Auto Attendant & On-Hold Message Do’s and Don’ts, From A Voiceover Expert



I’ve been doing telephony voice work for 20 years, and let me tell you — in two decades of experience, you see a little bit of everything.  Some great scripts…and some really bad scripts. I’ve cultivated tidbits of advice on what you should do and what not to do.  Here are some highlights:

How to Incorporate Extensions Effectively

  • DON’T mix extension numbers (ie “dial ext. 207”) and press numbers (ie “press 1 for sales”) in the same Auto Attendant script.  
  • DO use one or the other, and be consistent throughout the whole script.
  • WHY – We expect to hear one or the other, so it’s confusing to the caller.  Our minds take too long trying to connect the dots when we hear something we don’t expect.

Getting the Right Voiceover Length

  • DON’T write ‘War and Peace’ for the Auto Attendant Greeting script. Many marketing departments want to list their greatest talking points, tags and slogans, but this is not the right venue for that.
  • DO give only the pertinent information as succinctly as possible.
  • WHY – No one wants to listen to a recording that drags on for 2 minutes, no matter how good your content is. They just want to speak to someone ASAP.

When to Present the ‘Dial for Operator’ Option

  • DON’T give the ‘press 0 for the operator’ in the first sentence of the Auto Attendant!  
  • DO give that option at the end of the greeting.
  • WHY – If you give the option right away, they won’t listen to the rest of the greeting. Everyone will zero out, and the rest becomes pointless.

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

  • DON’T have silence on hold.
  • DO have either music provided by SkySwitch or On Hold Messages by AdvantageIVR.
  • WHY – With silence, it’s too easy to think you’ve been hung up on and they’ll call back, making staff busier than they need to be.  

First Impressions Matter

  • DON’T think that the voice on the Auto Attendant doesn’t matter, or that it’s a throw-away task.
  • DO have the Auto Attendant Greetings professionally recorded.
  • WHY – The Auto Attendant is the NEW Director of First Impressions, just like the receptionist used to be.  And was the receptionist important back in the day? I rest my case.

Incorporate the Company Directory in a Smart Way

  • DON’T give a long list of names, departments and their extensions in the Main Menu. (i.e. For Bill Wright, head of Marketing, dial 278; for Barry White, lead singer of our company choir, dial 777, etc.)
  • DO say “For a Company Directory, press ___” and then plug them into the directory.
  • WHY – The Main Menu should be short and staccato-like. Callers would rather have a couple of menu levels than be forced to listen to the whole message to hear what they need  — which is typically at the end. 😄

Add Music Here, But Not There…

  • DON’T use music on the Auto Attendant Greetings.
  • DO use music on the On Hold Messages.
  • WHY – People don’t expect music when a call is answered. They automatically think they’ve been placed on hold because they have been trained to know that music signals “on hold”.  So think: Auto Attendant = Voice Only, On Hold = Voice with Music.

Be Careful Where That Music Comes From

  • DON’T play the radio or your favorite mp3 download or music CD on hold.  It’s illegal.
  • DO use licensed music only or professionally recorded On Hold Messages with licensed music.
  • WHY – Composers legally earn royalties from their songs played on the radio, digital downloads and CDs. The ‘royalty police’ – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC – can fine you for doing such.  AdvantageIVR uses ONLY licensed music for their on hold productions.

The Differences Between Voiceover Message Types

  • DON’T think that Auto Attendant Greetings and On Hold Messages are the same.
  • DO know the difference.
  • WHY – When explaining the services you offer, Auto Attendant Greetings are recordings heard when the phone is answered, the menus they navigate through and the voicemail greetings.  On Hold Messages are heard after a call has been answered and is placed on hold and they are always set to music. Apples and Oranges.

Know Your Audience and Cater to That

  • DON’T have a male voice doing the Auto Attendant Greetings for an OBGYN clinic, or similar female patient only business.
  • DO have a female voice for that client.
  • WHY – Self-explanatory.

If you found these tips helpful and want to learn more about the importance of creating great, personalized voiceovers for your business, then make sure to sign up for this SkySwitch webinar I’ll be broadcasting live on Tuesday, April 14th!

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