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The Impact of Noise In Contact Centers

This article was published on June 26, 2024

While many analysts have predicted the decline of the voice channel in customer service, data indicates that it’s on the rise. In a recent Salesforce article, 81% of service professionals indicated that phone is a preferred channel for more complex issues. What’s more? This is an increase from 76% in 2020.

 

Self-service and chatbots are gaining traction as sources of first contact, solving easier issues. However, more complex issues may require escalation to an agent. Voice is still the overwhelmingly preferred channel, but call center background noise or noise on the caller’s side of the conversation can have negative impacts on the ability to resolve issues quickly. Read on to learn more.

Photo of a row of tightly grouped contact center agents, seen from the side. The agents are looking at information on their computer monitors while engaging in phone conversations with customers.

Types of Noise in Contact Centers

Agents that support voice calls generally work within one of two environments. They may sit alongside with other agents in a physical call center or remotely. In general, call center acoustics are designed to try and minimize the impact of surrounding agents talking. While agents may wear noise canceling headsets to better hear remote callers, microphones pick up that background noise and can make it difficult for the end user to hear what the agent is saying.  Agents working hybrid or remote have become more common, have reduced background noise. However, there is still the possibility of background noise from barking dogs, family members, or other factors.

An additional factor for background noise is from the customer-side of a call. Customers may not always be able to control the amount of noise in the background of their calls to service agents, which can cause additional issues.

Impact of Noise on Productivity

Whether inbound or outbound noise, there is an impact to productivity as both agents and customers have to concentrate very hard to hear the conversation. While this can be a minor issue for an end user on a single call, for agents this can be a significant cause of frustration, particularly for the agent who handles many calls each day. Additionally, with the increase of off-shore contact centers, agent accent comprehension can impact voice quality and  understanding.

The “US Contact Centers 2023-2027: The State of the Industry” report by analyst firm ContactBabel analyzed the impact of noise in contact center settings. 29% of survey respondents over the age of 65 reported that they “very often” had problems hearing or understanding the agent or that they had been asked to repeat themselves. Not only that, 60% of the youngest cohort (18-34) reported experiencing these same issues either “very often” or “fairly often.”

Financial Impact of Noise

Let’s consider the financial impact of noise. ContactBabel estimates the industry-wide cost of factors like mishearing or needing to repeat is $1.34 billion per year.

How does this apply to a typical contact center? Let’s look at the numbers, using a 250-seat contact center with a 21% repetition level as an example:

  • The average calls per agent per year is 12,688, and 2,664 of them require repetition.

  • Assume the increased length of each call due to repetition is 15 seconds.

  • The average call duration is 7 minutes 22 seconds (442 total seconds) — therefore, 3.4% of the call is repetition.

  • The mean average cost per inbound call is $6.91.

  • So, the cost of time spent on repetition is 23.5 cents per call.

  • And that represents a $156,510 total cost of repetition for our typical call center.

How To Reduce Background Noise in a Call Center

One way to reduce the impact of noise is through the use of high-quality noise-canceling headsets, which can remove background noise for agents in an office workplace. One drawback with this solution is having to replace broken headsets or purchasing new ones when there is agent turn over.

AI-enabled voice isolation can intelligently remove background noise from both sides of the conversation, both in real-time to assist the smooth and accurate flow of the conversation and in recordings to improve post-call analytics and voice-to-text transcription.

Why It Matters

  • Voice channel: Despite the rise of digital channels, voice calls continue to be a popular channel for customer interactions. Voice calls are often valued for their ability to facilitate first contact resolution, minimize customer effort, and solve complex issues.

  • AI-powered technology: Using AI-powered technology can eliminate communication barriers including repetition and help deliver next-level customer experiences.

  • Analytics: Clearer conversations will make for better recordings, which means cleaner transcriptions. Together, this can enable better contact center analytics, which in turn help drive self-service and knowledge based interactions.

  • Improved KPIs: Reducing noise on either side of the conversation not only enhances call clarity, but can also lead to improved Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, reduced Average Handling Time (AHT), and provide for more satisfied customers and better business outcomes.

  • Agent experience: Improve agent experiences by eliminating noisy distractions, reducing accent barriers, and ending repetitive sentences. This leads to more streamlined customer interactions and reduces agent stress and frustration. Having happier agents can also lead to reduced turnover in contact centers.

Ready To Learn More?

Explore Vonage Contact Center capabilities and learn how Vonage provides an Enhanced Noise Cancellation feature to reduce background noise on both sides of the conversation and minimize the impact of noise in the contact center.

Headshot of Cliff Cibelli, Sr. Product Marketing Manager
By Cliff Cibelli Senior Product Marketing Manager

Cliff has over 30 years of experience in the telecommunications field. A majority of that time was spent at MCI (Verizon), where he built their Global Bid program and developed products in their Managed Services space. He also worked in product marketing for the Verizon CX portfolio, including Genesys Cloud, Voice Security, and Global Inbound Voice. Today, Cliff plays an integral role to expand the Vonage CPaaS leadership.

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