Friday, May 02, 2008

QA at Voice123 - Insider Look

What Makes Voice123 The Right Choice

Hello, if we have not been introduced I am Steven Lowell, Quality Assurance Manager at Voice123. I am also a talent with the site, and a former user of many other online sites. Alex Torrenegra hired me from 'the front lines' back in July 2007, to help translate the needs of users at Voice123. Recently, after consulting a professional Voice123 talent on how to set up his profile, this very satisfied talent expressed the need for all talents to know certain things we are doing because well... many do not know about it. Please read below. I feel this is a long overdue email about why Voice123 talents stay with us.

Consultations!
Since November 2007, I have been giving free consultations in the forms of Thursday Trainings once a week at 1PM (USA ET), and in serious cases, personal consultations (by appointment). I use statistics provided by SmartCast, and some tips from being a talent at Voice123 and a voice talent. We understand the Internet & Online Marketing is still new to many, and we want to help. Thankfully, SmartCast gives straight numbers and facts that tell the story of how a talent and voice seeker behave on Voice123, how they have connected, and the success of the booking.

Consultations started after feedback from talents showed concern of the 'auto-renew' subscription policy of some websites... A way to take advantage of a customer's inability to cancel payments or their mistakes to not remember what they are subscribed to online. After all, not everyone knows how to cancel payments, nor should they be charged a subscription fee while attempting to figure it out. The last thing you want to worry about is, 'Did they charge me again? I do not remember!'. I feel that the last people on this planet, who should be nickel and dimed out of money, are talents. We chose the hardest profession on the planet! I feel everyone should know how to use their profile, which includes knowing how to cancel it.

Voice123 lets the time lapse, yet advises talents that their subscriptions will run out. We leave the choice up to you, the talent, to renew.

If you have a personal situation that causes you to miss long periods of time on your subscription, let us know! We can help with that, too!


Effective solutions for everyone!
Since starting in July 2007, using statistics from SmartCast, as well as my personal experience, we have helped over 15 talents and voice seekers with something that has not been offered before... Helping someone get paid! Although we do not get involved in disputes, my personal methods learned from my days on Wall St. have been working, and has created some long overdue trust within the Voice123 community. I personally understand the fear of 'not knowing if you will get paid', and know how it can deter someone from enjoying Voice123.

We are also making an aggressive campaign to give all users of Voice123 the empathy and business sense they need, as well as, serving the customer by giving them truth and facts they were not understanding before!

Questions about Demo & Profile Quality Assurance, after you have created a profile or auditioned
Demos: We listen to ALL your demos with highly trained ears. If I hear something, I say something to you. Yet, the ultimate judge of what to use on the profile is YOU. This is professional courtesy of sharing an opinion that may assist talents and voice seekers i.e. The Voice123 community. To date, our staff has listened to over two million auditions internationally, so they also have an understanding of various industry cultures and standards.

Profiles: Profiles (including new version 2.5's 'demo descriptions') are the most important tool to receiving SmartCast invites. Many know this and in doing QA I find, there are many who try to trump Voice123 by stuffing words, or by putting web links everywhere in the My Voice Details section, but Google engineers caught onto that long ago. We let you know when there is a problem. We have to because the results of this practice are short-lived. Before the Internet, it was not wise to lie on resumes because it could be easily proven and hurt someone's reputation. Sure there is the 'creative spin', but do not misrepresent yourself on your profile. I do not see why that should ever change. Now that you can list someone as spam or get websites banned from search engines, this is very important for us to protect you and your profiles.

Projects approved...Who, how, what, where & when, why?

Who?
  • Since implementing version 2.0 SmartCast, and more recently version 2.5, an update of parameters... more and more seekers are posting with us every day! The voice seekers who left us some time ago because of complaints with the old system, are now coming back! This year alone, we have processed and approved over 3600 SmartCast projects, not to mention thousands of non-SmartCast projects and private invitations to other projects.
  • We know who is being booked because they tell the QA Manager (me) all about how great the talents at Voice123 are and how they are coming back. I have even shared some of their testimonials with you personally, via our Customer Service system.
  • We know many of our talents are voice seekers as well, and they have experienced the process, even if posting a personal project.

