To develop a high-quality survey that is tailored to the country, follow these four steps:

  • Step #1: Develop an offline Core Questionnaire in the survey’s primary language.
  • Step #2: Translate the Core Questionnaire into other languages.
  • Step #3: For voice surveys, create audio recordings in all languages.
  • Step #4: Load the content (SMS text, Voice audio files) in the online tool.

This article provides some tips for Step #3: Audio Recordings, both in planning and execution.


Do use a professional audio recording partner.

For important or large scale surveys, we recommend using a professional partner for audio recording. It may be tempting to use text-to-speech or record in-house. However, the text-to-speech “robo-voice” will mispronounce words and is only available in some languages. Only use text-to-speech for an emergency or if you are testing the system with a small group.

Professional audio recording firms have sophisticated equipment. This equipment produces pleasant sounding, quality voices that will increase response rates and survey data quality.

Do collect audio samples from a common script.  

Before you record, ask the recording partner to give you samples of recordings from different audio talent. Rate which one you like best and why they were good or bad. The selected sample should be easy to understand, trustworthy, and able to record the full script in a timely fashion.


Do provide recording partner with final, clear IVR script.

Remember to remove any programming text (e.g., “IF 3, THEN SKIP TO QUESTION 14”). The audio recording firm should only see text that you want to record.

Also, sometimes questions have introductory text (e.g., “Now we’ll ask you about tobacco …”) We recommend italicizing that text so the recording talent can adjust their tone of voice.

Do remind the recording partner about the language selector.

The language selector involves multiple languages in one audio file. The recording partner will need to record separate files by the respective talent and then merge into one audio file. [link to Core Questionnaire Guidelines article]

Do request that the recording partner review the content before recording.

The recording partner can be a great source of feedback about the content. Sometimes they will catch errors that translators make. Other times, they may have useful ideas about how to make the language more simple and clear. If they do make changes, the partner should NOT make changes on their own. The partner should seek approval from you. No script text should be changed without authorization to ensure that you and the firm are using the same text.

Do not wait until the last minute to find individuals to record audio.

The process of recording audio content can take some time. We recommend allowing at least 2 weeks to record, test, and finalize audio recordings. These 2 weeks begin after professional talent is secured, and the recording process can begin. If you expect any changes in the script, re-recording audio adds additional complexity. You should identify someone early and begin audio recording iteratively as soon as the questionnaire and languages are determined.


Do clearly communicate expectations for turnaround times.

It can take several cycles to arrive at the final set of audio files for an Interactive Voice Response project. Factors such as last-minute changes to the script or poor quality audio require testing of content and resolution of any issues. To fix issues, you must have clear expectations on turnaround time for doing the recordings (e.g., 24-hour or 72-hour turnaround time).


Do have audio files recorded as either.WAV or MP3 files.

Use common file formats for audio files such as .WAV or .MP3. The Surveda tool may not accept obscure file formats.

Do use the same human voice for each language you deploy.

Participants will be confused if they hear different voices in a single survey. This issue can become challenging if someone wants to reuse audio files years later, but small changes are needed. In these instances, if the original voice is no longer accessible, all the audio may need to be re-recorded.

Do not use audio files that have any hiss or crackle noise.

Background noise often can become an issue in IVR projects, distracting users and depressing response rate. Background noise during recording, poor quality recording equipment, or the post-processing of audio files can all cause these problems.

Do emphasize the importance of IDs with the recording partner.

Alert the recording studio to the unique IDs for the audio files. Using these naming conventions will allow for quick identification and uploading of the files. Pay close attention to version numbers as questions are changed and update this information in the Master Questionnaire sheet. For more on IDs, see [link to Core Questionnaire Guidelines article]

Do review the audio recordings with a translator.

Once recordings are completed, check the audio recordings against the script sent to the recording firm. Make sure that the written text is identical to the recording audio. Any discrepancies should be noted and reviewed with the recording firm.

Do check the “feel’ of the audio recordings.

Check the tone, volume and speed of the audio files. If the recording is too fast or the volume is too low, alert the firm that the recording will need to be redone.