What does your voice quality say about your brand?

When your customers want to talk, don’t let poor voice quality degrade crucial interactions.

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We all know how frustrating it is when you can’t clearly hear the person on the other end of the phone line. How many times have you simply hung up on someone, and then called back to try and get a better connection? Well, it’s one thing to call back your friends, family, or colleagues. But, when you are calling to get a policy quote or check the status of on open claim, voice quality of the call can determine whether the outcome of a critical customer moment is positive or negative.

Over the past five years, many insurers have invested heavily in omni-channel customer engagement technologies. Similarly, the continued push toward digital transformation throughout the enterprise has digitized many of the interactions insurers exchange with their customers across phone, chat, SMS, and web. And, as insurers prioritize digital interactions to drive costs down, they often overlook a simple fact: phones still handle around 68 percent of all contact center communications.

The fact is, for many interactions, especially complex ones, communicating by voice is faster, easier, and more effective than typing messages back and forth. Your customers call you when they need the advice of your customer service and claims experts. These interactions are critical moments of truth that determine long-term customer value, so it’s essential that you are certain that your system’s voice quality is excellent. How do you do that?

Measuring Voice Quality

Voice quality is typically measured by what’s known as MOS, or Mean Opinion Score. However, many businesses find that it’s difficult to get a consistent, repeatable and objective read on when you are experiencing voice quality issues. You may hear complaints from agents or customers that indicate there’s a voice quality problem. Or, you might even see longer call times as agents and customers repeat or clarify critical information. However, neither of these is a reliable or proactive way to identify voice quality issues.

Further complicating the quest for voice quality are the many factors that contribute to the MOS on a phone call. That’s because there are many moving parts between your customer’s mouth/ear and your agent’s mouth/ear: switches, gateways, switches, interactive voice response systems (IVRs), routers and so on. Each hop in this chain represents a potential point of failure that could degrade audio quality.

These variables and the dearth of reliable feedback mean that it’s important to test voice quality—proactively, scientifically and continually. Here are two basic approaches that can shine a light on potential problems.

  1. Be the customer

Start by testing the audio quality from the customer’s perspective. The simplest scenario is between a customer and your IVR. Can your customers understand what the IVR is saying to them, so they can respond to the prompts and accomplish their goals? If you encounter voice-quality issues here, you know there are problems with equipment that sits between the customer and the IVR.

  1. Test systems end-to-end and bi-directionally 

Next, test the entire chain from customer to agent, and do it in both directions, so you can assure that both the agent and the customer can hear one another. By testing in this way, you can identify voice quality issues at any point along the path. We find that this is the most tested scenario because the connection between customer and agent it is so critical for them to understand each other.

How does this work in practice? We recently tested voice quality for a major health insurer in the U.S. while they were undergoing an equipment upgrade in their call center. Our baseline measurements from old equipment to new showed a significant improvement in voice quality once the migration was completed. A common cause of voice quality deterioration is when a call is transferred within the organization—for example, from a frontline agent to an agent skilled in handling denials. The voice-quality metrics we gathered from this analysis enabled the insurer to investigate ways to reduce the need for transfers. Equipped with a clear understanding of their improved baseline voice quality, the CX team had much higher confidence in the equipment upgrades they were making.

Voice quality is an important contributor to the quality of your brand in the mind of a customer. When was the last time you measured it scientifically?

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Alok Kulkarni // Alok Kulkarni is an expert in ensuring excellent customer experiences. He founded Cyara to provide tools and technologies so that enterprises can be confident that they are delivering great customer experiences each and every time, even in a world with rapidly changing customer expectations and an increasingly complex technology ecosystem.

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