First featured on MyCustomer.
At the onset of the pandemic, thousands of busy contact centres around the world went silent as 90% of contact centre agents globally were forced to work remotely. This was a crucial period for the sector. As restrictions closed many businesses, contact centre agents acted as the first, and often the only, human point of contact for many customers.
Such drastic operational changes – and their increased role in the CX journey – meant that contact centre operators were under a huge amount of pressure to deliver high levels of customer service. As a result, CX levels were negatively impacted. Average Handle Times (AHT) increased from three minutes to ten minutes, and Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) decreased. This prompted many businesses to invest in a range of technological solutions, such as chatbots and other virtual messaging services.
Phone calls are still going strong
However, phone calls are still the preferred channel for customer service. If anything, this sentiment only increased during the pandemic when isolated people opted to spend more time on calls with contact centre operatives to talk about a wider range of topics. A 2021 study showed that 68% of call centre leaders believe that the phone has become the new empathy channel. Yet, whilst contact centre agents are expected to lend an empathetic ear, the number of emotionally charged customers has also increased.
It’s clear that the contact centre is carrying the weight of the CX sector at the moment. Whilst turnover rates have always been high in the contact centres, they have only increased further since the pandemic and roles are only getting harder to fill. With a recent study highlighting that 74% of contact centre agents are at risk of burnout, it’s imperative that contact centre operators put employee wellbeing at the forefront.
This includes providing flexibility for employees to work remotely. The benefits of remote working for employee wellbeing are clear. And, following the pandemic, remote working has become embedded as part of western work culture. It’s no longer a ‘nice to have’. Many employees expect to be able to work from home - at the very least in hybrid form.
Innovation in the CX sector
With call centres losing more staff than ever and struggling to hire, it’s time to drill down into what impacts an agent’s job quality. Phone calls continue to be a favoured customer service channel for consumers, yet technological investment has been focused on other digital channels.
For example, there have been great strides made in video call technology with filters enabling people to blur out their backgrounds and a variety of viewing options on offer. However, the same advancements in audio are not yet commonplace. From being forced to mute/unmute your microphone to being misheard due to background noise, poor audio can cause disruption and result in a negative customer experience. This can understandably cause frustration for both customers and contact centre agents, as audio distractions can cause misunderstandings and increase call handling times.
Technological solutions have a proven track record of transforming CX, from chatbots, to message boards, to Discord servers, the way that customers interact with brands has changed. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the phone call is here to stay. It’s therefore important that the sector invests in audio technology or rely on overworked contact centre agents to make up for inadequate tools.
How audio innovation can transform CX and EX
While there is no such thing as a silver bullet, audio technology such as voice isolation is about as close as we can get. This innovative, bi-directional, AI-based software can cut out background noise and amplify the speaker’s voice. By deploying flexible software that is compatible with a wide range of video call and VoIP technologies, call centre operators can empower their agents to work anywhere with technology that cuts out the noise of a busy contact centre as well as the noise varied background noises of everyday life that come with working from home.
Therefore, it’s crucial that the sector implements technology – such as voice isolation software – to reduce the negative customer experiences caused by poor audio. This would also enable them to provide call centre agents with the flexibility to work remotely whilst continuing to provide high quality service. This ultimately means that employers won’t have to compromise on employee wellbeing when it comes to improving profits.
IRIS Clarity is an AI-powered software solution that removes distracting background noise from your VoIP and customer calls. Find out more on their website: https://iris.audio/clarity-enterprise
Gain more insights by reading our whitepaper 'The role of audio in an increasingly digital world' which investigates the state of play in multiple sectors including call centres, enterprises, telehealth, and education.