Allison Smith Show Notes
Allison Smith was busy pursuing theatre acting but was finding the hours and the income intrusive to her family life. That’s when Allison realized that doing voiceover allowed to her to be creative and gain control. 25 years later, Allison is one of the most recognized IVR voice talents in the world.
Allison was born in Hinton Alberta along with two older sisters and an older brother.
Allison wasn’t a singer but as a child she would sing all the product jingles at the grocery store. She was very of branding/corporate identity from an early age. While most other teens were lip-synching into a hairbrush, Allison practiced reading ad copy from magazines out loud.
And when Allison got into voiceover – paying the bills in between acting jobs – little did I realize that it would take over as her mainstay. Especially voicing telephone systems, which is her niche. Although she always loved calling the time/temperature line and I remembered wanting to be the “time lady”.
As Allison and her husband I are finally doing their it’s occurred to her that she’ll be leaving behind quite a legacy of sound files, which he has appointed a group of trusted clients in the telephony industry to steward and see to it that they’re used responsibly and in an open-source environment. It was pointed out to her that – at any given time – there’s probably one of her telephone files playing somewhere in the world.
Currently, Allison is the CEO/Voice Goddess of The IVR Voice. She’s seeing big growth in my business, and when other voice talent ask how she’s doing it, she says, “I honestly don’t know.” She keeps in her lane. She keeps her head down. She does the best quality work she can. She attempts to give clients the best service she can, and she’s promised herself that if it no longer gives her joy, she shouldn’t do it anymore.
Luckily, after 25 years, that still hasn’t happened, and she can’t foresee the day when she won’t want to walk up to her mic and see what happens.
Allison currently lives in Calgary with her husband and dog Bailey, where she’s lived since the age of 6.
Tweetable Quotes and Mentions
“There is a skill set involved with anything everybody does.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“The acting background actually gives me a little leg up.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“Because of websites, anybody who calls in, is going to be a specialized customer.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“There will always be room for an IVR.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“People tolerate being on hold less and less.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“If their time is spent on hold, there better be valuable content that they’re listening to.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“IVRs can be used for so much more than just a mechanism to sort callers.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“The phone system is an extension of the company’s brand.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“People don’t see the phone system as something that should stay consistent with their brand.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
“A lot of meaning gets lost when it’s not in the spoken word.” -Allison Smith Click to Tweet
Hump to Get Over
Allison Smith was busy pursuing theatre acting but was finding the hours and the income intrusive to her family life. That’s when Allison realized that doing voiceover allowed to her to be creative and gain control. 25 years later, Allison is one of the most recognized IVR voice talents in the world.
Advice for others
Make sure your voice system connect your website and your brand.
Holding her back from being an even better leader
Best Leadership Advice Received
Keep your voice low, keep it slow, and don’t say too much.
Secret to Success
Keep your head down and stay in your lane and do your thing.
Best tools that helps in business or Life
Email: Allison [at] theivrvoice.com
Resources and Show Mentions
54 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Competencies List: Emotional Intelligence has proven to be the right kind of intelligence to have if you want to move onward and upward faster. Get your free list today.
Show Transcript:Click to access edited transcript
Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we uncover the leadership like hat that help you to experience, break out performance faster and rocket to success. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligence practitioner, Jim Rembach.
How do you get higher contact center agent performance? It’s when customers grade the call and their rating and comments are used to motivate and coach agent. Uncover hidden secrets and replicate your best agents with the real time insights from the award winning External Quality Monitoring Program and Customer Relationship Metrics. Move onward and upward by going to customersgradeacall.com/fast and getting a $7500 rapid results package for free.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion today I’m excited because I have somebody on the show that I guarantee you’ve heard but never seen or known. Born in Hinton, Alberta along with two older sisters and an older brother Allison Smith wasn’t a singer but as a child she would sing all the product jingles at the grocery store. She was very aware of branding and corporate identity from an early age. While most other teens were lip-synching into a hairbrush, Allison practiced reading ad copy from magazines out loud. And when Allison got in to voice over paying the bills and between acting jobs, little did she realized that it would take over as her mainstay especially voicing telephone systems which is her niche.
