By Larrisa Beth Turner
The next time you dial a university phone number and hit an automated system, pay attention to the voice on the other end. It just might be one of your UIT colleagues.
Before the rise of computer-generated text to speech, UIT employees recorded all of the voice prompts, greetings, messages, and more for the University of Utah and University of Utah Health. To maintain consistency across U organizations, only a few people were responsible for thousands of audio clips in the past 15 years. They include Amy Talbot (Account Executives) and Syndi Haywood (Voice Systems and Business Administration), as well as Jan Lovett and Chris Moore, both of whom shared their experiences.
Jan Lovett, an IT product manager on the USS Product Management team, landed her first paid recording gig in the early 1990s while employed at International Voice Exchange when a customer who liked her voice asked her to record his company greeting. From 1997 until recently, Lovett worked for pharmacy refill system producer Smart Communications, where she created voice prompts for such dispensaries as Intermountain Healthcare.
After joining UIT in 1999, the voice prompts became one of her duties as assigned. Although she cannot remember how many messages she has voiced, she made recordings for 13 to 14 years. In addition to some generic prompts for conference calls and messages, callers can hear Lovett’s voice when they call University of Utah Health pharmacies and clinics. She’s also been paid to record voiceovers for projects for the School of Dentistry and School of Nursing.
With a decade and a half of experience, Lovett has more than a few funny stories about her work, including a script from the fertility clinic that made her laugh so much she had to do several takes, a U employee who recognized her voice while filling prescriptions and as a joke now asks to hear her voice from time to time when they see each other, and the time her husband called to make an appointment and became frustrated after being put on hold multiple times, never realizing the voice belonged to his wife.
But then, it happens even to Lovett herself.
“One day I went to the pharmacy … and I heard this voice … ‘Please sign here.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, that sounds so familiar.’ And I didn't even recognize my own voice, and it took me a moment to go, ‘Oh, that's what I did that for!’ … So there are times I haven’t recognized my own voice. And that's the thing people ask all the time, ‘Is it weird hear yourself talk?’ At first, it was really difficult. But now I hear it a lot, and I laugh and I tell people, ‘Yeah, I irritate myself all the time.’ Because I call and put myself on hold or whatever.”
Chris Moore, an IT specialist in Web Application Development & Automation (Software Platform Services), also has recorded voice prompts for university systems — anything with a phone tree or shared mailbox — as part of his duties in his previous UIT position on the Campus Help Desk team.
In fact, Moore is the voice of the Campus Help Desk, as well as some U of U Health clinics like Neurobehavior HOME.
Moore estimates he created about 100 recordings from 2016 to 2018, when he was “replaced by the robot.” Now he does only special requests for people who don’t like the automated voice and want an actual person.
Although his talents aren’t needed much anymore, Moore still has access to the recording studio at 102 Tower — a significant upgrade, he said, over the one at 585 Komas.
“That was a less-than-ideal recording environment. Sometimes, I’d have to redo things because you would hear ‘clunk’ as the door closed. So that was where it started. I have no idea how long that had been set up there, but it was just a little supply closet with a computer in it.”