man in between two speakers covering his ears

Empowering excellence: Enhancing call centre conversations


Tom Darnell discusses elevating customer interactions and agent performance through improved audio quality. 

31st Aug 2023

It’s when an issue is particularly stressful, high value, or high risk that we demand to speak to a person rather than a robot. Whilst the increasing sophistication of AI chatbots, FAQs and other self-serve channels has helped to cover the more mundane and basic queries a brand faces, the most critical, premium conversations are still made using voice channels.

Yet despite the value linked to these conversations, customers across all industries are often faced with poor audio, hampered by background noise from both sides of the call. And with a third of callers waiting to speak to an agent for as long as ten minutes, having poor audio when you finally get to speak with someone can exacerbate frustrations and be a barrier to issue resolution.

Time is valuable for both agent and customer. Yet enabling better, clearer communication between the parties is too often overlooked as a driver of excellence. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The importance of audio in call centres

Whether it’s a stressful situation like a broken appliance or a cancelled flight, to high-value conversations like an expensive insurance policy renewal – contact centres are customers’ best path to reach an outcome quickly.

To reach a timely solution, communications need to be efficient and clear on both sides. However, poor audio can often lead to repetition and mishearing which is frustrating for both individuals on the call. Even more concerning, these delays cost UK contact centres £246m a year on average, according to a recent ContactBabel study.

Too often, contact centres are viewed as ‘cost centres’ which are a drain on resources and do not add value to the companies.

Too often, contact centres are viewed as ‘cost centres’ which are a drain on resources and do not add value to the companies. However, this fundamentally misses the point - contact centres should be viewed as value centres. Contact centres are an opportunity to build continued customer loyalty through outstanding service. To get the most from contact centres, business leaders must invest to ensure that agents are equipped to deliver outstanding customer experiences to boost the brand’s image.

Overcome call centre agents' challenges…

Agents face increasing pressure in their roles as customer demands continue to rise, especially as 75% of Gen Z would look elsewhere following a single unsatisfactory customer experience. Alongside the need to deliver outstanding customer experiences, agents are also faced with their own challenging targets, such as a reduction in average handling time (AHT), a boost in upsells, or other specific metrics.

With all of these pressures and 69% citing that background noise has led to a decline in their mental wellbeing, it is no wonder many agents only stay in their positions for a short time. The contact centre industry has a massive 40% average staff turnover rate, which in turn has created a big knowledge and experience drain.

To deliver outstanding customer engagements, the contact centre industry must first prioritise agents’ wellbeing to ensure longevity in the role. As well as being the right thing to do morally, this is a more cost-effective way to run a contact centre as agents are not having to be constantly replaced and retrained.

Supporting agents with improved technology and coaching has the power to drastically alter brand perception, even over the course of a single call. Agents are often the sole human interaction customers get with a brand and are the embodiment of its image. If an agent appears tired or cannot hear well, this appears highly unprofessional and can lead to a lack of trust. In contrast, exceptionally clear audio communication builds confidence and brand loyalty. 

When agents feel that they are performing well, they’re more likely to feel a sense of achievement and ultimately perform better. To get the most from agents, customer interactions and the contact centre overall, companies must create an environment that empowers effective communication. 

…to empower CX excellence

As consumers ourselves, we all have busy lives and the majority of us are happy to be presented with self-serve options like chatbots and FAQs. Most of us will only opt to call when necessary. But when it is necessary, we’re more likely to need to have a premium conversation in a timely manner.

Any barriers to solving the issue during a call can worsen rather than resolve the issue at hand whether it’s in the agent’s control or not, and background noise is not just an issue in contact centres. Customers are often multitasking while waiting to speak to an agent, leading to background noise like work, children, pets, and appliances often interpreting the conversation. In many situations, customer patience may already be frayed by having to wait a long time to speak to an agent, which only compounds the sense of urgency in the situation. As a result, it’s essential both sides of the call are optimised to remove friction and ensure the best outcomes. 

As in most cases, in contact centres, time is a valuable asset. Companies are looking to get the most from every minute of agents’ time so reducing the Average Handling Time of each call is a key metric. By resolving issues with audio using AI background noise removing technology, the average handling time can be cut by between 5 and 15%. In turn, this means calls can be more effective and succinct and real focus can be put on building rapport with customers and having higher-value conversations. 

In addition to all of this, there are multiple regulatory motivations for removing background noise on your customer calls. For financial institutions, the new FCA Consumer Duty Act demands clear transcripts and improved speech analytics, the Spanish Customer Service Bill will require relevant call centres to dramatically reduce their waiting times and better cater to all customers, whilst the GDPR will always mean organisations need to make sure personal data can’t be heard between customers on calls.

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