Although she’s always loved calling the time temperature line and she remembered wanting to be time lady as Allison and her husband are finally doing there wills it occur to her that she’ll be leaving behind quite a legacy of sound files which she has appointed a group of trusted clients in the telephony industry to steward and see that they’re used responsibly and in an open source environment. It was pointed out to her that at any given time there’s probably one of her telephone files playing somewhere in the world. Currently Allison is the CEO and Voice Goddess of the IVR voice. She’s seeing big growth in her business and when other voice talent ask her how she’s doing it, she says, honestly she doesn’t know. She keeps in her lane, she keeps her head down, she does the best quality work she can, she attempts to get all clients the best service she can and she promises herself that if it no longer gives her joy she won’t do it anymore. But luckily, after 25 years that hasn’t happened and she can’t foresee the day when she won’t want to walk up to her mic and see what happens. Allison currently lives in Calgary with her husband and dog Bailey where she’s lives since she was six years old. Allison Smith, are you ready to help us get over the hump?
Allison Smith: I am definitely ready. Hello, Jim, thanks for having me, I’m so glad to be here.
Jim Rembach: I’m excited to have you here because…I’ve known you for a very long time and I chuckled with you when we chatted off mic about the fact that—I mean, I find myself making phone calls both personally and professionally to companies and I hear your voice, that makes me laugh. I’ve given our listeners a little bit about you but can you tell us what your current passion is so that we can get to know you even better?
Allison Smith: Well, you know my passion happens to be this niche that I’ve gotten into—voicing telephone systems. And it seems to be something that just has recurring consistency and recurring revenue. Once you you’ve voice telephone prompts for a company and they want that consistency of the same voice, which hopefully they will because it gives them nice move, creative fee, hopefully they will return to the same voice talent again and again. So, I’ve blogged about it to other voice talent saying, “If you want really good recurring revenue and a good customer base that seems to grow year by year, telephone voicing is a pretty good niche. So I’m blessed, I have so many clients that comeback, Pet Smart is just one of many, many companies that I worked for.
Jim Rembach: And you also worked for the company that I work for, Customer Relationship Metrics, and you’ve been doing our survey files for many, many years and definitely it’s one of those things where the consistency is so important. When you start thinking about a lot of companies wanting to do their own personal brand and a lot of times they’ll have like that executive records the voice prompts and things like that, where have you seen an issue with that occur versus using someone who’s not in that role?
Allison Smith: It’s such a great question. A lot of people think I speak, I can do this voice prompts, everybody speaks and it’s not seen as necessarily a specialized skill until you start to voice your own voice prompts and realize that there is actually a skill set involved. As with anything anybody does there is a definite skill set involve in voicing prompts that are clean, consistent, edited well, recorded professionally. And not only that if you get somebody in your company to voice the prompts as many people will do they’ll just grab the receptionist, she answers the phone anyhow let’s just get her to do the prompts, she may not be available to do things like updates she might get promoted, she might quit the company. Then if you just keep grabbing people on staff to do the voicing you’ll end up with a big mosaic of voices. I always tell the example of Shaw cable which is a really big cable entity here in Canada, if you’ve ever called for support, I think last time I called because we’re having issues with our DCT box I counted 15 different voices on their telephone system, which in my opinion sounds a little amateur and really doesn’t sound professional at all.
Jim Rembach: One thing that a lot of people don’t realize unless they are into the audio at a higher level is you start dealing with bit rates and mono and stereo and file sizes and all of those things, it does get quite technical.
Allison Smith: Sure. Oh, yeah. and you know you mentioned customer relationship metrics which is great company and when I do those surveys you have to realize that there needs to be a little bit of a mood or attitude change when you’re voicing an intro prompt as opposed to—“I’m sorry to hear that you’re dissatisfied with our company, please leave a message and let us know in which ways we can improve.” So they’re needs to be almost a little bit of care taking and management of customer dissatisfaction, if it does come up. So, this are the kind of little emotional changes that can be made in the telephone system that a lay person may not know how to maneuver around, if that makes sense.
