the Right Headset Affects Call Center Productivity and the Bottom
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
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
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 attendants' voices.
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
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 constant
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
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.