IVR Deflection 101

In stressful times, it’s important to have your online services, app and FAQs working hard for you and your customers. Here are 7 ways to pull customers to digital and help take the pressure off client-facing teams: 

1. Hard deflections can be effective  
Use clear, to-the-point wording to be set expectations.  
Example: “At the moment, the only way to book a visit is online. Our website has all the latest information and you can pay for your membership there too.” 

​2. Grab your caller’s attention  
Use a different voice, or an intro, to give a cognitive ‘heads up’ that something important is about to be said.  
Example: “Payment holidays: If you need help …..” 

3. Use customer-friendly language
Focus on customer need, rather than the task.
Example: “If you’re calling about anything to do with money, press 1 is clearer than “If you want to talk about refunds, bills or tariffs”  

4. Don’t forget WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)
Dialling-up digital attractiveness is the best way to pull customers off the phone and onto digital channels. Help customers get clear on what’s in it for them: 

  • Speed – Will SMS or webchat options get me an answer quicker?
  • Recall – Can customers keep a copy of chat if they switch to webchat?  
  • Best channel – what’s quick and easy-to-do in online accounts and apps?

Example: “You don’t have to wait. If you’d like us to text you a link that takes you straight to our online support, press 1 now.”  

5. Be specific about digital features
If activating the online account takes less than 2 minutes, say so. If you can use your online accounts to request a refund, say so.  
Example: “You can check your bill and change personal details in your online account. It takes less than 2 minutes to set one up.” 

6. Test “to listen to the option again…” and other error handling options
Giving customers the option to listen again, or go back if they make a mistake, helps reduce transfers and handling time.

7. Brief is best
Callers will listen out for their specific query. Your message will get lost if you offer them too many things to do and places to go.  
Example : “The quickest way to check your balance is in your online account”.  

If you need more help, drop us a line at hello@mazaru.com.  

Great bot conversations

Seven actionable ideas, to take the demand off agents and help keep customers chatting to bots.

  1. Tell your customers what your bot can and can’t do
    • Manage customer expectations to avoid frustration and calls.  
    • Frame what the bot can help with, so customers know they can get help.  
    • Take turns: End the greeting with a question to let the customer know it’s their turn.  
  1. Keep it chatty 
    • Can you read the message in one breath (is it less than 30 words)? 
    • If it’s longer, go back and trim it down.   
    • Long messages are high effort and hard for customers to understand.  
  1. Don’t send them packing
    • There’s no need to send customers to other channels, or online FAQs.  
    • Build forms and data collection in the bot – making it easy for them to stay. 
  1. Make the bot (not the customer) do the work
    • Test query resolution from start to finish.  
    • Check turn-taking. 
    • Providing links to FAQs means customers are doing the work. Would an upfront sign-post to common questions from your homepage be better for customers? 
  1. Keep it simple
    • To many options and routes will confuse and overwhelm.  
    • Start with 3-5 simple, transactional tasks.  
  1. Don’t fence them in
    • Test for dead ends and loops.  
    • Can customers go back a step if they can’t find what they’re looking for, or if they make a mistake. If not they are likely to abandon the bot.  
  1. We all make mistakes
    • Make sure your bot can accept typos and incorrect spellings, e.g. cancel could be written as cancl, cancel, ccancel, canccel or cancell etc. 

If you need more help, drop us a line at hello@mazaru.com.  

Black History Month – Time for Change

The theme for Black History Month this year is ‘Time for Change’. We interviewed one of our black voice artists Damian Lynch to talk about unconscious bias and how building awareness is the best way to stop this happening.

We’d love to tell you what we’ve learnt from Damian. As a company that works with voice artists daily, we asked him: ‘What are the challenges you’ve faced in doing voiceover work that you would share with up and coming black voice artists?’

Damian explained that ‘one challenge I’ve experienced is, when you’re in the recording booth, people ask you to sound more black, but they do it by asking ‘“Can you sound more street or urban?”.’ He told us that he used to take this to heart because he thought ‘well I am black – what do you mean I don’t sound black?’. ‘If it happens now, I push back. I ask ‘What do you mean when you say more urban and more street? I’m from London so I can sound more London if you want?’ In the end, they drop it, but I can see people squirm and, I think, how dare you imply that a black person can only sound one way, you know?’ He points out that this is a type of microaggression.

