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customer experience IVR multilingual phone menu prompts scriptwriting tips Translation

The Best Method for Translating Your Audio Production Scripts

Human vs. Machine – Translation Excellence?

You’ve just finished writing a comprehensive IVR script for your organization’s phone system.  But before submitting it to Holdcom, you remember you were tasked with having the script recorded not only in English but also Spanish, French, and Mandarin, since a significant portion of your client base communicates with your organization in those languages.  Like any professional working within a budget, your first instinct is to research the most cost-effective options possible to have your English script translated into the other languages.

Perhaps you’ve seen ads online for websites promising no-cost, on-the-spot translation solutions.  Or maybe you remember there’s a built-in translation app on your mobile phone that you’ve always wanted to try out.  Or perhaps you simply decide to type the words “free translation” into your web browser, and up pops Google Translate as the first search result.

Whichever of these methods you choose, you’re amazed not only at the ease-of-use the automated tool offers but also the immediacy that it renders a seemingly thorough translation.  All you had to do was simply copy-and-paste your English script into the “Enter Text” box, select the desired language for translation, and INSTANTLY a fully formed translated document appeared.  And you didn’t need to pay a single cent!  Nothing short of victory, right?

But before you email that translated script over to Holdcom to be recorded, remember the age-old saying – If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

While no-cost translation sites/apps can be a great resource for quickly translating stand-alone words, short phrases, or even full paragraphs to obtain the gist of information presented to you in a language you don’t understand, these same sites/apps can yield varying degrees of inaccurate translations, depending on the context of the verbiage you’re translating and the languages involved.

So while a free automated translation site might be an adequate solution when it comes to personal use (such as helping you understand an email or text from your new social media friend in France, who’s writing to you in his native language), that same site’s lack of 100% accuracy renders it an ineffectual tool for professional applications, especially long-form applications such as Message-On-Hold and IVR scripting.  In other words, the longer your script, the greater the likelihood the automated tool will produce errors in the translation.

Of course this begs the question – WHY do these automated translation tools produce such errors?

Think about it.  In English, a word can have various meanings, and those meanings can be very different from each other.  If someone were to say any of these common homonyms to you –

fan, park, play, right – as purely stand-alone terms and expect you to know the exact meaning they’re implying, you could certainly take a guess.  But you would really need to know the surrounding context associated with those words to understand the precise meaning that person was intending.  Such is true for homonyms in other languages.  And therein lies one of the reasons an automated translation site/app can easily take a wrong turn.

Depending on which type of auto-translation tool you use and the languages you’re pairing, the software may rely on direct (or, “literal”) translation methods, meaning it translates each word of your text separately, without considering how those words are used collectively in the full context.  This can result in not only grammatically incorrect – but oftentimes, nonsensical – translations.

To give you an example, I remember receiving a client’s Spanish translation years ago and immediately realized they had used an automated translation tool.  I’m not fluent in Spanish by any means, but when I referenced the client’s English version of their Spanish translation, I noticed the word “Queens” throughout.  And based on the context of the English script, I could see the client was referring to the New York City borough of Queens.  However, the word “Queens” appeared nowhere in the Spanish translation, which was a red flag.  I could see that instead of leaving the proper name of “Queens” intact in the Spanish translation, the automated tool mistakenly translated it literally as “Reinas” – the plural version of “a female sovereign or monarch” – which was obviously not the word/meaning the client intended.

So what will happen if you unknowingly submit a faulty translation to Holdcom to be recorded?  In general, it will cause confusion and ultimately delay the production of your final product, which is never ideal – especially if your leadership has given you a hard deadline to have the recordings implemented on your phone system.  So as our voice talent sits down to record your translation, s/he will inevitably spot grammar and word choice errors that will likely render the script unreadable.  In these situations, I often receive feedback from voice talents as such: “Unfortunately it appears this script was translated using Google Translate or a similar site.  If I were to record this as is, I’d basically be reading gibberish in some sections.  I think I know what the client is trying to say, but I honestly can’t be sure and I certainly don’t want to guess.  So please circle back with the client for clarification.”

Although the accuracy of certain automated translation tools has improved over the years, don’t assume the site/app you’re using is necessarily selecting the word/meaning it thinks best based on the specific nuances of your content.  Such automated tools are more likely relying on a language pattern-matching algorithm, so there’s no guarantee it will select the word/meaning you intended.  To compound the problem, there is no reliable way to confirm the auto-translator’s word choices are fully accurate without an actual human being, fluent in both the original language and translated language, to verify those word choices.  A machine using an algorithm simply can’t understand the contextual subtleties to the same degree a trained human can.

