Tom Darnell, COO at IRIS Audio Technologies examines the impact of background noise and how the latest technology can help improve agents’ wellbeing.
At some point on a consumer journey, almost everyone has experienced background noise so unbearable you’ve had to repeat yourself – and your private information – over and over again. Not only is this a frustrating waste of time for you (the customer), it can also heavily affect a brand’s reputation.
But what is too often overlooked is the impact these interactions and frustrations are having on agents’ mental health and productivity. In fact, recent research shows that 69% of agents reference background noise around them or customers as a key component of declining mental wellbeing.
With such a strong emphasis on customer experience, brands cannot afford to ignore this key driver that could easily tip the scale between good and bad customer service, and therefore profit and loss.
Some brands are on the right path, but there is still more that needs to be done to enable agents to provide the best service to customers without compromising their own productivity and mental health. This is even more crucial considering the average industry churn rate is 40%.
Nurturing your agents
It should be standard for agents to be fully briefed on the latest company messaging and product features, so they can present the brand in the right way on the frontline. Yet, when compared to the time spent on drafting and updating website copy, agent training too often takes a backseat.
There are of course some brands who have this as a priority – and proactively keep the energy and morale high and truly reward their agents. But these efforts are often minimised by poor quality headphones, incomplete call transcriptions, and clunky systems that all negatively impact mental wellbeing and productivity.
This is particularly worrying, considering agent KPIs are forensically measured and metrics such as Customer Satisfaction and Average Handling Time are easily affected by loud noises — whether these come from the customer’s or the agent’s side. And it is only natural for agents to feel frustrated if they are consistently falling behind on their goals.
If brands want to properly and effectively tackle agent mental wellbeing problems, there needs to be a blend of initiatives, or policies, as well as the right technology. If the industry wants to create a fulfilling career path and make ‘being an agent’ a career worth pursuing, brands need to move on from the ‘tick box’ mental wellbeing programmes which don’t add any real value.
Technology as an agent enabler
Agents should be empowered with technology to help their day-to-day, rather than being held back by it – such as AI-driven software that ensures accurate call recordings and efficient customer routing, or software which removes background noise on both agent and customer sides. This might seem new and exciting to some, but having fit-for-purpose tech that empowers agents should not be considered an add-on benefit, this should be the norm.
Thinking of the customer call as a journey, when they first dial to get through to an agent, AI-driven software – combined with natural language processing (NLP) and understanding (NLU) – can analyse and identify specific tagged words which can route customers to the best resolution path quickly, with reduced error from poor quality audio. Meaning that inevitably, customers spend less time waiting on hold and more time actually speaking to an agent to reach a resolution.
And during the call software underpinned by AI can help isolate background noise, so calls can be recorded accurately, with clarity, transcriptions don’t miss crucial information and audio playback is to a higher quality standard. All of which leads to a drop in waiting time and misunderstandings, which always increases average handling time (AHT). Additionally, contact centres will probably see a reduction in the rate of early hang-ups, opening the door for agents to have higher value conversations with customers. Especially if this is at the outbound sales phase of the journey, the business could see a clear increase in both revenue and agent productivity.
Delivering quality customer service is a goal for almost every brand, yet when it comes to appropriately equipping their contact centre agents with the tools to succeed – most brands fall short. Outdated or clunky technology is not only holding agent performance and productivity back – which can dig into customer retention and profit – but it is also taking a toll on agent wellbeing. However, through harnessing AI-driven software, there are several tangible steps brands and their contact centres can take to noticeably improve their agents’ wellbeing and empower them to have a fulfilling career path.
About the Author
IRIS Chief Operating Officer, Tom Darnell, has a history of building successful businesses under his commercial and operational leadership. His experience defining company strategies, developing products, bringing them to market, and scaling businesses share a common objective: growing influential brands which prioritise customers, care about employees, and strive towards a larger purpose. Tom’s current focus is on IRIS Clarity, AI-powered software which eradicates background noise from the racing track to contact centres and online meetings. In an increasingly virtual world, IRIS delivers audio designed to enhance human interactions, performance, and wellbeing.
For more information, visit IRIS Audio Technologies.