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The Voice of Your Business

By Mark Bedard January 05, 2016

Remember the first time you were introduced to Darth Vader? While his costume and body language instantly placed him in the realm of "bad guy," it was that wonderfully rich and menacing voice that gave us all the chills. You could have had just about anyone actually in the suit waving a lightsaber around, and James Earl Jones would still have turned the character into the #1 film bad guy of all time. But what if James Earl Jones hadn’t been available? What if the only person they could get was, say, Gilbert Gottfreid? That one change in voice would have instantly changed Star Wars from space action epic to space comedy spoof.

Your voice says a lot about you. It conveys emotion, personality, and style. When it comes to your business phone system, the voice carries even greater importance. It's the first impression callers have of your organization. It’s the face of your company. As far as callers are concerned, the voice on your phone system paints a mental image of your business for the caller. In essence, the voice is your brand.

As a representation of your brand, that voice must be spot on. It must remain courteous, professional, knowledgeable, and helpful. It must do this despite heavy call loads, rude callers, and the curveballs that life throws at us -- personal problems, challenges from the morning commute, parenting issues, etc. A single poor caller experience derived from an unfocused or irritable operator can undo all the positive branding the organization has done across all other mediums, and can potentially cause loss of revenue.

When utilizing an automated call handling solution, the challenge is simplified in some ways, and made more complex in others. A recorded greeting provides consistency, and is not impacted by human dynamics such as a bad morning. Yet, if that same greeting is going to be heard hundreds or thousands of times a day by anyone and everyone attempting to contact your organization over the phone, it needs to be absolutely perfect. As any voiceover artist or dialog designer will tell you, that's a significant challenge.

Regardless of whether you're using live operators/agents or an automated solution to answer the phone, here are 4 voice tips that can help you ensure that every interaction with callers starts off on the right foot:

1.       Strive to Give a Great First Impression
Recent studies show that an individual makes their baseline assessment of a person or company in the first 7 seconds of their first interaction. For callers, this means immediate answer, no hold times, and an ability to quickly get to the destination or information they require. In order to nail that first impression, greet every caller within 2 rings and immediately engage them with pleasant, professional voice that quickly asks how they may be served. Then quickly fulfill that need.

Potential Pitfalls:

·   Overwhelmed operators/agents during peak call times, causing long wait or hold times
·   Operators/agents allowing personal issues to impact their demeanor
·   Long auto attendant greetings/excessive branding in greetings
·   Long auto attendant dialogs, instructions, and options

2.       Watch Out for Inarticulate or Incomprehensible Operators/Agents or Voice Talent
One of the prerequisites for an operator -- one that can be found on just about every switchboard operator/agent job listing ever posted -- is to have a pleasant and professional speaking voice. Operators/agents who sound unclear, confused, or inarticulate can give callers the same impression about your brand. Likewise, a voice that is difficult to understand can make your organization appear disorganized or sloppy. The same goes for the voice on an automated solution. It must be clear and easily understood to present a positive brand image.

Potential Pitfalls:

·   Mumbling, breathiness, "P popping", excessive sibilance (hissy sounding "s")
·   Heavy regional accents  
·   Distracted, disinterested sounding

3.       Be Efficient

A great operator is nothing if not efficient. Able to quickly and professionally greet the caller, determine their intent, and fulfill their need before moving on to the next call. While the voice on the other end of the line should always be friendly and helpful, excessive "chattiness" should be avoided. The same goes for an automated voice. Droning on and on about different options or other services wastes the caller's time and can lead to a frustrated caller.

Potential Pitfalls:

·   "Chatty" operator personalities or auto attendant dialogs 
·   Lack of respect for the caller's time

4.       Ensure High Quality of Service/Recording Quality

You can have all the other elements lined up -- immediate answer, an articulate and efficient operator or automated interaction -- and still give callers a poor impression if the audio quality of your voice system or automated recordings sound like a warped vinyl record being played underwater through a 1930's radio. Quality of service for the voice network and usage of professionally recording automated greetings helps establish credibility with the caller, who can trust that your company values quality in  other areas of the business as well.

Potential Pitfalls:

·   Low quality of service in some VoIP systems due to jitter and latency  
·   Usage of poor quality headsets for operators
·   Poor recording quality for automated greetings

Call up your company's public phone number and listen to the voice on the other end. Did that voice positively reflect the brand? Is it a voice you would want interacting with every caller, all the time? The answer may surprise you.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Director of Marketing, Parlance Corp.

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