How the Right Headset Affects Call Center Productivity and the Bottom Line
by Jim Hanks
Call center metrics: it's all about the bottom line
Most call center managers understand that background noise isn't good for business,
but they may not always realize the enormous losses it can cause. When you're
dealing with a large volume of calls, every fraction of a second is worth a
great deal of revenue. In order to maximize profits, the average time a call
center individual spends with a customer—known as Average Work Time (AWT),
Average Handling Time, or Average Talk Time—must be closely monitored.
One of the biggest factors
that adversely affect AWT is ambient noise. In a recent study on the effects
of background noise, ACS Wireless found that by decreasing AWT by a mere 0.6
second, one customer saved $8 million annually.
This figure sounds incredibly high, but when customers and call center staff have to
repeat themselves due to background noise, businesses lose money in many ways, including:
1. Increased long-distance charges - When noise makes it difficult to hear
customers, it takes longer to acquire necessary information; meanwhile, long-distance
charges are being incurred. Additionally, if customers can't hear well either, they
might hang up before getting all the information they need and will have to call back later
(thereby creating more charges).
2. Decreased employee
output - The inability to hear due to background noise reduces the speed
at which call center employees can attend to customers. As a result, other customers
must wait or additional staff must be hired to make up for the slack. Even if
your staffing levels are sufficient, the frustration employees experience due
to background noise decreases their performance.
3. Customer dissatisfaction
- In addition to the obvious annoyance of extraneous noise, if a caller can
hear other conversations in your call center, they worry about their own privacy.
Would you want to give your credit card number to someone (and have them repeat
it back to you) when you know that other callers can overhear?
When many call center individuals
encounter background noise, they exacerbate the problem by raising the volume
on their headsets. Not only does this action distort the signal, it also creates
what is known as "temporary hearing fatigue" (or "temporary threshold
shift"). This industry concept basically means that when your reps are
exposed to loud sounds for extended periods of time, their hearing (and therefore
their productivity) will suffer by the end of the day.
Additionally, when employees crank up their headsets' volume, they will naturally
speak louder, thereby increasing background noise…which leads co-workers to increase
their headsets' volume and speak louder (thereby further increasing background noise)...
until eventually customers can't distinguish between background noise and call center
How the headset remedies the problem
Call center managers don't have to take a combative stance with background noise,
because they can eliminate it very easily. All they need to do is equip their
staff with well-engineered headsets.
A superior-quality headset offers any number
of the following features that ensure that employees and customers can be heard.
Microphones on lesser-quality headsets deliver whatever sound is in the immediate
environment. This includes background noise as well as voice transmission. Better
headsets, however, are equipped with noise-canceling microphones that significantly
attenuate many different kinds of noise, from both near and far, allowing you
to better concentrate on your call.
As call center workers can tell you, the sound characteristics of every call
are different. Sudden shifts in decibel levels (also known as "spikes")
are an annoyance to both sides of the conversation. The amplifier that comes
with a well-made headset compresses sound to a constant level in order to deliver
This feature allows call center attendants to walk away from their desks to
disconnect from their workstations—but not from the call itself. Without
the convenience of quick-disconnect cords, consulting with sources across the
room requires them to end the conversation, hang up, and call the customer back
later—thereby incurring more charges and increasing AWT (that is, again,
Average Work Time).
Quick-disconnect cords also significantly reduce After Call Work (ACW) time since employees can leave their
headsets on when performing non-call duties. Many of the headsets sold by Hello
Direct have quick-disconnect cords.
Sometimes it's good to have one ear exposed when you work in a call center.
If your sales folks commonly consult fellow workers, for example, they don't
want to be closed off from their environment. But if the majority of their contact
is with customers, binaural (versus monaural or one-ear) headsets will significantly
increase call clarity, and the ability to consistently get (and convey) all
the right information during each call. Dual-ear headsets also prevent temporary
hearing fatigue in call center staff, by eliminating ambient noise.
Poor productivity isn't always a staffing problem or a system-response problem;
often, the fault lies in the staff's equipment. In order to reduce AWT (Average
Work Time) and maximize profits in your call center, understanding what is said
during every single phone call, every single time, is a primary objective. Hello
Direct offers a large variety of high-quality headsets on their web site, HelloDirect.com,
nearly all of which are engineered to significantly reduce
Spend a little extra on
good, commercial-quality headsets. They should make you far more money than