Allison Smith

Traits of My Favorite Telco Clients, Part I

I am blessed every week to gain lots of new clients who either approach me after being referred by a colleague or come my way by way of  a Google search that eventually brings them to my Web site.  However, in addition to fresh new clients, I am also blessed to have a full roster of loyal and wonderful clients for whom I record regularly, some every few months, some each week, and some every day. One reason I work so easily with the same people again and again (and the reason that most new clients start off on a right note with me) can boil down to something as simple as the system in which they write their prompts for me; the way they present the prompts in an organized manner on the page; and even the program they use to construct their IVR trees.

This can be best illustrated by indicating formats that do not work well for me — the first is what I call “The Corleone Family Tree:

This system of mapping out your prompts is extremely beneficial in getting your thoughts organized and making sure all mailboxes, possible options, and directions the caller can take are clearly planned for. It makes me break out in a cold sweat if it’s sent to me in this format to record because these types of schemograms frequently have instructions, directions, and notes mixed in with the actual text the company wants me to record—and some of that is not easy to suss out. Please use this form of diagram as a way for you and your IVR team to map out what you need. To send it to your voice talent, send only the prompts you need, verbatim, written exactly as you want me to voice them. If there must be notes, make sure they are separate from the recordable text and easily discernible as such.

The next example of what your script should not look like is what I call “Notepad Hell”:

 Can you tell where one prompt is supposed to end and the next begins? Neither can I. Documents done in Notepad morph into one big horrific run-on sentence. It should be avoided at all costs unless the separations between each prompt are made crystal-clear.

My final least favorite format is when a spreadsheet is used as a word processor:

 The sentence in Cell 11 actually goes on for about six pages horizontally. Use Word to type your script, as opposed to a spreadsheet, which is actually intended for short snippets of stats and figures and not word processing.

My favorite format for receiving scripts: straight up Word format:

It’s easy to see that each prompt is encased in its own text box. There’s no guesswork involved, and virtually no confusion about what is considered a prompt.

Constructing your IVR scripts in the simplest, clearest way can go a long way to ensuring that I record exactly what you need, saving you time, and sparing aggravation on both sides.


Allison Smith is a professional telephone voice, having voiced platforms for Sprint, Verizon, Qwest, Cingular, Bell Canada, Vonage, Twitterfone, Hawaiian Telcom, and the Asterisk Open-Source PBX. Her Web site is