Organizations of all sizes are rapidly moving their business applications, including E-Mail, ERP, and CRM, to the Cloud because it is more cost-effective and flexible. Especially given the massive increase in remote workers over the last year, they are moving their phone systems to the cloud, too, choosing hosted virtual PBX (News - Alert) services, and abandoning their expensive, inflexible servers once and for all.
But what happens if voice quality diminishes?
We have all been there – sitting on a conference call or dialing into a video collaboration session, missing key words and ideas given poor audio quality – even having the call drop, and having to dial back in. Especially in mission-critical industries, like healthcare, public safety, financial services, and others, and in industries like retail and e-commerce, which are so dependent on real-time voice communications, “best-effort” is no longer good enough.
The benefits of cloud-based RTC are many. It removes the capital expenditure and long-term operating expenditures of third-party vendors for hardware, bandwidth, colocation, and installation needed for a traditional phone service.
It doesn’t require organizations to have dedicated systems engineers and support staff to keep their phone systems up and running.
Most offer a pay-as-you-go pricing model that enables organizations to pay for what they use and add more services when needed.
It also integrates with an organization’s existing phone system, helping protect the investment they have already made while providing new services and features over the top of what they currently have.
Businesses simply access a user-friendly web portal allowing administrators to easily add, remove, and update users without needing special training or IT staff.
Given all the benefits, what happens when the voice quality simply isn’t there? This leads to frustrated employees and unhappy customers and an overall drop in productivity and overall quality across the business.
The challenges associated with keeping voice quality consistently high are in a brighter spotlight given the profound growth in working from home, and while some workers will return to physical facilities, it is largely anticipated that remote workforces are the wave of the future, with so many benefits including cost reduction and the ability to recruit the best talent who wish for more flexible working models.
We caught up with Sara Hughes (News - Alert), SVP of Enterprise Customer Experience & Channel Marketing at AVCT’s Kandy division, a highly respected voice professional with over two decades of experience, to find out what she is seeing and to understand the consequences of poor quality in a world that is more digitally connected than ever.
“With so much business being conducted on digital devices connected to the Internet and private IP networks, our customers are highly aware of the difference clear, high-definition voice quality makes as part of the overall experience,” Hughes said. “There is no longer a need to have to apologize when a colleague or customer cannot hear what you are saying because near-perfect audio is possible today with the right technologies.”
Hughes explained that there are two methods of scoring voice quality:
Mean Opinion Score (MOS)
- Tests a human users view of the quality
- Scoring 1 – 5 (5 is excellent)
- PSTN scores 3.5
- < 2.5 is not understandable
Perceived Service Quality Measurement (PSQM)
- Speech assessment algorithm
- Scoring 0 – 6.5 (0 is excellent)
- PSTN scores 0.5 to 2.0 (4 is not understandable
“Today, we can monitor, manage and measure quality and take steps to correct problems by implementing software solutions that ensure clarity, including prioritizing voice calls over normal data traffic in your network.” Hughes explained that by using Type of Service (TOS) – a byte in the IP message that specifies its priority over normal traffic – and Diff Serv, or Differentiated Services, an architecture that classifies and manages network traffic to optimize QoS – and other techniques, quality can be delivered consistently.
“Voice is a real-time application, and the quality of voice is highly dependent on the network itself, which is why businesses are opting for premium private networking services, which are also more secure,” Hughes said.
“Voice is also growing in popularity, despite statements that people prefer to text, not talk,” Hughes explained. “When voice quality is great, it is so much easier to speak to get ideas across and to capture and express sentiment. This matters in contact centers, collaboration sessions, while using voice-activated services, and more.”
The pandemic was a catalyst that highlighted voice technology’s prominence. Voice technology adoption grew in 2020, given its contactless appeal, and brands are realizing that consumers aren’t willing to give up the convenience voice offers going forward.
“The quality of each voice session is also extremely important when it comes to creative voice applications,” Hughes said. “AI results are only as good as the quality of the input, which is the human voice, so for example, when a conversation is converted to text, and that text becomes data used in analysis, the analysis will not matter if the session was garbled or otherwise compromised. As people continue to enjoy the speed, ease, and convenience of voice-enabled interactions, we are helping our customers develop and deploy conversational innovations that lead to better experiences – and products.”
Natural Language Processing (NLP) also relies on the quality of voice, whether human or machine-generated. Consumers are enjoying the intuitive, natural-sounding voices associated with service automation, according to Hughes, powering conversational AI to recognize speech and sentiment.
“The power and potential of HD voice is unlimited,” Hughes said, “but companies will not be able to optimize voice interactions if they don’t invest in the audio quality of every session. The good news is we have scalable software solutions today that deliver outstanding conversational quality, with better economics by a mile than were associated with traditional voice systems. When you can improve quality while reducing expenses, you are listening to the voice of reason.”
Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.
Edited by Luke Bellos