How voice quality can be key to delivering better customer experience.

Owen Kirwan
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On: 15 Aug 2019
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Call Centre Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) is one of the hottest trends in business; it’s prompting decision makers to re-examine the many ways they interact with their customers. According to the latest industry research businesses now compete chiefly on customer experience, an increase of almost three times compared to 2010. That means that CX is actually becoming the new foundation of competitive differentiation. Ultimately, CX is about improving the quality of all customer interactions and in turn, driving increased customer loyalty and more profitable relationships.

When it comes to CX, every part of the business should be up for consideration. For companies closely monitoring customer experience via mechanisms like Net Promoter Score, it’s important not to overlook the key role that voice quality plays in how their customers perceive the business. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve phoned a call centre to buy a product or to resolve a service issue, but the reception is poor; perhaps there’s background noise on the line, or an issue with the equipment in use.

Taking action to deliver the best call quality.

By paying close attention to voice quality, businesses have the opportunity to improve CX. For companies who want to deliver this improved call experience, there are several common causes of poor call quality and fortunately there are also concrete steps a business can take to address them. There are two types of telephony systems that businesses use: the traditional PBX and hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). While both can experience voice quality issues, the root causes are usually different. Let’s look at both in turn.

Physical PBXs and hardware faults.

With a PBX, bad lines are generally due to problems with physical handsets that have aged significantly over time. Some customers may have PBXs that have been in place for more than 25 years. Hardware degrades over time, so the handset or cabling are likely to cause poor quality connections, or worse, no audio at all. It could be a simple thing like the connection between the handset and phone causing physical interference.

Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to solve these problems. The first is to invest in good-quality noise cancelling headsets. In a busy contact centre environment, this feature is a must. Not only does it minimise background chatter which can make it harder for customers to make out what an operator is saying, but it also addresses the risk of accidentally hearing another customer’s personal information, which could have implications under data protection regulations.

There are many headsets on the market to suit a range of budgets. It’s always advisable to choose a well-known brand and to buy a couple of test units to check their noise cancellation qualities before buying in bulk.

Considering the cloud option.

After checking for headset issues, if it seems like the PBX hardware itself is the cause of poor quality, another option is to consider upgrading to a cloud-based telephony system. This removes the need to maintain hardware on premise and also means that the service provider must address any issues if they arise.

For companies that already have VoIP telephony but are experiencing call quality issues, other issues that can affect VoIP, are bandwidth constraints on your company’s internet/network connections. If the business is using the same connection for general internet traffic as for telephony, it could be that the line capacity is stretched, which can degrade call quality.

Compressing calls to optimise bandwidth.

There are several ways to address this. Every VoIP platform has a codec built in, which is software that compresses audio data while it travels over the connection. For sites with low bandwidth, it’s possible to change the codec’s compression levels without negatively affecting call quality. Another option is to segregate voice traffic, so calls get priority regardless of other network activity at the same time. Usually, your telecoms provider or IT company can address both of these problems, so your company gets the benefits of a hosted VoIP telephony solution without any of the potential pitfalls.

For businesses that need to take number codes or account details over the phone, another useful solution to improve customer experience, is to implement DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency) signaling. This allows your customer to use their own keypad to enter their numerical account details either while speaking to an agent, or before the call gets routed to the agent. This has the benefit of not only eliminating uncertainty and sometimes lack of clarity over what numbers were called out, but can also give a personalised feel to the call as the agent can already have the customers details on screen before they even take the call.

Next steps.

Once you have addressed call quality issues, the next step is to look at other ways to improve customer call experience. For example, are you doing all you can to make sure that agents who handle calls are delivering the best service? Call recording can help here. It’s a useful tool to help improve staff training, and in the case of a dispute with a customer, having a recording in place can help to swiftly resolve the issue. Recording software has become much more advanced, to a point where it’s possible to do advanced analytics. For example, the recordings are searchable, making it possible to find a particular customer name and locate all calls with them over the previous month. When the system allows real-time analytics, it can tell when a conversation with the customer is becoming heated, and automatically alert a supervisor.

Once the infrastructure is in place to enable it, the next step is to start integrating calls with text, web chat, email and social, allowing agents to handle multiple communication channels at once – all with the aim of delivering a better customer experience. It all starts with having good call quality.

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