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My 3 key takeaways from our ‘The role of audio in an increasingly digital world’ report

  • #backgroundnoise
  • #callcentre
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  • #whitepaper

Published byJacobi Anstruther

This week was a big week at IRIS. We released our latest research paper on the influence of audio in digital communications. This initial publication pays particular attention to the dramatic changes we’ve experienced post-pandemic, as the world has become ever more virtual. We investigated the state of play in multiple sectors including call centres, enterprises, telehealth, and education — you can download our findings here.

The report is the first of its kind to dive into the subject, compiling insights from:

  • A survey of 500 customer service agents in the UK and US

  • Views from leaders within the sectors

  • Industry research from sources such as Gartner, ContactBabel, and McKinsey

I greatly encourage you all to download and read the full report to explore all it has to offer. To give you an initial taste, here are the three main insights I personally took away.

1. The appetite for hybrid working and digital communications is massive (mostly)

I’ll start with an insight that probably won’t shake you to your core, but was interesting to see so strongly backed by data. Whilst global government restrictions on face-to-face contact have all but ended, the desire to maintain some of the measures remains. In some cases, it’s less a desire and more a demand.

Gartner found that 70% of contact centre agents wish to continue working remotely in some capacity, with some BPO workers in the Philippines considering strike action to force this through. 87% of all those who were able to work from home during the pandemic want to be able to continue to do so. Investment in telehealth is expected to reach $185.6 billion by 2026. And the number of schools prioritising investment in digital learning has risen from 24% pre-pandemic to 84%.

The research proves that the appetite for digital communications is massive. The ‘end users’ (employees, patients, students) are loving the freedom it offers, and the organisations in charge of them are recognising it as an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors — and protect themselves from future crises. Remote is here to stay.

2. The world is a noisy place

45 and 70 decibels. These are the levels of noise the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have found will cause annoyance and hearing loss, respectively. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has claimed that noise pollution is second only to air pollution in terms of environmental health threats in Europe, with around one in three people negatively affected in Europe. Clearly noise is a problem, and the rise of hybrid working brings the rise of the uncontrollable environment. 

The stats back this up. In one study, over 50% of respondents said audio-related problems such as background noise, mic echo, and forgetting to mute and unmute were the biggest pain point of virtual meetings. In another, 71% of Zoom users told somebody they were on mute in 2021. This isn’t just a digital problem either, 61% of workers in another study said they were interrupted at least five times a day by noise when working in the office .

Clearly noise is a problem in our everyday lives, and it’s filtered through to our online communications. So whilst the appetite for hybrid working and online calls continues to grow, noise is an important obstacle. How do you control the uncontrollable environment?

3. Noise affects customer experience, productivity, and wellbeing

Now we get to the crux of our findings. In all the sectors we explored, the common thread was that noise negatively affected these three key areas. If the conversation fails to flow, positive outcomes are nearly impossible to achieve.

From a customer experience perspective, 84% of the agents we surveyed say background noise has a negative effect on the customer service they deliver, whether that’s background noise around themselves or around the customer. When more than 50% of customers across all age groups still prioritise a phone call over other customer service channels, the magnitude of the pain point is evident.

This leads nicely to the impact on productivity. 89% of the call centre workers we surveyed said background noise impacts results, and 85% said background noise causes both agents and customers to waste time repeating themselves. In an industry that scrutinises KPIs such as Average Handling Time (AHT) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), this poses a huge threat not only to productivity, but also to agent morale. 

Noise also impacts student productivity, particularly in the context of online learning. It affects the telehealth industry, with concerns around misunderstanding essential medical facts preventing patients from adopting it. And of course, it hurts employee productivity in hybrid environments, with workers struggling to stay engaged on calls featuring loud children, pets, appliances, or construction. 

All this inevitably drains mental health and wellbeing. 57% of UK office workers consider noise to negatively impact their workplace wellbeing whilst 69% of the agents we surveyed said background noise negatively impacted them during customer calls. In an industry with staff churn of 30-45%, that’s a massive opportunity to do better.

Download our paper today!

Whilst you might initially think background noise isn’t a huge issue for your company — you can handle it with the mute button or dedicated meeting rooms — our research shows that the problem runs much deeper. Download our full report today to discover all our findings, and better yet, explore solutions that will help your conversations, and your business, flow.