Why does the new iPhone personal assistant, Siri, have a female voice? Why do most Americans choose a female voice for their GPS, while Germans prefer a male? This CNN article describes some of the potential reasons for our gendered speech preferences. We discussed it recently in our LinkedIn group (the group is set to private, but we’d love you to join us!). It might be biological, it might be cultural—either way, these preferences are interesting, and they’re something you should keep in mind when selecting voices for your on hold marketing and IVR Announcements.
So, how do you decide if you should be using a male or female voice?
First, think about your brand. What is your mission or vision? What do you do? Who are your customers and how do you want your brand to make them feel? In the real world, we see some trends with male and female voices. They're associated with a lot of cultural nuances that we might not even think about. Advertisements for cars are frequently narrated by male voices. Household products, like cleaners, often feature a woman's voice. A voice that matches your audience's is most readily consumed by that audience.
Next, think about your callers. It’s wise to deliver the sound that is most appealing to their ears. For IVR Announcements, our experience shows that most companies choose a female voice over talent. Why? It could be they are trying to replace their female receptionist’s voice, find the voice prompts easier to listen to when spoken by a woman, or just like the way a particular female voice talent sounds. It’s not incorrect to use a male voice for an automated telephone system, though: The 511 system, which you can call for traffic and travel information, exclusively features a male voice.
For Messages On Hold, there is more of a divide between choosing male and female voices. Some people like to alternate male and female voices throughout their program, which emphasizes changing messages. Others like to stick with one voice and keep everything consistent. There’s no right or wrong answer. As long as your use voices that your callers want to hear and like to listen to, your programs will be effective.
If you can choose a voice that satisfies both your brand and your callers, your content will really shine. To find the right voice for your IVR system, Messages On Hold, or other telephony applications, sample a lot of voices and choose the one that sounds the best to you and your callers.