Green man pushing a boulder up a hillHave you ever heard a voiceover that actually did a company, and more importantly their customers, a disservice?

A voiceover shouldn’t make doing business harder…right?
Today’s VOX Daily takes a look at how voiceovers, if recorded poorly and used improperly, can take a toll on business and render the initial goal ineffectual.

Humanity Lost?

Most of the voiceovers that are produced serve their purpose well and do a good job of communicating the message a business wants their prospective customers to hear, but not all instances where voiceovers are used can be deemed appropriate or effective within their context.

Voiceover has replaced many points of contact between customers and businesses. One of the most obvious examples of this is the use of voiceover on telephone systems.
When it used to be commonplace that an operator, receptionist or secretary would be the first voice you’d hear when phoning a company, the norm at present is often encountering an auto attendant (generally recorded by a female voice but not always) followed by Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This may be followed by more prompts in a telephone tree with menus, options, on hold messaging and voice mail boxes.

Text-to-speech (TTS) is also a frequently used tool for communication on websites. A lot of what you find online is fueled by TTS and an element of humanity is certainly lost on visitors. Although Text-to-speech technology is improving, consistency in terms of believability, appropriate tone of voice, phrasing and pronunciation of words not in the avatars’ lexicon of words are lacking when compared with a custom voiceover or a customer service representative.

Case In Point

Somewhere else voiceover has crept in, where perhaps it is more frustrating than not, is in a store itself replacing the general interaction between a cashier and the customer. We happened to be at one such store this past weekend that employed a voiceover to direct customers on which till to go to for service when purchasing their clothing.

The voiceover blared through the speakers, was distorted and sounded overly digitized. A better solution given the recording and how it was being used would have been to simply have the cashiers invite customers to their tills so that they could ring them in.

To add to the general low production quality, the message that customers received when shopping in the store was impersonal and drove business away from this store, at least when it came to our visit. This voiceover could be heard all the way in the back of the store where the dressing rooms were located. Why someone that far away would need to hear the VO is questionable and was only worsened by the fact that the audio quality was poor and its repetitiveness was annoying.

Perhaps we’re just a tad more sensitive and aware of voiceover but this particular one was embarrassing to hear and the thought crossed my mind that we might return and approach the manager with our thoughts on how they could improve the voiceover and discuss if it was necessary period.

Summing Up

Voiceovers can be recorded and produced poorly. A voiceover itself can also be implemented poorly as illustrated in the example at the retail outlet and come across as something contrary to its original purpose.

Humanity isn’t the only casualty in some cases that suffers. Quality can also be found lacking artistically and or technically. The voiceover can even be out of place contextually.
If a company is not careful, a voiceover can also misrepresent their brand in terms of continuity across all channels and devalue it in the eyes of their customers should the experience fail to meet their expectations. There are at least 2 corporations in Canada that I can think of who are grossing billions of dollars annually that ought to seriously reconsider the voice they have chosen to use on their auto attendant and subsequent prompts.

What About You?

Surely you have encountered at least one voiceover that has gone bad and didn’t translate well to its target audience in some capacity. What do you do in that instance?
Have you offered your services or pointed it out to anyone in a position to do something with your feedback?
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best wishes,
© Lukiyanova

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Terrible voices and dull scripts rarely work. Bubbly personalities don’t work in funeral home ads. Somber voices don’t work for children’s birthday pizza places.

  2. I worked for a company that creates medical surveys. They had a woman record the scripts and she sounded like a 6 year old. Many women who received mammogram reminder calls left comments about not wanting to hear a child’s voice giving that kind of info.

  3. That Royal Caribbean TV ad with the guy who sounds about 35 saying “Mom just caught air!” and something about Dad not checking his email. The on screen shots are of a kid about 10.
    Nothing wrong with the voice, just didn’t fit.

  4. Joseph A Bank (clothiers), the VO actor is just SO over the top “puking the spot,” I wonder if anyone’s told them “puking spots” went out in the 80s. All their customers are probably 50 something, so it probably fits the demographic but I have to change the channel when it comes on, I just can’t stand listening to it (and I’m 50 something).


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