Friendly female customer service representative on the phoneDo companies from big corporations to independent practitioners realize how important the voice they choose for their telephone system is?

Voice talent and speech coach Jill Tarnoff shares her experiences calling in to book appointments with a healthcare provider and how the voice on an automated telephone system recording sets tone for the remainder of a call and speaking with a real person.

How Important Is The Voice On Your Voicemail?

By Jill Tarnoff
Okay, I confess, I am a voice artist and a speech coach so I may be more sensitive to the sounds of voices than the average person. However, I am also more aware of how people are affected by voices in ways they don’t realize. That is why I suggest that all businesses hire someone to record the company voice mail message. It’s not just because I want to generate work for myself – okay, I am always marketing myself – but that’s not the only reason they should give the work to a professional. The main reason is that I really hate calling to make doctor appointments.

I see my primary physician and several specialists at a satellite office of a highly rated hospital. The doctors are some of the best in the US. I am usually grumpy when I have to call the place. The phone tree has many branches. It can take a while to get to the right department. That is the first level of grumpy. If I am not calling to make an appointment for a check-up, then I am calling because I don’t feel well. That takes me to the second level of grumpy.

There is more.
The thing that takes me to the pinnacle of grumpy is the voice of the woman directing my call! Her voice has bothered me for years. She is too loud, sounds like she has a lump in her throat and pronounces the letter “r” like a lawn mower. Is this the voice that should greet people who are ill? I have asked several of my doctors to hire me to record their messages. They usually chuckle and change the subject. I think I need new doctors.

Most of my jobs to record voice mail are from referrals. That is because one company hired me and their clients were so impressed that they asked who did the message. It became clear that a professional voice makes a business sound more professional. I am told they like that it sounds “fancy.” They noticed that their image of the company improved.

But they didn’t notice it until they heard it. They realized that a competitor or a colleague suddenly seemed to be more successful because they did not just hear the sound of an assistant flatly reading a script to say, “Press 1” and “Thank you for calling.” It should not be a task that is tossed to the person who knows how to push the buttons on the phone system. Companies hire someone to design a logo, a webpage, a business card. I wish more would consider that they can sound as good as they look.
So, I am due to see my eye doctor. Does anyone want to schedule my appointment for me?
Jill Tarnoff


  1. Excellent article, Jill! The voice on the phone in any company should be the best, most inviting, soothing ‘Hello’ any can get. I once worked for a company that actually hired me to be their ‘greeting voice’ when they got positive response to me answering the phones after hours.
    Very good read, my dear…

  2. It so matters! I experimented with the voicemail message of an organisation I ran once that recruited volunteers. Low community budget here in UK meant we often had to switch to the system, even in the working day. As soon as we got the message perfect in terms of length, content, voice, and audio (my first probono gig, I can call it!) the ring-off rates reversed, and at least 80 percent of our callers left us a proper message that we could follow up. Many were valuable new volunteers, some were sponsors: opportunities all.
    Yes, the OGM is a logo – it sums you up.

  3. I came up with this same idea about 10 years ago that if secretaries were to take a voice over training class on how to answer the phone using vo skills creating an image in the tone of their voice it makes so much difference to the company image. Image is so important to the “first time caller” what they hear on the phone, friendliness, warmth, and sincerity are key and the image projection over the phone of the telemarketer makes it sometimes the only “impression” that person will ever have about them.

  4. Image is crucial. You get one chance to make a first impression. What someone hears first before ever doing business with you can make or break your conversions. People shouldn’t judge, someone may say but let me give you a clue. They do!

  5. I can’t stand it when you phone somewhere and you end up trying to communicate with someone who clearly does not want to be working there and to make matters werse you are trying to have a conversation with someone who’s conversation skills resembe that of a slug.
    Rant over! Apologies

  6. Well, as someone who did the French-language IVR for my company’s help desk phone number, I probably am not the person to ask for this one. 😉

  7. The cynical answer would be, “To have someone with a pretense of ethics in her or his voice to hide the institutionalized sociopathy of corporations.” Seriously though, check out who you’re representing before you take a job.

  8. these days many times it’s all about downsizing; low budget and working with what they already have on hand at the time.hiring out from pro voices might mean spending more as they see it. so the realization of a professional impact doesn’t have any room for consideration.

  9. Assuming the corporation is an expert in their product or service, why in the world would they ever want to sound like amateurs at – what for most – is their first point of contact; i.e. the telephone? And yet, it is endemic. And, frankly, astonishing. There so many crummy greetings out there, (and terrible on-hold music beds) it is mind boggling.
    The companies, services, and organizations I have called who use do professional talent are the ones who obviously know that good “presentation” right out of the gate is absolutely paramount.
    I know the choir members agree.
    I just hope that any company considering using professionals for this service can get past the “budget” barrier, and come to realize that you may eventually have no budget at all, and eventually no business at all, because people will hang up on the spot when they get a message that sounds like the reluctant employee or the “cute” family member is answering the company phone.

  10. Like all VO, you want it natural and professional, so the message isn’t lost by a amateur job – and I do find amateur-type voices distracting.

  11. Dan has right. My former company which creates speech-recognition technology has a HORRID recording when anyone calls the main number. It’s painful to listen to, but they won’t change it.

  12. Tough question… Overall, yes. I think a voicemail system; if I ever went that far into one, will make or break a call. However, the fact that I got a voicemail in the first place is frustrating enought.

  13. A well planned corporate phone system can be a very welcoming and helpful system. Of course, so many corporations have leaned on recorded announcements heavily in an effort to avoid having to staff their phones. A professional voice can help both the needs of the client and corporation if planned wisely.


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