And that is why, when translating a document that will be used for a professional application, it’s crucial to steer clear of these “machine translators” in favor of skilled human professionals.  Experienced professional translators will take the necessary time and effort to avoid the pitfalls of literal translation methods.  They’ll factor in the all-important rules of grammar as well as any cultural references and nuanced language contained in your script.  They may utilize not only their personal knowledge and expertise of the languages required for the translation but also well-established multilingual dictionaries/glossaries, “back translation” methods, and proofreading/review techniques, which automated translation tools do not employ.

If you don’t already have a reliable human translation source (such as a fluent bilingual staff member with a proven track record of providing error-free translations), then Holdcom, at an affordable rate, can provide you with professional translation services, performed by certified, highly experienced multilingual translators.  And since word choice can be subjective even when skilled human translators are involved, you will be given the opportunity to review and approve all translated documents before we record them.  This way, if our Spanish translator translates the phrase “To repeat these options, press 9” as “Para repetir estas opciones, oprima 9” – but you prefer the word choice of “Para repetir estas opciones, presione 9” – we can certainly adjust that to your liking before the script is recorded and implemented on your phone system.

Contact Holdcom at 800 666 6465 for assistance with foreign language localization assistance
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customer experience equipment IVR phone menu prompts

The Future of IVR

A Sign of the Times

Is this the end of the IVR or the beginning of a new era?

Before we talk about where we are going, let’s take a moment to look back and see how cultural norms and consumer behavior helped to shape this technology and the contact center industry.

Traditional IVR

Automated Call Distributors (ACDs) were born in the 1960s.  They were industries’ answer to the growing number of phones, which had become an American staple, accompanying a 2-bedroom home in the suburbs with a picket fence and an American car in the driveway.  The explosion of television a decade earlier, combined with the heyday of the Mad Men of advertising, established the birth of consumerism.  Armed with their Bell telephones, these consumers had questions, problems, and complaints that needed resolutions.  It was a natural progression for businesses to automate the previously manual process of routing calls to the relevant departments.

With the introduction of touch-tone dialing and the Princess phone, the integration of IVRs (Interactive Voice Response Systems) into businesses ramped up in the 1970s and ’80s and were soon everywhere in the 1990s.  Toll-free numbers on catalogs and eventually every product ushered in a new era of self-service as consumers pecked their way through menus and options to get what they needed.  All was good in consumer affairs and call centers, for about 10 years.

This is where our heartfelt story of bygone days starts to take a turn.  Although this technology is deemed a contact-center mainstay for a variety of reasons, including the ability to handle larger quantities of customers and reduce costs, it also has its downside.  How many times have we all endured an IVR only to get to the end with no option that suits our needs?  It’s no wonder IVRs were voted the most annoying invention of all time in 2012.

Sure, we could point fingers at who was responsible for making these systems too bloated.

“It’s IT’s fault!”

“No, the budget was slashed!

“It was Marketing!”

The simple truth is consumer behaviors and wants had evolved beyond what technology could provide.  Contact centers were now dealing with multiple channels from mail to voice and now email.  And they were also expected to support new websites.  It was time for the IVR to progress beyond the voice channel.

IVR Automation (Conversational IVR)

As consumers’ phones became mobile – and the “cloud” didn’t just mean a rainy day – everything was going digital.  And while social media and live chat were the shiny new toys being deployed, IVR just kept showing up and doing its job – getting smarter with more integrations and hitting its stride as AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) took it to a new level.    

This ushered in the Conversational IVR, which brought with it many benefits including identifying consumer intent more effectively and quickly connecting customers with agents who had the best skillset for that interaction.  Customers received answers to their questions faster than they would with conventional IVR systems.  Conversational IVR also increased customers’ satisfaction and raised First Call Resolution (FCR) rates.  Even average handling times (AHT) improved as well as customer wait times.

As time marched on, consumers were becoming more addicted to their phones with new apps launching every month.  Their comfort level with speaking to technology was growing as they began using Siri, Google Voice, and Alexa on a daily basis.  Their expectations also grew as they interacted with a brand.  They expected the same ease and convenience as all the other technology they were using.

