High Definition Voice, a Boon to the Contact Center – Really?

Ken Landoline
Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • As VoIP and SIP become commonplace in the contact center environment, high definition voice is a potentially appealing enhancement to improve agent/customer communications, which some believe would result in shortened call times and therefore reduced phone bills.
  • However, with complaints about customer service escalating, there seem to be more pressing customer service issues to tackle that cannot be solved by simply broadening the bandwidth of the voice connection in order to improve audio quality.

Recently I have been reading and hearing a great deal about how high definition (HD) voice is, or soon will be, changing the world of voice services. The major cellular carriers are planning to introduce HD voice on their mobile phone connections in the coming year, the new Apple iPhone 5 has HD voice capabilities, audio and videoconferencing providers are already offering HD voice as an enhancement to their teleconferencing portfolios, and several landline carriers (at least those outside the U.S.) are providing HD capabilities on their public phone networks. However, for HD voice to really make a difference the connection must be HD quality (between 50 Hz on the low end and 7 kHz or higher on the high end) from end-to-end, as opposed to standard voice lines that transmit between 300 Hz and 3.4 kHz. Therefore, it is not likely that customers calling into a contact center today can be connected via an end-to-end HD voice connection and that HD voice will improve the quality of the conversation between customers and agents.

Besides, to the best of my knowledge, the majority of complaints regarding contact centers today have little to do with the quality of the sound and more to do with the inability to understand the agent’s accent (foreign or regional) as centers are outsourced across country boundaries. Another major complaint is the agent’s inability to solve the customers issue on the initial contact due to either the lack of the agent having authority to do so or the agent’s inability to access the relevant data to solve the problem. Therefore linking the customer to the agent via an HD voice connection will do little to reduce customer dissatisfaction besides making the ineffective conversation crystal clear. For contact center managers and supervisors, it seems that time and dollars would be better spent focusing resources on solving the agent communications, authority and information access issues that will result in improving communications and first contact resolution (FCR), than on bringing high fidelity to the conversation. So unless HD voice can be implemented in your center for free and without a major interruption, it probably should not be on your ‘top ten’ things to do list for now. Higher returns on investment will be achievable with expenditures on agent communications skills and customer information systems.


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