‘So, I think, younger people in the industry may well face that still, it’s not something I face as much anymore but if there’s even a hint of it, I just nip it in the bud straight away, I’m not having any of that.’

If you don’t know what microaggression is, it’s subtle, and often unintentional, discrimination. Like when a black person opens their mouth, people are surprised and they say, ‘Oh god, you’re really well spoken’. Damian replies with ‘Thank you, I think, but how did you expect me to sound? Like I was from the ghetto or something?’. He told us that when he’s had this debate with people, some will say “you know, it’s a compliment”. But you have to think, well if a white person spoke, and they had clear diction and sounded ‘well spoken’ would people be shocked and surprised?

This comes across to a black person as ‘Oh wow, you can string a sentence together’ and it becomes personal and offensive. Damian clarifies the reason this feels like microaggression is because this question is asked more often to a black person than a white person.

Another example that Damian gave, is when someone hears an accent they don’t recognise, like Scottish for example, they ask and the person says, ‘I’m from Glasgow’ and people accept that. However, on several occasions someone’s asked “Where are you from?” he’ll say London and will get a response like “Oh that’s great, but where are you really from?”. ‘They mean your skin colour is different to mine; so you must be foreign in some way, let’s see how far back we need to go to work out why you’re not British.’ People may not realise they’re being micro aggressive, but this is what it comes across as.

Just to recap the main takeaways. Microaggression and diversity/inclusivity is still a common issue worldwide. Damian has explained to us that more recently, things have improved but there’s still a way to go, so what can everyone do to work towards more change;

  • Learn: read up on these topics and read blogs like this one to learn what you can do to be more diverse and inclusive in your workplace.
  • Bring awareness to the situation: share information with colleagues, friends, and family, share Damian’s story! Think about what we’ve written about today, and whether that impacts you personally or people around you.
  • Think before you speak: as Damian said, a lot of the time people are unaware that what they’re saying that could really offend or upset someone, this is called unconscious bias. This is something that everyone needs to be thinking about – it may not feel offensive to you but it could have a strong impact on someone else.

To end this blog, we want to shout out our fantastic voice artist Damian Lynch who took the time to chat with us and tell his story. Damian has appeared on TV on The Split, Casualty and Coronation Street over the last 6 months. If you want to see him in action, he’ll be hitting the stage for ‘A Sherlock Carol’ at the Marylebone Theatre in London from mid-November to January 2023.

If you’re currently struggling with any of the topics we’ve spoken about today, head to Stop Hate UK or Black Lives Matter UK for support and/or further learning.

Ukrainian voices – we hear you on World Voice Day

During the 337 years of foreign rule, the Ukrainian language went toe-to-toe with over 60 laws. Efforts to remove this language from history involved suppressing (or limiting) its use in education, official service, and print. Despite these strict restrictions, the Proto-Slavic language matured into three major dialects with 15 sub-dialects. Today, the language can be found in box office hits that have grossed $2 million worldwide, with a diaspora spreading through 18 nations.

Saturday the 16th of April marks World Voice Day and considering this year’s theme is “lift your voice”, we’re especially thinking of all Ukrainian voices.

The Ukrainian language has been described as soft, melodious, and upbeat. One American national said, “When I hear Ukrainian, I return to my childhood when I visited my Grandmother and Grandfather.” Another national from Pakistan explained, “Though the meaning of the words remained a total mystery to me, it constantly seemed that Ukrainians were talking about something good. It seems that Ukrainian is very kind and soft.”

Vocal attributes such as softness, kindness and light-heartedness have been frequently associated with trustworthiness, demonstrating that tone is an essential factor when it comes to establishing trust.

In her blog ‘6 reasons people trust a female voice over a male voice’, voiceover Debbie Grattan discusses these attributes, highlighting that female voices can be considered more comforting and more trustworthy than a male voice…but why?

Comfort: Harris Interactive polls have found that 46% of participants considered female voices as more soothing than male voices. In addition, a soft voice is associated with comfortability which encourages trust.

