Of all the Smurf characters, Grouchy is my favorite. Grouchy’s most common response is “I hate …” followed by whatever was just said. It’s a funny response, especially if the idea is really good.
When I have to keep hitting my answering machine’s repeat button because I missed some detail, I sure sound a lot like Grouchy Smurf! When you’re trying to get people to contact you and pay their debt, you don’t want a Grouchy Smurf response.
To help you avoid the Grouchy Smurf response, here are a few ideas to consider for your next IVR message:
Give the option before you tell them what to press. Unlike you, the person listening to your message doesn’t know upfront what all the options are. Only after they hear an option that sounds like what they want will you have their attention. So if you’ve already told them what number to press, they probably missed it. Speak the directions after the details.
Example: “To make a payment now, press 1.”
Tell them you’re going to give them a phone or account number. This is related to the previous item. When you’re listening to a recorded message, it takes you a moment to realize you need the number being spoken. If you’re not still frantically looking for a pencil and paper, you’re probably scribbling the number down and missing part of it. A well constructed message will gently prepare the listener to pay closer attention to the number that follows.
Example: “Please contact us at the following number: [phone number].”
Speak the number in small parts. When speaking long numbers (such as your phone number or Social Security Number), most people tend to speak faster. It’s a cadence thing that helps you remember it, but it doesn’t help your listeners. Numbers are easier to grasp and remember in “Smurf-size” pieces (Smurfs are only 3 inches tall). Chances are you learned the number that way. A pause between the parts gives the listener a moment to absorb (and write down) the number. Speaking digits in pairs (or threes) usually makes them easier to remember than larger numbers.
Example: “Eight-oh-one (pause). Two-six-five (pause). Eight-eight (pause) zero-zero.”
Repeat the number. Repeating the number solves two problems. First, it gives the listener a chance to catch any parts they missed. Second, it allows them to verify they got the number right without having to replay the message. In a potentially hostile environment (such as debt collections), the listener is more likely to delete the message (or hang up) than replay it.
Example: “Please contact us at the following number: [phone number]. Again, the number is [phone number].”
Have an option to repeat the message. Answering machines and voice mail let you repeat the message. When you get a live person on the line, they won’t have this luxury unless the message itself provides it. Even though many CT Center messages will repeat if the star key is pressed, the people you’re calling won’t know this unless you tell them.
Example: “To repeat this message, press the star key.”
As a final note, review your message before using it. Just because it looks good on paper (or your computer screen) doesn’t mean it sounds good. Once you’ve constructed your perfect message, read it out loud or have somebody else read it out loud to you. Then after you’ve recorded it, listen to the recordings and make a test call or two. The message may sound good, but the recordings might not.
Hopefully these ideas will help you avoid turning your contacts into Grouchy Smurf. And if I sounded too much like Brainy Smurf, you can toss me out of the village. But if you do, I hope Gargamel catches you.
This article was written by Dave S