IVR Deflection (Visual IVR)

Today consumers are the most tech-savvy we’ve ever experienced, and their expectations continue to be on the bleeding edge.  As we inch closer and closer to the first version of cyborgs, armed with multiple smart devices, consumers are “connected” 24/7.  And just as we have adapted to speaking with and interacting with technology, we are now beginning to accept the effect of big data and the uncanny accuracy of hyper-relevant topics appearing on our screens.  For many, it may still seem unsettling, but in the not-too-distant future, it will be second nature and expected. 

Consumers now expect their interactions with brands to follow them from device to device seamlessly.  The automated customer experience is enhanced through Visual IVR, or “IVR deflection.”  Deflection enables you to add a multichannel experience to customer contacts, in contrast to Conversational IVR, which confines the customer and agents to the voice channel.  Depending on the circumstance, people may favor different channels.  There are occasions when verbal communication is not the greatest method for exchanging information, thus necessitating a transition to visual communication.  In the past, this required the customer to manually change channels.  In other words, hanging up the phone and restarting the communication process via email or a web browser.

Thankfully, Visual IVR opens a completely new engagement vector: the digital experience.  The digital interface of the Visual IVR provides users with a self-service experience akin to an app.  An email or text link is used to initiate the web-based experience; no downloads or installations are required.  Customers can engage with a visual interface to make menu selections, check account information, enter information digitally, and more.  While Visual IVR provides many of the same advantages as a mobile app, it essentially eliminates the barriers to client adoption.  The majority of Visual IVR deployments can make use of digital resources and tools that have already been created by the business.  Contacts can receive virtually anything that has been developed into an app or website and access it in real-time over the voice channel.  An agent can quickly move them to a designated chat, send them a coupon, or do whatever the interaction requires.  No starting over, no frustrations.

What’s next for IVR?

Although the IVR is approaching its 60s, there’s no sign of retirement for this contact center workhorse.  Many contact centers and businesses continue to have traditional and automated IVR systems running parallel to the other channels they are supporting, to suit all the preferences of their clients.  As visual IVRs become more ubiquitous, and the boomers adapt or fade away, the IVR will still be around in some shape or form.

To understand what the future holds for this industry, we simply need to look to our customers and the companies that are gaining traction.  As Millennials and Gen Z are racking up big numbers using Instagram and TikTok as search engines, they are redefining the digital experience daily.  The next generation holds the key to where we will meet our customers while catering to all their individual preferences. 

If I could predict the next great communication innovation, I would be writing my next book and planning a speaking tour.  But I don’t think anyone REALLY knows, because it will ultimately come down to where we are as a society and what makes the most sense at that time.  If Armageddon is coming as the preppers keep warning us, I guess I’ll see you in the bread line.  But I’m more of an optimist and like to lean into a future that will continue to use technology in a positive way.  Whether it will be on a Tesla smart Skele-Toe shoe phone or a tinfoil hat, I know it will be digital, highly personalized, totally portable, and require minimal effort.  And it will most likely be virtual. Beyond that, I believe the next evolution of self-service will be built on the 5 key features of Web3, (decentralization, blockchain, security, scalability, and privacy) and will be the predecessor to a completely sentient virtual agent. 

So, before you order your custom-fit Oculus headsets and launch into the Metaverse version of “Ready ‘Agent’ One,” don’t be surprised if you’re SWOTing concepts for a Discord group chat or Twitch live stream in the near future.  Or maybe you’ll be contemplating how Twitter Spaces and Spotify’s Greenroom could reduce handle times and increase C-SAT.  Regardless, in the near future as you awkwardly pose for your daughter’s latest BeReal post, confused by what’s happening, just realize you could be implementing this with your agents soon.

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call center customer experience equipment greetings IVR phone menu prompts tips

7 Ways to Bring Your IVR into the Future (or out of the past)

Not all companies and contact centers are the same size or have the same budgets.  This list has been compiled from industry trends and over 30 years of working with brands in all types of industries.  Whether you’re managing a handful of seats or hundreds of agents, choose the items on this list that will have the most impact based on your current situation.

Get to know your customer

This is probably the most underrated and underutilized tactic for most companies.  Understanding your customer and what/how they want to interact with your brand will make all your initiatives much more effective.  Take the time to speak with frontline agents to understand not only your clients’ demographics – but also their preferences.  Use this data to fine-tune your IVR and other self-service tools to optimize client engagement with the brand.

Localization & Customization

Hop on this trend and look to customize every contact as much as you can.  Leverage the data your agents are tracking in the CRM to improve the customer experience.  Meet your customers when, how, and where they want to be met, on whichever device or platform they prefer.  And do it in their language or dialect.  Nothing builds more trust than being greeted in your native language.