Melodic: The musical nature of the female voice can also play a role in the trust it instils

So, for this World Voice Day, how can we all help to lift Ukrainian voices?

Shine a spotlight: ‘Chocolat’ author Joanne Harris has called for the publishing industry to spotlight Ukrainian authors and translators to help support refugees. The author stated: “No decision will be good for everybody… we can amplify Ukrainian voices, creators and translators… these things make a difference.”

Hire Ukrainian translators: With over 4 million refugees having left Ukraine since the invasion, organisations will need to make a considerable effort to support and communicate with refugees; to help them access housing, employment, education, medical and health support etc. Businesses will need to offer services, such as utilities or insurance. With that in mind, get in contact with a  Ukrainian/English translator as soon as possible, to prepare the relevant communications.

Hire Ukrainian voice talents: If you are an organisation who needs to provide advice or information to support Ukrainian refugees, consider Ukrainian voiceovers for your help videos, IVRs or voicebots.  Even if spoken in English, a Ukrainian-accented voiceover will demonstrate empathy and give your spoken messages a trustworthy, gentle, kind, and soft tone of voice, characteristics valued more than ever in times like these.

If you need help and support in contacting Ukrainian voiceovers or translators, drop me a line at hello@mazaru.com. Let’s all help to Lift Ukrainian Voices this Easter. 

Thanks, Daniel

Shelter: Helping to give people a warm, safe home

According to Shelter, 6 million households are denied the right to a safe home or are threatened with losing it. There are 4,750 people sleeping on the streets on any given night. 90,000 households are stuck in unsuitable temporary accommodation, such as homeless hostels. This a rise of 38% in the last five years.

Shelter is a charity that supports people who are homeless or in an unsafe home, to get the advice, support, security and hope that they need. During the colder times, it’s crucial that they get help and donations, to ensure people aren’t sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures. For every £1 they receive in donations, 79p is spent on helping people directly.

Over the past 2 years:

  • Shelter’s helpline team has advised 22,644 households
  • 18,590 households were seen by their face-to-face services
  • They had 19,170 webchat conversations
  • 6.5 million households visited their online advice and services pages

Our 3 Wise Christmas bots represent three essential tone of voice traits we know help good service communication – warm, human and empowering. Shelter represents all three, but we picked them as the charity that brings the gift of warmth.  

Shelter is warm because of the kindness the charity brings – the warmth, love and joy that gives and receives from human to human throughout the charity. It’s the selfless act of doing something to help make someone else’s life better and giving a family their Christmas. It’s the warm tears of happiness from families across the community. Not only the people who donate, volunteer and created Shelter, but also the families they’ve helped; it brings them warm food, a warm drink, a place that has heating, hot water, and a fireplace to stay toasty during the winter seasons. It’s having a smile back on their face, seeing their family and children happy, feeling comfortable, safe and protected and having someone there for them that cares. Having a warm bed, warm clothing and receiving and giving a warm hug.

Warm is giving people a place to call home.

We have a national homeless crisis. Winter in the UK reaches freezing point and sadly causes the most common and highest level of deaths for homeless people. At Christmas time, many of us spend hundreds on Christmas presents, and even £1 can help charities like Shelter help people have somewhere safe to call home and save lives.

If you would like to join us in spreading the gift of warmth this Christmas, please donate to Shelter. Please stay warm and safe yourself and have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil – Choose Love

Choose Love is a UK-based charity pioneering a new movement in humanitarian aid: fast, flexible, transparent and accountable. Thus far, this movement has enabled them to reach over one million people in 22 countries over 300 projects, with 88% of donations directly supporting refugees.

They believe in putting “love into action” by traveling to countries in need, finding local organisations doing the most work and supporting them with their needs such as funding, material aid or volunteers.

We identified with Choose Love through the values they keep close to facilitate their outstanding work: 

  • Speaking Out – They speak out against injustice. They believe in advocating for long-term change. 
  • Empowering People – They aim to enable refugees to take control of their lives with their work. 
  • Human Dignity – They believe in treating everyone with humanity and respect. 