Jim Rembach: It makes total sense to me being in the industry for a long time and I think all of us from a consumerism perspective, we’ve probably listened to hours and hours of those prompts as well as on hold messaging and telephone systems by the time we hit my age, which is almost 50, if I tabulated that all up it’s been probably hundreds of hours.
Allison Smith: Oh, sure. Easily. Yeah, yeah. And you know I did one day of recording where I did the IVR for the Archdiocese of New Orleans and then right after that I did a customer satisfaction survey for Victoria’s Secret, it couldn’t be more different. And those two different clients required such a different treatments to record for. So, yeah, I’m happy to say that the acting background actually gives me a little bit of a lay gap. A lot of voice over people come from a broadcast background which isn’t bad but it’s amazing how options be acting sensibilities are drawn into even doing IVR voicing.
Jim Rembach: That’s a really interesting point that you make because I think also from just a customer care and support perspective more and more organizations are starting to be more in tuned to the words that are being said, yes, but then also how they’re being said because right now everybody talks about this whole empathy issue. And trying to create rapport and build relationships with customers and how agents are people who are on the phone working for company’s sounds like it’s a scripted empathy.
Allison Smith: Exactly. It drives me crazy when they say, “Well, I’m sorry to hear you’re having that problem that must be very frustrating, well, I’m here to help you to that problem.” It just sound so rehearsed and so scripted. Yeah, it’s just one of those things. And also here’s something that I always mention in presentations when I’m talking about IVR’s best practices, think about the last time you pick up the phone to call a company because you had to deal with something chances are you’ve already been to their websites, you’re already familiar with what they do and your request is so specialized or your question has not been answered by any of the material you read on their website. So, if more people design telephone systems without understanding that anybody who calls him is going to be a very specialized customer or unfortunately sometimes it means they’re unhappy and they need to speak to an actual person to get to the bottom of their issue. If more systems were designed with that in mind, I think it would be kinder to the caller and would frustrate them less.
Jim Rembach: You know that’s a great point that you bring up with the impact of mobo and a lot of people think that people are using voice prompts and IVR and those systems less and less, people don’t want to call anymore they want to self-serve, they want to chat, they want to do all that. Have you seeing a downturn in your business because of the increase in mobo?
Allison Smith: Actually no. I think there will always be room for an IVR and especially one that’s so intuitive that it is self-driven as you say, people are very self-serve specially the younger generation they want to be able to transact and take care of this without having to explain their issues to a live agent. So to answer your question, no, I don’t think self-serve pushes IVR out of the way at all, in fact, I think if anything it might impact the “on hold” industry because people tolerate being on hold less and less. And if their time is vent on hold it better be valuable content that they’re listening to. I like on hold systems that engaged the caller and ask them to participate in their care, while you’re on hold, make sure you have your contract number and blah-blah-blah, that sort of thing involves the caller a little bit rather than—“we’ve been in business for 40 years, we make widgets and here’s why are widgets are the best”—you know what I’m saying?
Jim Rembach: I can imagine from a customer experience perspective you just have a wealth of insight talking about that skill set as well as that the person who’s just picking up and recording a particular prompt has no visibility and understanding of really the—I don’t want to date you but you’ve been doing this for a couple of decades now. I can imagine the bank, the knowledge base that you built on doing this and also understanding all of those nuances that we talked about is quite significant.
Allison Smith: Yeah. And you know I think I had kind of aha moment, it was like an epiphany a few years ago, when I realize that maybe my job is a bit more complex than just recording telephone prompts and sending (11:21 inaudible)to the client and collecting the check. More and more clients are asking me for my opinion about—why are we having this big caller drop-offs? Why are people hanging up? Why are people thinking that perhaps our phone menu is a bit too labyrinth, if I could say. And yes, so it occurred to me that through blogging, through speaking at telephony conventions and doing things like this, kind of a podcast, hopefully it’s educating people a bit more about how IVR can be used for so much more than just a mechanism to sort callers, which is how it was explained to me when I first started doing it. They said it’s almost like an escalator that takes all the people in white jackets and sorts them off to the left and all the other colors go off to the right and then you’re not right facing stream there’s further sorting of other colors. I guess that’s a good way to explain it and yet I think IVR should be used for so much more than just organizing colors into the various departments.