How?
  • To me, it is a no-brainer… and not very different from how things have always been done at Voice123. The difference with Voice123, proudly enough, is what I can provide as a QA Manager. Alex knew, when he hired me, about my experience in operations and fraud investigation. (In NYC, you are a talent, actor, and whatever else gets you 'benefits', when the work is slow.)
  • How do we do it? Easy… We call the seeker. We get his/her info. We talk to them about how to use SmartCast because they have to learn how it works as well. We advise when things are missing from a project. We email them too.
  • After much debate, still a great deal of projects go through because SmartCast has taught talents of the red flags of auditioning for the wrong project, and we provide you with useful stats like:
    • Do they listen to auditions? (Click voice seeker details at the bottom of Project Details)
    • Are they posting for the first time? (See Team Comments on Project Details)
    • Do they know how to write a script or project description? (You simply have to see how someone writes the original description and script to judge if they are professional. It is just too easy to make something 'look professional' on the Internet)
What?
  • The types of projects approved on Voice123 vary in nature because this is an international website, growing everyday.
  • Take a look at our Project Directory, and see all the SmartCast projects for yourself!

Where & When?
  • Voice123 approves projects from 7AM - 12AM (USA ET), Monday through Friday, and yes... we work weekends! We approve projects from 10am - 6pm (USA ET) on Saturday & Sunday.
  • Being a talent myself, and having a dedicated team like we do, we check to see how Voice123 is doing, even on our days off. Many talents know that if there is money to be earned, then you have to audition... and that means we work while you audition. Take a look at the various ways to reach us when you have problems using Voice123: http://voice123.com/doc/support.html
Why?
A question I have heard is: "Steven, you are in charge of 'Quality'. Why was this project approved?" The answer to this question you should read carefully:
  • Voice123 SmartCast is set up to give talents the ability to choose what they want to audition for when invited to the project. We also understand that there are many veterans out there. I also live in New York and take classes from them. For that reason, as a Quality Assurance Manager it is not my job to block legit work from talents who have paid to use Voice123. Veterans know the score, and the more they show it, the more Voice123 will evolve, and we will be here to listen. The current Voice123 has budget filters for talents, so they can make the choice to be their own manager, self-director, and sound engineer, and charge what they know they are worth. Ultimately, I have seen that voice seekers know ‘you get what you pay for’, and the lower the budget quote, the lower the expectations. This one change, seemingly so small, has had voice seekers raising budgets because everyone wants a great voice over talent! Your choices have shaped it!
  • I will not lie to you, and tell you that some real strange projects come through Voice123. This is a symptom of the youth of online casting, but therein lies the burning question a QA Manager struggles with:
    • Am I in charge of deciding what job opportunities to block from the very people who pay to use Voice123? The answer is 'No'. I trust talents know themselves, and know what they will and will not audition for if invited. I was an agent's assistant, so I know a problem when I see it. As a QA Manager, I monitor any possible issues. My responsibility is to protect and facilitate the users of the marketplace, not take away job opportunities from talents. I trust that statistics from SmartCast will allow me to research problems to find solutions.
    • Low budgets... well... the ultimate power of change lies in what the talent will accept because everyone has the choice to say 'No, thank you'. The fact is that people use the Internet for lower prices, speed, and ease of use. The practice of setting minimums or price ranges for voice seekers is a mistake. For example, if you were a seeker and had $2,000 to spend, but you see a lower price already offered as a possibility, and you know people will audition anyway, it is human nature that you will try to save money first. Even if there was a price range, you now have it in writing that you are agreeing that the price quote may change at anytime because the voice seeker chose an indefinite number. The higher number is eye-candy while the lower number may be the intended usage. This is something I experienced back in 2006. Always get it in writing in your favor.
  • We have found through SmartCast, and emails from professional talents to me, that they get paid higher budgets when they are allowed to negotiate themselves anyway.
  • Even still, we have so many great statistics in place to help someone become a better online marketer such as the "My Stats Page" - Personal stats showing a talent to talent comparison, so you can gauge when you are doing too much or too little, when something is not working out.
Finally... This past April broke our record for SmartCast projects posted in April 2008 with over 755 projects in 30 Days, not to mention a month with religious observances!

I know many of us have spoken before, and I will always give my best to assist you as a talent, and give information that serves the customer, instead of just plain old 'customer service'.

Now being behind the scenes, I have the unique opportunity to help Voice123 make a difference for everyone involved in this process. I always look forward to hearing from all of you. Please send us your thoughts, feedback, and comments below!

Thanks for reading and see you around Voice123!


Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Quality Assurance Manager

PS: Please do not forget that I do hold a training session on how to use Voice123.com every Thursday at 1PM (USA ET), click here for details on how to join the training. If you think you would like to see a different time, let us know!

1 comment:

Tamara said...

Thank you for the explantions! They are a great help for new comers.