3 Key Components of Voice in Telephone Messaging Systems

Best Practice Series

Discover The Three Key Components of Voice in Phone Systems

Making The Most of Each Call

There are so many ways people communicate these days.

The telephone, which used to be the go-to means of contacting companies, is now just one tool among many options. Despite there being more avenues for customers to reach you than ever before, nothing has been able to completely replace speaking to a real person.

That said, picking up a phone to call someone else is a special effort these days for a prospect or customer. If someone even musters the desire or courage to dial in, they’re showing a high degree of engagement and hold onto the belief that if they call you, they’ll get the answers they need.

Some of these callers may even be in a state of agitation because they’ve already been trying to solve the problem on their own and haven’t had much success.

When that customer calls in, the first sound they encounter should either be a real person or an auto attendant.

Like most companies, you’ll likely go the auto attendant route. Designing a phone tree takes time and care. Get the structure in place before you begin scripting as this will help you to determine what kind of messaging you need and what purpose it will serve.

A functional, interactive phone tree can help you create a smooth, engaging experience for the people calling your organization.

1 - Auto Attendant

Good scripting plays a role when constructing phone trees. So does finding the right voice to deliver your messages. Customer experiences on the phone start as soon as your lines connect. Be sure to kick it off right with a strong auto attendant, the first greeting your callers hear.

When a potential customer calls your business, usually the first impression they get of your company is the voice of your auto attendant.

What's an auto attendant?  An auto attendant is a voice recording that thanks your callers for making the decision to call your business and sets them at ease, making them comfortable with your company and what you can do for them as your customers.

The auto attendant often leads in to the IVR (Interactive Voice Response), a menu that gives the caller options, like press 1 for customer service, press 2 for sales, etc.

When picking a voice for any purpose, you'll need to clearly identify your market and define the characteristics of your customer base in order to find the ideal talent to serve them. It's important to that best reflects your company's image, market, and customers.

Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself:

  • Does this voice compliment the demographics of my target market?
  • Can my customers relate to this voice?
  • Are they persuasive and genuinely convincing?

For example, if you were in the business of selling pizzas to college students, your auto attendant voice-over would need to reflect your target market.

A pizzeria that serves the college / university student market may sound like this:

Voice Requirements:

Age range: 17 - 23
Voice Type: Young adult
Characteristics:  Friendly, approachable, trendy, go-getter

Script: "Hi there, and thank you for calling Varsity Pizza and Calzones, the pizza joint that never sleeps, satisfying your cravings 24/7!"

Usually, the same voice that is hired to perform the auto attendant records your entire phone system.  The auto attendant voice is likely the first impression a customer is given of your company, and consistency may be key when trying to retain them on-hold, particularly if the first voice representative (your auto attendant voice talent) really struck a chord with them.

Your phone system’s auto attendant serves as the first point of contact for many people with regard to your brand. That said, it makes perfect sense that you design your auto attendant to welcome callers and put them at ease. In doing so, you’re establishing an immediate connection with the caller and reassuring them that they reached the right company. Keep the message brief, professional and authoritative.

Remember, you’re reinforcing confidence and brand connection. The delivery of those words have enormous influence over the direction of the call.

2 - IVR

The voice that you choose for your auto attendant should walk alongside your caller and lead them through the various selections that are sure to follow the initial greeting.

Say hello to Interactive Voice Response, commonly referred to as IVR. You may be familiar with phrases like, “For service in English, press one. Pour le service en français, appuyez sur le deux.”

The IVR is a voice recording that gives your callers direction, listing options and the appropriate numbers to press in order to get through to the department, individual, updates, or information that they want to access.

The IVR provides much needed guidance and support to your caller. An IVR also helps to properly set expectations. Navigating your phone system should be as easy as possible for callers. Keep that in mind when writing your copy.

The Interactive Voice Response acts as a means for your customers to get what they want or to speak with the right person immediately.  It also operates as a filtering system for your company when receiving calls.

If customers are properly educated of their options and which keys they should press to attain their goal, customer satisfaction, on-hold retension rates, and sales levels will increase.

Your IVR script could look like this:

IVR Script:

If you know the extension of the party you would like to speak to, you can press it at any time.

To place your order, press one
To learn about our specials, press two
To speak with a customer care representative, press three
To listen to our company directory, press four
To hear your service options again, press nine


Make sure that scripting is clear and direct. Too many options creates confusion. The more complex your service offerings and support levels are, the deeper your phone system will be. Always provide options for callers to repeat the menu or to return to main menus.

3 - Messaging On-Hold

Are callers routinely waiting to speak with a representative once they’ve made it past your IVR? If so, you’ve got to make the most of that time, and fast!