Our 3 Wise Christmas bots represent three essential tone of voice traits we know help good service communication – warm, human and empowering. Although Choose Love embodies all three of these traits, we picked them as the charity that best represents the gift of being Human. 

But what does it mean to be truly human? 

According to the Merriam-Webster definition, human is about being a bipedal primate mammal, aka Homo Sapiens. But if we delve deeper into ourselves, we find humans are far too complex to be segregated solely as “Primate Mammals.”

We’re human because we possess the ability to empathise, collaborate and hope. We’re human because we can listen and work together to alleviate each other’s problems.

In the words of the late American politician and academic Woodrow Wilson, “There is no religion higher than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed.” Similarly, the late anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

So being human isn’t just something that we are – it’s something that we should always aspire to be.

If you would like to help Choose Love with their fundraising, please donate or buy some fellow humans a gift. Even a small donation or purchase will help. And Happy Christmas to all the humans we know.

Energy Price Rise: Reassuring customers worried about their energy debt

On the back of the energy price rise crisis, consumers are now panicking about whether they can switch whilst in debt and what will happen if they can’t get an energy provider. This continues to drive demand for answers from energy suppliers … putting more pressure on customer-facing teams.

The key issue is for customers whose supplier goes bust; will any new supplier allow them to transfer over if they’re in debt?

Policies and onboarding new customers could vary between suppliers, but the general ‘rules’ seem to be supportive of consumers whose supplier has gone out of business – subject to policies about the size and age of their energy debt.

So how do you stop the demand on agents from existing customers, or potential new ones – who want reassurance and help from advisors?

Build more reassurance into digital and written comms and channels.

  1. Make it clear, concise, caring and confident

When reassuring customers and communicating in difficult times, stick to the 4 Cs:

  • Make things as simple and clear as possible to your audience: Break things down into bite-size pieces of info. Be clear and straightforward – ‘this is the issue, this is what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and here is how it benefits or helps you’. Don’t use jargon – customers won’t understand and will end up getting more confused and frustrated.
  • Be concise: Bullet point information, adding in the key ‘must haves’, ideally in bold for a quick understanding.
  • Be caring: Show empathy… come at it from a customer’s point of view… show that you’re listening and can understand the customer’s troubles. Be sympathetic, show kindness and use positive language such as ‘help’, ‘fast’ and ‘easy’.
  • Show confidence: Be straight-to-the-point. Avoid hedge words such as ‘approximately’, ‘might, ‘possibly’ as this implies doubt.
  1. Use more active language
  • Active language will also help, as it’s more personal and fosters connections. Whereas passive language is more robotic and has no personal relation.
  • Active language: ‘We’ll send your bill to you’


  • Passive language: ‘Your bill will be sent out to you’
  1. Make policies clear and accessible on digital channels
  • What’s your policy on taking on customers with debt? Is it clear and visible from the homepage or your app?
  • Make banners and online links specific to different customer groups e.g. ‘Customers with debt older than 28 days’, ‘Customers with prepayment meters’
  • FAQs: Have a clear section about ‘taking on customers in debt’
  • Adopt a simple FAQs bot to deliver facts and answers in an easy, conversational style
  1. Optimise social media for service
  • Ensure your social teams know the rules and policies relating to customers in debt and arm them with the relevant URLs, to quickly steer customers to specific, online help
  • Build empathy – ensure your social teams understand the different circumstances and situations consumers might be in, so they can respond accordingly
  • Prioritise tone of voice training so that teams can flex styles and tone to fit the situation – more sympathetic, reassuring and understanding
  1. Make your IVR take on some of the load
  • Start the IVR with a reassuring alert message to pull potential new customers to the relevant online help  
  • Manage expectations by being clear about ‘our advisors here on the phone’ can and can’t help with
  • Prep callers for the call, by telling them what information they’ll need to have to hand e.g. ‘current bill details’, ‘information relating to your debt and household bills’
  • Keep alerts up to date and check in with advisors to see that the IVR is working effectively
  • Don’t be tempted to add long-winded info and policy messages into the IVR. Human brains can only take on so much information in voice messages, and none of us are good listeners when we’re stressed or anxious.

