Enhance your IVR Prompts and Speech Technology with
GM Voices’ Professional Voice Talent
Voice prompts are used in many telephony applications. In most instances, a voice prompt is a prerecorded script recorded in a human voice to “prompt” or guide callers to their desired destination or transaction. A caller might be accessing information about an account such as a balance or deposit, completing a transaction such as transferring funds or guiding the caller to a specific call center specialist.
Voice prompts can be professionally recorded by companies such as GM Voices. Or, they can be recorded on site by an employee. There are also some computer telephony systems that use Text-To-Speech or TTS generated voice prompts to instruct callers.
Turning Customers Over to Automation
As companies turn more of their valuable client relationships over to automated voice systems to lower costs, the quality of those systems including the prerecorded voice prompts are becoming more important. Under what circumstances will a customer appreciate dealing with an automated voice application? If it can quickly help them address their calling purpose, it’s a win-win for everyone involved. If it deteriorates into a circular path to “voice mail jail” filled with frustration, the customer can decide to go to a competitor who employs more effective user design resources in their automation.
There are a wide range of technologies that use voice prompts. These voice automation applications are generally designed to lower costs. They can be used as a tool in enhancing the customer experience, but this is a rare occurrence in today’s business environment. At GM Voices, we’ve worked to improve the performance, effectiveness and branding aspects of every sort of voice automation in the marketplace. Sure, lowering costs is important. If you lower costs, however, at the expense of irritating and driving your customers to competitors, it becomes very expensive.
Personal Touchpoint = Voice Prompts
With all the money spent on voice automation technology, isn’t it interesting that the only real aspect of the system that touches the caller is the collection of voice prompts that greet and guide the caller? Will the voice prompts greet the caller pleasantly? Will the caller understand the voice prompts? Will the greetings and menus be consistent with the company’s overall brand? Most companies spend millions building their brands in the marketplace. Turning those vital customer relationships over to voice automation without considering the customer experience is happening everyday. We help companies make sure it’s a good thing for the customer and the company.
This application answers the phone and allows the caller to ‘route themselves’ to the right person or department. In the past, a receptionist might have answered every call then routed the call to the appropriate person or department. Some companies may still employ live operators and use the automated attendant when the call flow is too heavy for the receptionist to manage. An automated attendant becomes the telephone store front for a company.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
These systems were most effectively employed by banking and financial institutions in the 1990s. An IVR marries ‘voice processing’ technology with a ‘database’ of information such as how much money is in your bank account or if a check has cleared. The voice prompt will speak to you based upon the information in the database.
Automatic Call Distributors (ACD)
While this technology has been used most widely in large call centers, new VoIP technologies are making it available to smaller companies. It allows you to route calls depending on a number of factors such as call center agent skills, geographic considerations and other factors. When one of the voice prompts asks you which product you’re calling about, it routes you to an agent with specific skills on that particular product line. ACDs allow companies to staff their telephone more efficiently.
This technology recognizes what the caller says then routes them appropriately. This technology was very interesting when commercially introduced in the late 1990s. Those of us in the industry hoped it would grow rapidly, but there was still some refinement required. The enthusiastic technology providers such as Nuance and SpeechWorks tried to accomplish too much, too quick in early speech recognition applications. The voice prompts did sound really good, but it took the speech scientists another few years to make the recognition components work well enough for scalable commercial applications.
Today, speech recognition applications are being deployed in most of the Fortune 1000 companies. Now that the systems work much more efficiently in recognizing the caller’s intent, they can be very effective. The most important value speech recognition brings to IVR applications is the ability to flatten all the mind numbing selection menus. When a speech recognition voice prompt instructs you to say the ‘city’ on an airline or a ‘business name’ on a 411 application, the user experience is infinitely easier.
The talking car is no longer a sci-fi story. It’s real today and most of the major automotive manufacturers are in the game. We’ve provided voice prompts for many of the major car makers over the past few years. The quality of the voice prompts heard in these premium cars is much higher than those required of phone systems. Telephone lines only transmit a small part of the human hearing sound spectrum (350 to 3500 htz) while a high fidelity sound system produces music and sound that covers most of human hearing (20 to 20,000 htz). Needless to say, the requirements for high quality voice prompt recording is way higher.
Today, GM Voices provides telematics and voice prompts for cars including Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes, Ford and General Motors. By the way, GM Voices is not affiliated with GM (General Motors) in any way. It’s just a coincidence!
How does a company choose a voice talent to record their voice prompts? We have dozens of US English voice actors who record voice prompts in our studios regularly. Many of them record on the same day each week to lower costs and provide for very predictable turnaround. Let’s face it, we all live in weekly cycles. When we learn that our voice records every Wednesday, for example, it makes it easy to coordinate recording efforts with internal customers this way. That way, a customer gets what is normally an expensive resource (voice talent) at a great price with easy to understand delivery time.
The majority of our voice prompts are recorded by women. We think it goes back to a time in business when the receptionist who answered the phone was usually a woman. Over the years, we’ve suggested to many companies that a guy might be more appropriate for their company (think hardware stores), but they’ve usually preferred a women. Maybe that’s because all the other companies use a woman’s voice? Speech recognition has changed that a bit. Most of the speech recognition implementations over the past 10 years were driven by large companies because they were certainly expensive. Due to the expense, C-level executives were more involved and they’ve always been quick to see the branding connection when making investments of this size.