Automation & Conversational IVR  

If you’re still using traditional IVR, look to migrate to a conversational platform.  You must be looking at a ‘Mobile First’ approach.  Callers trying to navigate a keypad on the go are not ideal.  Provide your callers with the option to use voice commands, and this will speed up caller intent and provide a much better experience.  It will also allow for more built-in automation, which the IVR can handle and keep the call from going to an agent unnecessarily.

Branding

The IVR is the front door to your business.  Make sure it provides the best first impression possible.  Often overlooked, branding plays a key role in caller confidence.  Having the right voice that fits your brand and can serve as a “spokesman” builds callers’ trust, as they consistently hear and recognize that familiar voice while engaging with the brand.  Having clear, concise messaging increases caller comprehension and reduces miscues in the IVR.

Omni-Channel Consistency

Whenever possible, provide your contacts with a brand-appropriate experience, no matter which channel they are engaging with.  This includes the words and tone you use – from your agents to your chatbots to your IVR.  Too often brands aren’t consistent in their messaging, and your contacts can feel like they’ve called the wrong company.  Just because Marketing thought the new chatbot should sound hip or cool doesn’t mean it’s on-brand.  Find a sound that fits your brand and tweak it accordingly, depending on the technology and platform.

Regular Auditing & Tuning

How many times have you called a brand to hear three or more different voices when interacting with the IVR?  Make it a routine to call and listen to your IVR and ensure it’s being updated as you update other areas of the contact center.  The IVR can sometimes be treated like the middle child and appear forgotten as you move quickly to upgrade or implement new tools.  At least once a quarter, ensure your IVR is still providing the most comprehensible and efficient options and that it’s been updated to leverage other channels.

Visual IVR

Visual IVR unlocks the IVR from the voice channel and expands its use to all other developed channels.  Many companies are now embracing a visual IVR and realizing they should have done it sooner.  This simple technology can help to revolutionize your interactions with contacts, increasing C-SAT and reducing customer and agent effort. 

How are you maintaining your IVR? Let us know in the comments what we missed or suggestions you would recommend.

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call center IVR phone menu prompts scriptwriting tips

15 Voice Prompt Blunders To Avoid in Your IVR System

When writing voice prompts for IVR or ACD systems, clear concise communication is key. The thing about a well structured call-processing system with properly recorded voice prompts is that you just don’t notice it. What you do notice, however, is a system that is riddled with problems and errors.To ensure you’re creating a great caller experience, be sure to avoid these 15 common blunders in your voice prompt scripts:

  1. Using the Word “dial.” True story: I have never “dialed” a phone. For my whole life, I’ve pressed buttons. Now, I press “buttons” on my touch-screen phone. Think about it–when was the last time you actually dialed a phone? If you are instructing callers to dial an extension, you should switch to the term “press,” otherwise you might seem outdated.
  2. Too many menu items. As a general rule, 3-5 items should be sufficient for each level of your menu. If you have more than that, callers may become confused, unengaged, and frustrated, making work harder for your reps.
  3. Not enough menu items. Too few menu options is also a problem. If you don’t give users enough options, they may not be sure which department is the right choice for them. 
  4. Putting the extension number before the name of the person/department. A good prompt will say, “For Sales, Press 1” not “Press 1 for Sales.” Why? Callers are listening for their destination first, then how to get there. If you play the extension first, they’re not likely to associate the number with the department.
  5. Forgetting to tell callers they can enter a known extension at any time. Many repeat callers will know which extension they need to use before hearing any of the options. They might have even looked it up on your website or seen it in your email signature. Make sure you remind these callers that they can enter an extension without listening to the prompts.
  6. Neglecting an exit option. You should let callers know that number they can use to immediately leave the system and speak to a live human (during business hours, of course). This works in two ways–first, callers immediately know that there is a “real human” who can talk to them. Second, if callers know they can leave the phone tree, they’ll be more receptive to listening to your prompts.
  7. Having a long greeting before prompts begin. Time spent with an IVR system isn’t the same as hold time.
  8. Using an unprofessional-sounding voice. Professional Voice Over Talents exist for a reason: people like to hear them.Your automated answering system might be the first impression callers have of your business. Why would you use staticy, improperly recorded announcements?
  9. Not having an “after hours” variation of your prompts. When your office is closed, you should have a prompt that lets people know this and encourages them to leave a message (with appropriate menu option) or call back during normal business hours (and give hours). An after hours greeting can also include emergency contact number or direct clients to a self-service option on your website.
  10. Repeating the word “please” in every prompt. In business, proper manners are essential. On your phone system, saying “please” with every prompt is redundant and irritating. Say “please” in the first prompt, then keep your options more streamlined for easy listening. Remember–you’re writing for the ear.
  11. Using long phrasing for each prompt. It’s a prompt, not a message. Keep it short and to the point so you don’t lose caller’s attention. Think of each prompt as a call to action. 
  12. Stating extension numbers as one number. If you’re saying “Two hundred three” instead of “Two Zero Three,” you’re making a grave error and potentially going to have a lot of confused callers. It’s not that people will be looking for the button “two hundred three” on their phone, it’s that they might here two and three and ignore the zero. Plus, doesn’t it sound weird to tell callers to “Press Two Hundred Three”?
  13. Including Jargon. Jargon got its name because people don’t understand it. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid jargon in your voice prompts to make the caller experience as painless as possible.
  14. Putting frequently requested options at the end of the menu. It just makes sense to put the most frequently requested options first. If you already know what people are looking for, you should aim to deliver it as quickly as possible and move them efficiently through the rest of your call processing.
  15. Lacking Consistency. If you use inconsistent phrasing for your prompts, you’re likely to confuse callers. By changing your word choice, the caller won’t be able to follow a predictable pattern. For example, you shouldn’t say, “For sales, press 1; To reach customer service, press 2; Press 3 for reservations.” It just doesn’t make sense. 