For more ideas and information, drop me a line at hello@mazaru.com.



Sierra Leone: A country of diamonds; a language of gems

This Black History Month, we celebrate important people and events in the African diaspora, and where better than my motherland – one of three countries in the world to have been established by freed slaves – a country that has produced over 9 million carats of the world’s high-quality diamonds: Sierra Leone. On paper, this country appears a small, primitive nation. But, in actuality – it’s a country with a rich history and culture. Today, we explore this along with the many lessons we can learn.

Sierra Leone, aka Salone (Sal-own), is in the west of Africa, with Guinea bordering to the north and Liberia bordering the south. 

Discovered in the 1400s by the Portuguese sailor Pedro De Sintra, the country was called “Serra Lyoa,” which translates to “Lion mountains,” referring to the range of hills surrounding the harbour.

Sierra Leone is one of three countries to be created by repatriated slaves coming from America. After the abolishment of Slavery, Descendants of first-generation slaves were sent back to Sierra Leone to live, hence the name of the country’s capital, “Freetown.” But – years of Slavery in foreign land led to these descendants adopting the language of the land they lived in, so once they returned home, this left two speaking groups: tribal and English. To communicate, they needed to create a new language: Krio. 

According to Translators Without Borders, Sierra Leone has 18 major languages. Krio is the most used, but only 10% speak it as their primary language. Since 2005, the most common language was the Mendes (32%) and Themnes (30%); yet, English is the official language used in schools, the government, administrations and media.

Krio is an English-based creole used in Sierra Leone as a Lingua Franca. It symbolises identity – but because English is the official language used in academics, it’s viewed as distortion. Nonetheless, Krio is still the formal language for people who cannot speak English. 

An interesting fact of Krio is 80% of its vocabulary is from English. For example, bagin means “Bargain,” biskit means “biscuit” and gladi means “happy.”

Although the language is from a mix of English and native phrases, the version of Krio differs according to the region:

The western region is where the country’s capital is (Freetown) and is home to most people educated in the UK. These Krios often have British first and last names and speak with a Krio that Westerners can understand. They also speak the best fluent English in the country.

Other regions speak with a Krio that adopts more tribal phrases, making it harder to digest.

In 1996 – 2002, Sierra Leone was victim to a devastating civil war that left the country in a state they’re still recovering from today. As a result, 43% of the country lives below the poverty line, a significant decline from 54.3% in 2011. 

Many people work low-skill labour jobs such as mining, fishing and agriculture; nonetheless, there’s a beauty in the struggle.

These jobs require real teamwork, which positively affects the way people communicate. 

In 2021, Vision Of Humanity named Sierra Leone the 4th most peaceful country in Africa and the 46th most peaceful globally. This reflects in their language and common phrases.

Language and phrases in Sierra Leone encourage acts of service and reassurance. For example, a common Phrase used every day is, “ah dey wit yu,” meaning “I am with you” or “I will help you.” Another phrase used is “Nor worry,” meaning “Don’t worry,” heard in most day-to-day conversations.

These statements, along with body mannerisms, are used to build bonds and trust between communities, which makes life easier for a tribe of people living below means – but what can we learn from this?

  1. Acts of service – Taking the initiative to ease responsibilities and burdens allows someone to feel taken care of and safe.
  2. Reassurance – Reduces stress and anxiety.

Today, Sierra Leone has a lot more exposure and Krio is more recognised. For Example, in Kanye West’s 2005 Grammy award-winning song, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” Krio is used in the intro. 

I visited Sierra Leone earlier this year and was amazed at the many white-sand beaches and exotic fruits. I also have an exciting feeling for the nation’s prospect, with various new buildings and projects in the coming years. I intend on revisiting this December. I love my heritage and I’m committed to contributing to their economy as much as here in the UK.



Black History Month – music to inspire and soothe your customers

This week, we’ve helped one key client support Black History Month. We’ve created a music on hold track list featuring world-renowned black artists. The tracks feature music from iconic artists such as Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye. Their songs represent music styles such as Soul, RnB and reggae, which tie into black history. 

