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Contact center managers rely on clear, effective communications as the cornerstone of their business. Headsets provide the critical link between their agents and customers, which is why sound quality is so important. How well the agent can hear the caller has a direct affect on customer satisfaction, agent productivity and employee turnover. As a result, deploying high-quality direct connect headsets with clear audio, or amplified headset systems—which provide enhanced audio clarity, volume control, and other benefits—provides a number of benefits and a better return on investment. In fact, every performance metric imposed on contact center managers can be improved with a clearer, more intelligible inbound and outbound signal.

What kind of sound should a telecommunications headset have? It needs to give the wearer clear, undistorted audio at appropriate volume levels. A headset also needs to deliver the right type of sound. To illustrate, headset products from consumer audio manufacturers tend to emphasize the bass range, which can initially sound better to people accustomed to listening to home and car audio systems. But in fact, it is in the higher frequencies where your agents hear much of the critical information from your customers.

Unfortunately, high-frequency signals deteriorate as distance from the telephone switch increases. Mobile and cordless phones also play havoc with these signals. A headset that boosts the higher frequencies enables the agents to better understand human speech. Through a unique frequency response curve as well as through audio enhancement algorithms in the audio processors, Plantronics headsets make calls significantly more intelligible. Plantronics headsets actually minimize repetitions, making agents more productive and customers less frustrated. By providing a more intelligible audio signal, Plantronics headset solutions also reduce the number of mistakes that agents make when taking information from customers.

Sound Innovations
In addition to incorporating the latest technologies in the headset system itself, headset manufacturers must employ high-tech innovations to create headset designs that meet the demands of actual use in contact center environments. The first step in creating these advanced acoustic designs starts with the ability to make accurate and consistent sound measurements, which requires special test equipment. Plantronics developed a unique head and torso simulator that accurately models the acoustic characteristics of the human head. When used in Plantronics’ world-class low-noise anechoic chamber, engineers can objectively measure sound quality exactly as experienced by the wearer. This makes it possible to engineer sound improvements based on real-world contact center conditions.

Amplified Benefits
Another way to improve the ability of agents to hear customers clearly in a real-world contact center environment is by upgrading to an amplifier-based system. Plantronics amplifiers with Clearline™ audio technology enhance sound quality in a number of ways. They lower incoming line noise for a better listening experience during quiet times between calls or while waiting for a response. Additionally, outbound noise reduction goes beyond the capabilities of a noise-canceling headset to further reduce noise when the agent is not talking so that the caller is not disturbed by background noise or hearing other agents talking. Automatic volume control allows users to select their preferred listening level. A call volume equalizer then adjusts the level of the incoming signal so that no matter the volume of the incoming call (cell phone, poor line, great line), the received audio is always at the same preferred level. This helps to minimize agent fatigue, which can prove critical to customer satisfaction and protecting the overall health and job satisfaction of agents.

Amplifiers also help to mitigate latency and echo issues associated with IP voice communication, which is important because even IP desk phones that claim to address these issues do not have the advanced capabilities of an amplifier such as those offered by Plantronics.

All in all, choosing a headset system—direct connect or a headset with an amplifier—with the best quality sound helps to move every key performance metric in the right direction.

Reducing Background Noise To Boost Customer Satisfaction

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions

One of my biggest personal pet peeves with dealing with call centers is the amount of background noise that is typically heard. OK…I admit it: I am easily distracted sometimes. Trying to focus on what an agent is telling me when I can hear the conversations of other agents in the background is unsettling. Aside from simple distraction, it gives me the impression that my call is just one call among millions, and I am just a grain of sand on the beach, so to speak. While at a deep intellectual level I may KNOW this, a good call center agent should be able to make each customer forget that there are millions of other customers who are at least as important as he/she is, and feel like an individual who is of value to the company. Secondly, call center background noise provides a mental image of old-style "boiler room" call centers:
hundreds of agents crammed elbow-by-elbow, taking calls while desperately wishing they could get another job…any job. Not exactly a mental image that screams "Quality." If a company cuts quality corners in its call center, where else does it cut corners? In its product safety standards? Inspections? Returns policies? Customer data security?

While call centers may no longer resemble the boiler rooms of the old days, no call center can afford to house agents in their own individual offices, or give each agent 500 square feet of floor space to keep background noise minimized. It behooves call centers, therefore, to boost the sound quality of agents' phone calls where it is economically and technologically feasible to do so: in the agents' headsets.
Aside from the other benefits we've discussed in previous issues related to the benefits of quality headsets (eliminating the need for agents and customers to repeat themselves, the elimination of errors in taking down customer information, reducing agent frustration, reducing breakage and returns), noise-cancelling features are key even for small call centers. As the factors that can lead to decreased call quality and poor customer satisfaction rise: IP telephony, heavy use of mobile and cordless phones, a very mobile consumer society that seldom chooses to call into call centers from quiet home environments and heavily accented agents in offshore call centers, it's imperative that the factor that CAN be controlled — the quality of the headset — fill that breach.

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