What do you think? Have you heard any voice prompts that have made you cringe? Would you add anything else to this list?

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IVR phone menu prompts resources

Live Agents Or Automated Attendant?

The term ‘Live Agents’ has replaced the traditional “receptionist”.  Not too long ago most businesses answered calls live during “normal” business hours. So much has changed in how we work and live and communicate, I’m not sure what is considered normal.  Today customers expect 24/7, 365 support from any channel possible. In order to keep pace with customer demand auto-attendants are used everywhere – even local pizza shops.  Once considered a tool for big businesses, auto-attendants and IVR are available in just about every phone system sold. But which is better?  Answering the call with a live representative or having all calls go through a menu of options?

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customer experience phone menu prompts resources

5 Ways Auto Attendant Can Increase Efficiency in Your Business

Every business owner knows the importance of accurate and timely communications to keep the company running smoothly. A missed call or message can mean a significant loss of revenue and possibly a lost client. The auto attendant on your phone system can help to solve this issue. The obvious feature not missing a call is just one benefit of this technology.

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IVR phone menu prompts resources

What is IVR? How Does it Relate to Voice Prompts?

Working in our Client Relation’s Department we often get asked what is the difference between a voice prompt and IVR (Interactive Voice Response). IVR is a telephony technology that can process a combination of touch tones and voice inputs.  IVR uses voice prompts to provide callers’ with instructions and directions for accessing information via phone. Voice prompts are used within an IVR? Yes, that wasn’t a typo, prompts are audio files that provide greetings or informational messages within a telephone voice processing system. They can be sentences, phrases or individual words.  Unlike voice prompts an IVR system consists of a database, telephone equipment, a supporting infrastructure and software applications. Most IVR applications include:

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phone menu prompts resources tips

DIY Voice Prompts

If you’ve ever thought about recording your own prompts for your business, then you’ve probably already found out just how difficult it can be. Even with the right equipment (which alone costs thousands of dollars), depending on the word count it can take a week just to get the right recordings done. Maybe that’s why professionally recorded voice prompts are in such high demand.

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message on hold phone menu prompts tips

Message on Hold & Voice Prompt Tips from Aristotle

At its heart, what is a message? What is it supposed to do? A message transfers information, but iif it is not engaging will that information reach the listener. Centuries ago Aristotle was so successful at creating an engaging message, humanity still listens to his words today. His artistic proofs offer great audio marketing script tips for messages on hold and prompts.

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auto phone menu prompts resources

Multilingual Voice Prompts – Part of the Dealership Experience

Walk into almost any car dealership today and you’ll hear how providing an exceptional customer experience is vital to the way that business operates. Indeed, many automobile dealerships bend over backwards to offer perks to customers, including comfortable waiting rooms with free beverages and snacks and preferred customer programs. Some larger dealerships even boast that they have salespeople that can help customers in many languages. However, what about working with customers who speak a foreign language before they enter the store?