Make Your Common Voice Prompts More Extraordinary

By Allison Smith

Most of us are quite used to interacting with pre-recorded voice prompts to help guide us to our desired virtual destination or complete daily transactions over the phone.

If we are lucky, whatever business we are conducting is swift, and we barely even notice that we have just been automatically assisted by a series of voice prompt recordings. However, if the IVR prompts are unclear, poorly worded or non-responsive in any way, it can wreak havoc on us and hold us up from the rest of our day.

With that in mind, I have compiled some commonly used voice prompts that can be improved even more to ease the caller’s experience with your IVR system.

Improving Your IVR Prompt Messages

1. The ‘Dial’ Voice Prompt

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, rotary phones are also very much a thing of the past. The last thing you want is to be using outdated terminology in today’s tech-friendly business world. If you are instructing callers to ‘dial’ an extension, switch to the term “press” instead.

2. Voice Prompts Associating Extension Number and Person/Department.

Many voice prompt recordings that direct callers to specific departments or personnel can be set up in such a way that the caller does not have enough time to identify their selection and respond. For instance,  “Press 1 for customer service” will not grab the caller’s attention to their desired selection as say, “For customer service, press 1” Why? Callers want to hear their destination first, then the instruction of how to reach their destination. By playing the extension first, callers may not realize a certain number is associated with their desired department until too late.

3. The “Extension” Voice Prompt.

If you have regular clients or repeat callers to your business, most of them will eventually recall the extension of those they wish to speak with. Unfortunately, many IVR systems forget an option that allows them to bypass the typical menu selection process. A simple voice prompt such as, “If you know your party’s extension, press…” will be able to allow your callers to enter an extension and save precious time rather than listen to extraneous options.

4. The Exit Voice Prompt.

Callers should be able to immediately leave the IVR prompt system and speak to a live human, so make sure that option is available. “To speak with a live representative, press…” works well here.

5. After Hours Voice Prompts

When your office is closed, your IVR prompts should reflect this to your callers. Voice prompts that encourage them “To leave a message, press” or to “Call back during normal business hours, Monday through Friday 9AM to 5PM…” will help you stay in touch with your callers when you return.

6. ‘Please’ In Voice Prompts

While using pleasant words like “please” is great in introductory voice prompts or menu options, it’s important you eventually get down to business. Your following options should be more streamlined to avoid sounding repetitive or irritating callers.

7. Prompts Per Set of Menu Options

A general rule of thumb is that about 3 to 5 menu items is enough for each level of menu options. Any more than that amount can make it overwhelming to callers and have them disengaged before they even get through to your representatives.

For more voice prompt tips and strategies to help you create the most natural-sounding and effective voice prompt recordings, get in touch with me today!

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There Are 3 Comments

  • Andy Woolford says:

    Too many businesses put the option to speak with a representative last. Banks and Support lines especially!

  • The Exit Voice Prompt.

    also add a timeout that will redirect the call to a live human
    as sometime they will call from a phone that do not send DTMF (correctly) and is therefore stuck at the first prompt

  • I agree with Andy and Mark here, Allison. I think most companies never gave customers a choice if they want to hear that robotic, machine-sounding IVRs. These companies are probably thinking that they’re making our lives as customers easier and making the process faster, but it’s not. Although, maybe, this is necessary only if all lines are busy and no representative can answer the call. It’d be worse if they customers just hang up.

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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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