Jim Rembach: In addition to that, what I hear a lot is people saying how you can divert people into low-cost self-serve options. But if that’s your mindset, what you had stated as well as it’s a cost cutting tool you’ll find that it’s a volume increasing tool and a customer defection tool.
Allison Smith: Absolutely, there’s no question about that. Yeah, yeah.
Jim Rembach: Having a theatre background and being in this business so long and getting exposed to so many different types of environment you talk about the diocese and Victoria Secret, all these different clients that you’re dealing with, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to a lot of different cultures and ideas and thoughts and we have the opportunity to pull inspiration and things like there and on our show we look at quotes in order to help inspire us. Is there a quote or two that you can share?
Allison Smith: Yeah, you know I think I read a while back and it seems really resonates with me, the quote goes something like, “People will forget what you say and they might even forget what you do but they will never forget how you made them feel.” And isn’t it true that when you meet someone sort of leave almost like a little bit of a vapor trail behind you have that sort of scents memory of what it was like to deal with that person. So I always try to keep that in mind in any of my interactions whether it be professional or personal, I think you can leave someone with a very good resounding impression or it could negative it might as well be a good one.
Jim Rembach: I don’t have a massive sample of leaders in regards to guess who’ve been on the show but that particular quote by my Angelou has been the most memorable quote and recommended quote by guest on our show. The impact that that has and the depth that it has been tremendous and even fits into what we were just talking about a moment ago with what you are saying as far as it isn’t just a voice recording that’s on your system, it’s a way for you to leave a trail, make a connection and have an impact.
Allison Smith: You know if I think about the idea of calling my bank, I instantly get a pit in my stomach because I think—ugh, great—and the I have to car (14:48 inaudible)probably 20 minutes to a half an hour to call, they’re going to ask for my PIN numbers several times during the process, they’re going to ask for my language selection because I’m in Canada and they’re going want to confirm that I still English and not French and it’s exhausting, it’s never an easy call to make. What if Royal Bank of Canada, I’ll just say who they are, what if they decided to do things like other financial institution that I’ve voiced for in which they are trying actively not to appear to be intimidated, not to appear to be formal and to demystify money and to get people over there fear of talking about money. So that’s an example of an industry where they’ve had a certain way of doing things and now people are breaking out of that tradition and being very warm and very accessible. I think people will remember how a company made them feel when they’ve called them once, oh, yeah, frog-box recycling that was fun last time I had to call them I just honestly think that the phone system is the extension of the company’s brand but too many people don’t see the phone system as something that should stay consistent with their website personality and any sort of media buys if they do any radio or TV buys.
Jim Rembach: I had the opportunity to sit at the call-center conference and demo session that was done by Leslie O’Flahavan, she has been on the show as well and she specializes in writing and she was doing a session on brand voice, and what you were just talking about right there is brand voice. Having a consistent brand voice in everything you do whether it’s that scripted e-mail that you have to send, whether it’s a website page, whether it’s your IVR voice, your brand voice has to come through and be consistent so you don’t have that inconsistency which translates into an unprofessional feel and look throughout your different customer touch points and your interaction points. So, definitely brand voice, IVR voice they go together.
Allison Smith: Absolutely they do.
Jim Rembach: So, when you start looking at, gosh…getting into this business and doing what you’re doing in itself was getting over a hump. You talked about it feeling in between acting jobs, but there’s other humps that we have to get over life and they teaches a ton, is there a story that you can share with us when you got over a hump?
Allison Smith: Gosh, I think I came to a realization when pursuing acting job got really, really difficult. And when I did get them I found them very intrusive to life, basically, because especially if you’re working with theatre it eats up your evenings and your weekends and that kind of compromises family time. So it just became clear to me at one point that this fill-in job of voice over was actually take over as my mainstay which was fantastic because the hours are better, quite frankly, the money is better and just as a general lifestyle choice it just is so much kinder to my life and my family’s life. I make a firm rule, unless clients are really, really stuck, I make a firm rule of not recording in the evenings or on the weekends.
