Alistair Langfield is our Sales Director at Matinée, he has been producing IVR voice overs since 2001 so it’s fair to say that he knows a thing or two about how they work.
We’ll quickly catch up with Alistair to find out more on the IVR projects he’s worked on and what his thoughts are for the future of IVR.
What kinds of customers come to you for IVR voice overs?
A: I’ve worked with banks, utility companies, airlines, and local councils directly. Many of the companies who create the systems and customer experience such as Nuance, Sabio and Computacenter also come to me with regular voice over requirements.
My first big project at Matinée was for Trafficmaster, a system which is no longer live now thanks to the rise in Satnav technology. For that project we recorded over 20,000 IVR prompts. It was a lot of work with regular updates and I learned so much about the industry.
What are the most important things that matter to these customers in regards to their IVR voice over?
A: Consistency and reliability. It’s important the selected voice artist has availability in the foreseeable future for any updates. It’s a big investment to create an IVR system and if the voice artist is not available, the customer experience suffers and they may quit the product or service. This is why, I try to guarantee a minimum of 2 years availability and only work with trusted voices. Otherwise we risk letting our customers down. The quality of the recording also has to be consistent. The IVR could be getting updates over many years.
Why do you think working with an agency is better than the DIY approach?
A: An agency gets to know many thousands of voice artists and actors. When they review a customer’s brief for a new IVR ‘system’ voice they immediately know who may be suitable. And not just based on the gender, age or style of delivery required. They also take into account the reliability of the voice. Do they show up on time? Do they have consistent pricing? Are they professional and courteous? Do they perform consistently? All these things are more important than having a ‘good’ voice.
Casting an unknown voice for an IVR system which requires regular updates is a big risk. Using a voice over agency takes away most of this risk. It also means you always have the project settings archived and the engineers will ensure the files are edited the same way every time over the lifetime of the service.
Using freelance voice talent with home studios is much more risky. Tomorrow they may decide they don’t want to do voice over work anymore, or more commonly they change their equipment. Changing the mic, pre-amp or even the size of the room can all colour the sound. This means any prompts recorded on new equipment will stand out.
What do you think the future holds for IVR voice overs?
A: As technology improves with advancements in speech recognition and artificial intelligence, interacting with IVR is going to feel a lot more like having a genuine conversation. Every business is going to have its own branded AI personality, which will handle customer enquiries on the web, mobile and phone. Only the big corporations can afford this at the moment, but in the future it will be much cheaper. It will also be considered a crucial part of customer engagement. This is good for the voice over industry in the short term.
Recording for IVR won’t simply be a case of recording the standard prompt, number and date sets. It will be more like recording for a text-to-speech system with tens of thousands of lines to record, over many weeks. But of course with advancements in audio editing software, such as Adobe’s Voco in the future everyone may be able to voice their own system or employ a ‘voice editor’ to do it for them!
For our detailed guide on telephone messages and their costs check out our recent blog.