Messaging on-hold, also known as MOH, creates an opportunity to turn waiting time into selling time. Instead of letting cheesy elevator music invade the ears of your customers, you could be sharing vital messages, information and tips that help them pass the time productively if not enjoyably.

First up, we'll discuss the importance of on-hold messaging / on-hold marketing for your company telephone system.

What do your customers hear when they come through your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) or when they are transferred to a different department?

If the answer is silence, nothing at all, or passive "elevator" music, we need to assess how effectively you are marketing to and supporting your customers while they wait in queue to speak with a real person.

The opportunity to reach out to your customers is now!

They are a captive audience, and are eager to hear what you can do for them.  While they are waiting, which for some business could be upwards of 10 minutes or longer, you need to keep their interest, keep them happy, and most importantly, retain their call to avoid losing them and their confidence before you can even meet their needs.

By making good use of your on-hold messaging, you will be able to:

  • Keep your callers interested
  • Increase satisfaction levels regarding their experience with your company
  • Introduce new products or services for potential cross sells
  • Provide additional information about your company in a friendly manner
  • Instill trust and assurance that you'll be with them shortly
  • Retain your callers while on-hold
  • Save money by retaining the caller, eliminating the need for them to call again

To really capitalize on your on-hold messaging, alternate courtesy messages with marketing messages.

Here's a sample of a brief on-hold messaging script.

On-hold Messaging Script:

Thank you for calling Extreme Sports Gear and Mountain Bikes.  We're glad that you called and appreciate your business.  In respect of your time, a customer service representative will take your call shortly so that you can get back to the great outdoors.


* Music in between messages for 30 seconds or so appropriate to your listening audience *

Are you at our website right now?  If so, click on the "Special Offer" advertisement on our home page to take advantage of our Online Summer Sale!  Anything listed on our website is 25% off if purchased online.  Get in the groove of Summer early and save!


Did you notice how we alternated between marketing and customer support messages? Use this approach to engage customers about products for a short while and then about a fun fact related to your product or industry. You could even include upcoming events or direct them to your social channels stay in touch.

Depending on the average time that your customers are on-hold, your on-hold script length will vary.

For an average system where customers are on-hold for 1-3 minutes, it's wise to have at least 2 courtesy messages and 2 marketing messages, each message timing out to precisely 30 seconds (:30).

Music should play in between the messages for 30 seconds (:30) This will result in 2 minutes of voice-over and 2 minutes of uninterrupted music play, giving you total of 4 minutes of on-hold messaging.

For systems supporting callers on-hold longer than 4-5 minutes at a time, make sure that your material is kept fresh for your audience, with at least 4 different courtesy messages and 4 different marketing messages.

Using Music To Break Up Messages

Something else you might consider is having brief musical interludes in between messages to help make it easier for your caller to separate thoughts and digest what they just heard. If you are doing that, make sure the music you intersperse between messages is instrumental.

To accompany the voice-over, music is often used as a secondary track in a voice-over recording.  Music can vary throughout or remain true to a theme.

Music should reflect your business and your customer base.  If you're servicing an extreme sports crowd, the music might reflect that culture and encompass a touch of rock, soft punk, or alternative music genres.

The human voice, even lyrics in a song, functions as another instrument and a communicator of messages you may not have intended to send. The music that you choose for your phone system should foster conversation and reflect your brand, not create a disconnect between you and your customer.

Bonus - Company Voicemail and After Hours Message

Voicemail... the last link in the telephone voice recording chain.  Organizations have been known to have general mailboxes, and separate voice mailboxes for employees and management.

Consider having a company voicemail box. This serves as a catch-all for any messages that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. You'll find that there are two different types of voicemail boxes, one for individual personnel and a general company voicemail box. The company voicemail should continue on with the voice you've been using throughout the system, bringing assurance and closure to customer experiences with your phone system after hours or on holidays. 

A voicemail prompt invites your customers to leave a message so that you can get back to them during regular business hours.

Voicemail is helpful to have because it act as a personal secretary, recording your customers name, phone number and the reason why they called.  With this information, you can follow up with an interested person and meet their needs appropriately.

Here's an example of a General Voicemail Script:

Thank you for calling XYZ Company.  We are unable to take your call at this time.  Please leave a detailed message including your name, phone number, and the reason you called and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.  Looking forward to serving you!

Here's an example of a Personal Voicemail Script:

Thank you for calling the office of Jane Doe, Principal of Groversfield Elementary.  I am on the other line or am presently out of the office.  Please leave your contact details, and I'll return your call as soon as I get back.  Thank you, and have a nice day.


Summarizing Key Elements of Phone System Recordings

To recap, a professional telephone system consists of:

  • Auto Attendant
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
  • On Hold Messaging
  • Voicemail

If you are looking to find the ideal voice to represent your business and make a good first impression for your organization, post your job requirements at Voices.com.

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