Again, I will help clients out of there jam and I’m sensitive to other time zones. I did the IVR for a sandwich shop in Saudi Arabia, of all voices, and had to accommodate their time zone. But apart from that this is a fantastic way for me to stay creative and yet still have some control over my life. Even film I will do some commercial and the occasional some gigs if they come my way but they can eat up your entire day. I guess that that’s what I would consider to be a hump to get over, would be this idea of giving up acting is not necessarily a bad thing it was like a gentle redirect in another area that just feels completely 100% right to me. And as you said in the intro, I can’t foresee a day that I won’t be doing this. I realize the voice changes overtime but as long as I still sound like me, I can’t really foresee a day when I won’t want to record every day.
Jim Rembach: It’s interesting that you said that, thanks for sharing. A lot of people when they often record they refer to hiding their own voice. I can’t stand the way I sound so I would dare to say that you probably called and talked to yourself in a sense more than anybody I know. So, what is it like when you talk to you or call you at a business?
Allison Smith: Yeah. It happens all the time. I ordered a hotel wake-up call in Dallas, Texas and I’ve forgotten that I did the wake-up system for the hotel chain and it was me waking me up. My husband also had the experience of downloading a workout program for a smart phone that keeps you motivated at the gym which kind of like having your own personal coach, I think you know where I’m going with this, they were a text to speech engine that I voice so it was me saying, “Come on five more sit-ups, you can do it.” And, you know, he actually had that changed to the Australian male. I think he didn’t want me pestering him at the gym, which is kind of crazy. But to get back to what you’re asking about, almost everybody hates the sound of their own voice because you’re hearing it muffled through home network of bone and tissue. And when you’re hearing your voice recorded you’re hearing yourself speaking to yourself. I on the other hand have this sort of detached view almost like a ballet dancer looking at their alignment in the mirror and going, “Opps that’s a little bit off.” They’re very clinical and I too because I listen and edit my sound files all day. So I do have that kind of that almost detached view that is almost like a product that I’m working with as opposed to being self-conscious about how I sound.
Jim Rembach: I think that’s a very interesting point I found myself going through that same transition luckily by the time I started doing podcasting I had hurt my own voice so many times that it was like it wasn’t me.
Allison Smith: Yes, exactly. Another interesting are that I’m starting to get in to is vocal coaching. And specifically to the yoga community because I’m a big yoga practitioner. I’ve noticed that many yoga teachers will come in with an agenda, as in they want to sound like the mystical yoga teachers, but they actually come in with their persona also many of them are younger women who seemed to be prone to vocal affectation such as Upspeak where do you ends of all the sentences, sound like a question you probably heard younger women speaking like that. Also things like vocal fry, which is where they sort of sound like that and that seems to be almost like a trend with younger women, so, it’s interesting. I was actually hired by some yoga studios to come in and coach their teachers on how to use their voices more effectively, so I find that extremely rewarding.
Jim Rembach: That’s super interesting point because I was reading a study that was talking about the perception of somebody’s IQ and they were specifically referring to that whole Upspeak that you’re taking about. You end a sentence with ah, and then you do that, and they were saying how that people are actually do that as part of their habit that they’re perceived to be less intelligent that those that do not, so it does have an impact.
Allison Smith: Yes. In fact I think it sounds the opposite of confident, I think it sounds like you’re questioning everything you’re saying and you’re asking for approval from whoever it is you’re talking to. It’s interesting though because as soon as I pointed out to someone—I actually did have a yoga teacher that was almost speaking in a valley girl kind of cadence she would say things like, “Move your leg. Move your head” the minute I pointed it out to her, she said, “Oh, my gosh, I do that” and she stopped doing it, so, there’s a good awareness that comes with monitoring your own speech patterns. A certain amount of affectation is normal and some of it is regional depends on where you live, but yeah, speech is fascinating to me.
