Allison Smith

Offbeat Clients Need IVR Too

In my career as a professional telephone voice, I can tell you that the work is fairly formulaic: Almost everybody requires a front-end (“greeting”) message, a message once people get to their various department selections, an after-hours greeting, and occasionally, an extended absence greeting.  That’s it. Sometimes, there’s deviation from that, but not often. Pretty straightforward!

What can really shake up my day is when I’m in the middle of recording something, and I can’t believe I’m actually saying it. Sure, there are the big corporations and mainstream businesses for which I record, but every now and then I’ll record conference intro prompts for meetings of tin-foil-hat societies banding together to thwart the dangerous rays being emitted via Keith Olbermann or from the pizza ovens at Sbarro’s. I voiced some prompts recently that assured the callers they are automatically litigants in a class-action lawsuit if they were prisoners who were strip-searched in a particular cell block of a certain prison during a specified span of time. I voiced an entire IVR system for a dog (“If you are one of Scout’s friends from the neighborhood, bark once..”), and when I voiced the IVR system for a noted Los Angeles divorce attorney and joked that a prominent celebrity who is famous for her multitude of messy divorces should have her own extension, the office administrator who hired me to do the system insisted that I tack that onto the end.

The oddest moment was a few years ago; my phone rang one morning and a woman from San Fransisco explained she was interested in having me voice her phone options. She asked if I would be open to calling her existing system and giving her an estimate. No problem! I dial in, and don’t you know,  she’s a call girl. On her opening greeting, she had a veritable menu of everything she does and does not do (and how the items on the does menu costs extra outside of a certain radius.) Stymied, conflicted, and feeling very, very Amish, I called her back and respectfully passed on the job. I explained that I have a pretty high-profile clientele, and it just wouldn’t be a good venue for my voice. Frustrated, she sighed and said: “You’re the fifth voice talent to turn me down!”

I was fifth on the list? Now I was really depressed.


 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