The sudden shift to virtual working over the last couple of years raised a lot of questions surrounding our ability to work effectively away from the office.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, business sector labour productivity decreased 7.5 percent in the first quarter of 2022, as output decreased by 2.4 percent. This is despite U.S. employees working even longer hours. It's the largest decline in quarterly productivity since the third quarter of 1947, which puts the impact of the pandemic on productivity nearly on par with the effects of a world war.
This trend is impacting all sectors and workers, but the contact centre industry has seen a particularly huge upheaval. In this post, we ask how big a role does audio play in boosting or hampering the productivity of call centre workers, and what can we do to improve it?
Call centre crisis
Call centres have been plagued by background noise for years. In a space where noise is constant on both sides of a call, whether it's in a crowded call centre, in an uncontrollable remote working environment, or wherever the customer is calling from, it's evident that poor audio is a source of stress and annoyance for call centre agents and customers alike.
We surveyed 500 customer service agents in our latest whitepaper, and found that 89% of contact centre agents claim poor sound quality and background noise impact results, and 69% say noise and distractions have a negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing. This is particularly detrimental for the customer service sector, where attrition is already among the highest.
In fact, agent burnout has polarised the industry for decades, aggravating a turnover rate of up to 45%. Noise might be costing call centres their best employees and significantly hampering the productivity of the ones who do stay.
Furthermore, every minute wasted on repetition, waiting for noise to die down, and correcting misheard phrases costs money. Not an ideal situation when margins are already tight. It's actually estimated that these audio-related issues cost the industry about $175 million a year.
A problem amplified
The shift to virtual working has exacerbated these issues, with unexpected work environments further hampering the customer service experience. One contact centre even found that nearly a quarter of its agents were using ironing boards and window sills as workstations due to the lack of a suitable desk. Call centre KPIs have suffered across the board as a result, in particular Average Handling Time and Customer Satisfaction scores. Our research backs this, with 85% of call centre agents saying noise results in wasting time repeating themselves or asking customers to repeat themselves.
These should not be brushed off as minor inconveniences. Interruptions can have a massive impact on the ability to communicate effectively, which in turn hinders our ability to both take in information and convey it. This leads to lower productivity, more mistakes, lost income, and hampered employee wellbeing.
A problem solved
Whether you're in a noisy call centre, at home, or any location in between, one solution to bringing better productivity is audio-based. As long as background noise continues to be a problem, people will need to continue to mute, tell others to mute, miss important information, and ultimately fall short of peak performance.
To combat this, IRIS Clarity uses AI to isolate voices and remove background noise such as barking dogs, noisy colleagues, busy traffic, and everything else from both sides of a call. This preserves the flow of the conversation and improves focus, engagement, and wellbeing for the people on both ends of the call.
Much like AI-driven virtual backgrounds, voice isolation enables workers to take control of their environments to deliver the best possible outcomes from every conversation—a key requirement for call centres in particular. Fixing your noisy environment is one story, but having technology that can make it easier for the person on the other end of the line can have huge benefits in customer satisfaction.
Furthermore, the productivity of call centre agents is fragile. Noise and distractions are hampering the employee experience, which can aggravate attrition and agent burnout. The customer service industry needs to invest more in better audio tools that unlock call centre agents' true potential whilst also addressing the current productivity predicament. With its easy-to-use, scalable, and secure voice isolation solution, IRIS Clarity can help.
Get in touch with our voice isolation specialists to discuss your call centre’s background noise problems, or read more about how audio is the key in an increasingly digital world in our latest whitepaper.
Join our free webinar tomorrow, Thursday 1st September, at 12pm BST and learn from industry experts as we discuss all things contact centre, telehealth, and home working.