Many of the styles on our playlist originate from Blues, born in the 1800s and founded in the Mississippi Delta of the American south.

In the 1800s, most blues musicians were farmworkers by day and would perform at Juke Joints by night. They would sing songs about life’s hardships and love. 

To escape the misfortune of living in the south, many black communities migrated to the Northern regions of America – particularly Chicago. This caused blues to mix with other styles and inspire multiple genres such as Jazz, Rock’n’roll … and later house music.

Blues is based on a specific six or five-note piano scale progression, which differs from the seven-note scale we typically hear in western music. It also follows a twelve-bar progression based around three different chords played in a specific order. This style is found in multiple genres. For example, Elvis Presley’s recorded version of the blues song by Big Mama Thorton “Hound dog” & The Beatles “Can’t buy me love”.

Unconsciously, music has transcended and connected cultures, breaking social barriers in the process – but why is it so loved and addictive? 

It ignites emotion in us, as well as its psychological effects:

Psychologically: Learned Association – Learned association proposes attaching it to particular emotions when listening to a specific music pattern. This could be happiness or sadness.

Emotionally: Healing – According to Psych2go, music can be medicinal. Firstly, it’s been found to help people suffering from brain damage by initiating neurogenesis (the birth of new brain cells). It’s also been seen to help children with Autism by teaching them to be more collaborative.

Would you like to update your track list this month with inspiring, soothing music? If so, contact me via hello@mazaru.com. Who knows, you may run into a few faves.


Energy Price Cap: 5 ways to help customers

On October 1st, the energy price cap will jump by 12%, costing millions of households £1,277 per year (on typical use).

This increase – combined with chaos in the utility sector, which has already seen seven energy suppliers going out of business – is driving consumers to contact their suppliers; for reassurance, better deals and payment solutions.

While the contact is unavoidable, there are ways energy firms can use existing channels and communications to help give customers information and take the pressure off front-line teams. Here’s our top five:

1. IVR: Add an alert message to the top of your IVR and change it daily

Having a clear, reassuring message at the top of your IVR is your best opportunity to acknowledge your customers and their needs, at a critical point of contact.


  • Tone of voice: Calm and reassuring – empathise
  • Keep your message short – 20 seconds max
  • Make it clear how and where customers can access help
  • Use positive sentiment – ‘best place… fastest… help’ etc
  • Avoid long URLs. It’s better to say ‘go to Acme.com and search ‘best tariffs’ in the search bar’
  • Set expectations about what advisors ‘here on the phone’ can help with
  • Update your message daily, so that it clearly addresses anything you know customers are hearing in the news

2. IVR: Tell callers the best way they can access your cheapest tariffs

If your cheapest tariffs need to be bought online, use a helpful deflection message to steer customers there. This will help drive happy hang ups and in return, reduce both queue build-up and AHT.

Customer success: This week, we helped one of our energy clients reduce calls to agents by 29%. Just with one simple IVR deflection, that promoted online tariffs and help, right at the top of the IVR.

3. Online: Add a banner to the top of your home page

Adding a banner alert to the top of your homepage is the simplest and easiest way to show customers they can access information online about the price cap and how to get to your best tariffs. This will keep customers in the digital channel, by giving them information and links to everything they need help with.

4. Social media: Give your Social Team good scripts to tackle any service problems

It’s inevitable that some customers will hit social media. To keep stress levels down, give your Social Team scripts that answer key customer questions about your service – put the emphasis on service communication, over more typical marketing and social promotion.  

Ensure your Social advisors know how to:

  • Empathise and say sorry
  • Set expectations about how they can help (or not)
  • Share the best days and times to call or chat with your contact centre
  • Frame online help, apps and URLs in the most appropriate way
  • Steer customers to the best tariffs

5. Chatbot: Get a simple FAQs bot live, to answer questions and promote the best tariffs

FAQ helper bots are brilliant at answering simple questions. They can often be the fastest way customers can get both answers and reassurance. As long as you keep bot conversations simple and straightforward and prioritise getting customers fast answers, you can keep your customers in the digital channel.

If you want more ideas, get in touch with the team via hello@mazaru.com