your company *is*; to know exactly the image you’re looking to project; and to consider how to translate that image through various avenues – whether it be through the design of your website, the décor of your office – even your letterhead – is crucially important.

Why should your telephone system be any different?
Is your company a stoic, older, established and conservative firm, with a similar clientele? Or are you a young, irreverent startup, looking to create a hip, almost aloof persona? Or somewhere in between? To know the “mood” “feel”, and the “personality” of the company is a great help to me (and other voice talent) when we’re assigned the task of voicing the IVR prompts for your telephone system. We can adapt our “sound” and “attitude” to match the image you’d like to convey: if your clientele is straight business; no flashiness or showiness evident; if their needs are urgent or fast-paced – it’s good to know all that. If you’re catering to a generally older client base (or a client base whose health/hearing/reaction time may be compromised) we can take that into consideration and be more metered and deliberate in our pace and delivery. A more informal, accessible company may desire a conversational, more casual approach. (I have told the story in other blogs about a dry cleaning firm who had be re-do their system – which was done in my default, business-like tone, because it sounded too “high falutin’” and ran the risk of alienating their primarily small-market customer base. They wanted someone who sounded local; someone who might ask how the customer’s kids are doing in school. Anything more formal than that sounded…well, stuffy.)

It’s a good idea to brainstorm about the image you’d like to project via your IVR system; to keep that consistent with all other branches of your company; to truly write in that style (of course, reading everything out loud, as per the last entry of this blog) and be ready to articulate in real terms to your voice talent the end “feeling” or “perception” you’d like to leave your customer with. If your voice talent is directable and versatile, it should be a fairly easy adjustment to make.

Next blog entry, we’re coming close to wrapping up this series with Commandment # 14: “Don’t Front-Load Too Much Information in Opening Greeting” – I’ve been harping about how the caller’s attention span is shorter than you think – nowhere is it truer than in the opening prompt, which can set the tone, and make or break the customer’s confidence in your IVR system.
Thanks for reading!

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There Are 2 Comments

  • K O'Connor says:

    It surprises me that not more marketing/brand people are involved with IVR projects. After all, brand is considered in great detail for the website and collateral so why not for the IVR? Also, corporate websites tend to get a face-lift every a couple of years whereas many companies IVR are rather dusty…

  • I agree! And yet, nothing sets the tone more immediately than the first impression clients derive from thsoe first few seconds on your IVR.

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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 and

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