Most people hear interactive voice response (IVR) and voice-over prompts multiple times every day, whether on public transportation, on their phone, on GPS systems, or on a customer service call. And of course, many of these systems have multilingual options, especially in the US, making it a common request in multimedia localization. It’s critical that producers and localization professionals know what this content requires for high-quality production and seamless integration.
This post details what you must know to record multilingual IVR and voice-over prompts.
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Plug-and-play voice-over playback systems that require seamless integration
IVR and prompts systems are automated to play specific audio files according to user input – and again, often in multiple languages. That means three things. First, that these systems are usually quite extensive since their aim is to contain responses to most user questions, or to just about any service scenario required. Second, it means that the integration of localized audio files into a system must be completely error-free just to ensure basic functionality. This is particularly critical in industries like health care and government services, in which the information delivered can affect people’s well-being. And finally, it means that these systems require regular updates, as information changes or events come up.
These three qualities of IVR and prompt audio determine its multimedia localization workflows. Here’s what you need to know to record it.
1. Systems require strict file naming conventions and output specifications.
IVR and prompts systems call up audio files based on a path. That means that each audio file’s name must match exactly what the system expects. Any variation – even a minor one – will cause the system to fail. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure accurate file naming across all language deliveries, as well as plug-and-play audio. For this reason alone, you must engage a professional studio with proprietary file naming software and a seamless workflow like JBI Studios.
On top of that, these modules often have very strict format specifications. Many legacy systems can only play certain types of audio files, often in uncommon formats, and have media size limits that require heavy compression of the final files. It’s critical to lock down the post-production workflow and test deliverable specifications before starting to record, to ensure that the deliverable format and compression will work.
2. Large number of small files add to post-production timelines.
Most IVR and prompts systems also contain many short files. Usually these are one-word answers like “Yes” and “No,” numbers to be inserted into phrases, single letters of the alphabet to spell back user inputs, or very short phrases like “Press 1 for more options.” How many? To give you an example, a GPS system may have as many as 25,000 very short files.
This means that voice-over sessions often take a little longer than usual since talents have to pause between files to allow cutting. Likewise, cleaning, editing and looping take longer, often substantially so. And finally, quality assurance reviews require more time as well to ensure that every audio file is correct. Make sure to account for this in voice recording timelines.
3. Be ready for follow-on recordings and updates.
Again, most IVR and prompts systems require updates. They may be regular, like holiday hours and address changes, as well as short-notice updates for weather events or outages. Because availabilities are sometimes hard to wrangle, it’s critical to make sure your foreign-language voice-over talents are available for follow-on recordings. Likewise, it’s best practice to lock in backup talent choices, just in case they’re needed at the last minute.
4. Timelines are strict.
Remember that this audio is a critical part of the communication and customer service strategies of corporations, government agencies, health care or services providers, banks, public transit systems, and just about any client-facing company. If these systems aren’t launched on time or integrated properly with all languages in place, it can cause client relations issues.
What can you do to prepare? Make sure to get voice talent approvals (including backups) early on in the production workflow. Try to get a sense of when updates may be required by your client. Note when talent availabilities may get difficult for a particular locale or language – for example, during Ramadan for many Arabic voice-over and dubbing talents. And of course, establish clear communications with your client regarding voice-over script formats, timelines and production workflows.
Complex voice-over productions requiring thorough setup
Ultimately, IVR and prompts projects are just more complex than most audio productions, both in terms of content and post-production. They are also much less forgiving of minor technical issues since tiny errors can lead to integration failures. And of course, they must be launched on time. The only way to ensure high-quality, accurate localized voice-over deliverables is to engage an experienced, professional studio like JBI Studios. On content with rigorous integration and timeline demands like IVR and prompts, this is critical to ensuring project success.