Jim Rembach: Like you’re saying it has a much larger neuro scientific impact but then we really are even aware of. The way that our brain processes and interprets and perceives we still are at the very, very early stages of understanding all of that.
Allison Smith: Absolutely. Speech we are so attuned to final nuances and accept that you cannot get across in social media and typing over email. So a lot of meaning gets lost when it’s not in the spoken word.
Jim Rembach: Absolutely. Yes, you been doing this for 25 years, however you talked about expanding and doing some other things, doing some of the coaching work, doing some of that—but when you start looking at all the things that you have going, what are some of your goals?
Allison Smith: I think I will struggle with that question because really what I want to be doing is what I’m doing maybe on a bigger scale. I look at a contract like Siri, oh, my gosh! It would be incredible to be on that scale. So that’s always what I’m striving to is to be kind of like a Siri type voice, although many people have said I’m probably like a lesser known version of Siri because I do show up everywhere, it’s amazing how many different places I show up. I actually took a ticket out of a parking garage kiosk dispenser and it was me saying, “Please take your ticket,” just extremely treepy. So, yes, my goal would to do more of the same and also to leave my sound files as a legacy in a responsible way. I actually found an organization who I’m currently in touch with, they supply voices to disabled people and people who have lost their speech and they are after lay people all over the world even people without broadcast experience to contribute to their voice bank. And when I contacted them and said, “Well, you know, I have audio drives upon audio drives of sound files and what do I do with them after I’m no longer here? And they’re extremely interested and perhaps integrating my voice into their compendium of sounds, so it’s interesting.
Jim Rembach: That’s an interesting legacy.
Allison Smith: Yes, I would say so.
Jim Rembach: And the Fast Leader Legion wishes you the very best. Now, before we move, let’s get a quick word from our sponsor.
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Jim Rembach: Alright here we go, Fast Leader Legion, it’s time for the Hump Day Hoedown. Okay Allison, the Hump Day Hoedown is a part of our show where you give us good insights fast. So I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Allison Smith, are you ready to hoedown?
Allison Smith: I’m scared but ready.
Jim Rembach: Alright. What do you think is holding you back from being even better leader today?
Allison Smith: Confidence.
Jim Rembach: What is the best leadership advice you have ever received?
Allison Smith: Keep your voice low. Keep it slow and don’t say too much.
Jim Rembach: What is one of your secrets that you believe contributes to your success?
Allison Smith: Keep your head down, stay in your lane and do your thing.
Jim Rembach: What do you feel is one of your best tools that helps you lead in business or life?
Allison Smith: Tenacity. I really don’t see myself doing anything else so I’m determined to keep doing this.
Jim Rembach: What would be one book that you’d recommend to our listeners, and it could be from any genre?
Allison Smith: Oh gosh! Actually one of my go to, is a book called, Self-Promotion for Creative People or the Creative person. It was written about a dozen years ago, it’s fantastic.
Jim Rembach: Okay, Fast Leader Legion you can find links to that and other bonus information from today’s show by going to fastleader.net/Allison Smith. Okay, Allison this is my last Hump Day Hoedown question: Imagine you were given the opportunity to go back to the age of 25 and you have been given the opportunity to take the knowledge and skills that you have now back with you but you can’t take everything back you can only choose one, what skill or piece of knowledge would you take back with you and why?
Allison Smith: I would say to 25 year old Allison, “Don’t worry so much.” That was my big thing, is almost seeing too far into the future and worrying and anticipating, it’s all going to shake out exactly as it should and it’s going to be better than you ever imagine it could be.
Jim Rembach: Allison, it was honor to spend time with you today, can you please share with the Fast Leader Legion how they can connect with you?
Allison Smith: Absolutely, my website us theivrvoice.com, I could be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and on the Twitter machine I am @voicegal. Please connect with me I’m trying to reach a certain number by the end of the year, so I hope I’d get that.
Jim Rembach: Allison Smith, thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom the Fast Leader Legion honors you and thanks you for helping you get over the hump.
Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the fastleader.net so we can help you move onward and upward faster. thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom, the Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump.
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