The chattering voice agents, clacking keyboard keys, noisy office machines – call centers are notorious for excessive background noise. While it distracts agents from actively conversing with customers, high levels of noise impact employee motivation. Studies have confirmed that call centers are 15% more stressful than other work environments.
Before the noisy workplace hampers the client experience or leads your employees to burnout, make amends to reduce noise in your call center. From managing the acoustics in the office to revising the company work policies, there are many effective ways to eliminate background noise in a call center.
Excessive background noise can be detrimental to your business. Perform an acoustic checkup of the premises to determine the potential reasons for noise disturbance in the contact center. Consider investing in white noise machines to mask extreme background noise, shift to workplace cubicles, minimize staff density, and invest in two-ear noise-canceling headsets to reduce noise in a call center.
What Causes Excessive Noise in a Call Center?
From loud air conditioning systems to noisy printing machines, there could be anything that distracts you from responding to your customers coherently. Since most call centers are set up in wide and spacious hallways, even the chatter of voices turns out to be much more intense and disturbing.
It could be your managing supervisor giving instructions or unnecessarily loud cellphone ringtones that are disharmonizing the environment. Besides, if you work in an old office building, external noise from traffic may also find a way in.
Typical office interiors feature flat surfaces, including the ceiling and floor, devoid of insulation and soundproofing. Even if your agents are projecting their voices in a controlled manner, much of the sound will reverberate back with the same intensity.
Diagnosing Noise Issues in a Call Center
Before you implement ways to make your call center acoustic-friendly, you first need to locate the source where it’s coming from.
Perform an Acoustic Checkup
Start by replaying some call recordings to ensure the main issue instigating a lousy customer experience. Listen to the calls recorded at different times of the day to figure out whether it’s the external traffic noise or the indoor chatter resulting in loud background noise.
If you’ve got acoustic elements set up at your workplace, procure and analyze recordings from different agents. This will help you interpret what parts of the building are more at risk of background noise. Secondly, you can also assess the manner of speaking of your employees.
Agent vs. Caller – Who’s Facing the Noise?
It is not only the call center agent that gets distracted by background noise. Sometimes, the customer/client on the other side of the line also has trouble conversing coherently. You need to determine whether the agent, customer, or both are experiencing disturbing background noise.
A smarter way is to analyze the inbound and outbound channels separately. In other words, you can listen to what the callers and agents speak and hear, respectively. Here are the two possible outcomes of the procedure:
- The caller/customer is bombarded with external noise that flows through the agent’s microphone, making conversing difficult.
- The sound quality plays out fine in both recordings, yet the agent has trouble listening due to external noise in the office.
Outside Interference – Inefficient Wall Acoustics
Apart from the workplace environment, the external noise factors also impact the sound quality indicating shortcomings in call center acoustics. Putting it simply, outside interference can reverberate into the office due to inefficient soundproofing of the walls.
Consider touring the contact center premises with a decibel meter to determine the level of sound interference in different parts. An office’s entry and exit points are most susceptible to external noise. If that’s the case, you must first amplify the soundproofing fixtures in these areas.
10 Smart Ways to Reduce Noise in a Call Center
Be it a call center or any other workplace, the quieter the better. If you want your call center business to perform well, here are some effective ways to minimize workplace background noise.
1. Invest in White Noise Machines
White noise machines produce an artificial background sound that acts as a camouflage, masking loud and disturbing noises caused by internal or external factors. These machines substitute the annoying noise with a somewhat ambient sound that calms the listener.
When set up in a call center eco-system, the noise generators allow agents to hear and discern customers’ voices more clearly without getting distracted by other interferences. Similarly, callers can easily understand what the contact center agent is conveying. Here’s a popular recommendation you must consider:
Homedics – This compact and portable white noise machine is embedded with six soothing sounds that mask away the negative interference in the room. Plug it onto your desk with an AC adapter and set an off-timer until your shift is complete.
2. Replace Open Work Space with Cubicles
Most call centers are set up in an open-plan sequence, allowing soundwaves to travel and refract without any barrier. The echo produced as a result also raises the background noise levels in the area.
Instead of sticking with long tables without segregation, it’s vital that you switch to individual cabins. But if you are worried the company’s budget will take a hit, install partitions or desk dividers between each staff member. Consider the following factors during purchase for maximum effectiveness:
- Invest in desk dividers that are tall enough to ensure your privacy while sitting. Apart from blocking agents’ line of sight in either direction, they also hinder the flow of noise.
- You should prefer dividers equipped with soundproofing materials for better acoustics in the room. Watch out for their NRC rating, which should be closer to 1.
3. Establish Separate Meeting Rooms
One of the major disturbing factors in an agent’s productivity is the untimely and ill-placed staff meetings. Unnecessary talking among the staff members not only causes distraction but also leads them to frustration. As a result, the company may end up losing valued customers. Instead of holding meetings in the central hallway, prefer organizing them in separate dedicated rooms making the place less chaotic for working agents.
4. Encourage Low Tone of Voice in Work Areas
Be it the agents, instructors, or supervisors; everyone should maintain a low tone of voice in the workplace. As a fundamental call center ethic, the concept must be more deeply indoctrinated in the trainees and staff members.
An ideal call center should be as silent as a library, so the agents can focus more on solving their customer’s technological issues. While it doesn’t necessarily oblige agents to whisper, they should be aware of their surroundings, especially other representatives talking on the phone.
5. Set up Internal Communication System
Avoid setting up meetings with employees unless necessary. Instead of holding in-person discussions or shouting across the room to deliver instructions, organize your meetings virtually through an internal communication or web chat system. This private system should be restricted only to calling agents and supervisors.
If you have trust issues with existing online chatting websites, you can have your IT guys set up a private chat system to your intranet connection.
6. Introduce Two-Ear Noise Cancelling Headsets for Call Center
Headsets are the most vital pieces of equipment in a call center. They allow operators to conveniently converse with customers and shift between calls, while multitasking on the computer. In an effort to cut down operational costs, companies prefer using single-ear headsets with zero noise-proofing effect.
Though they are comparatively expensive, binaural headsets offer profound soundproofing from the noise around you. Thanks to the active noise-cancellation, operators can direct their attention to customers for a foolproof conversation.
Logitech noise-canceling headset – It is embedded with premium sound quality mechanics with the active noise-cancellation feature. Moreover, the rotating microphone is adequately padded to block out background noise during calls.
7. Ban Smartphones During Work Hours
As imperative as they are in everyone’s daily life, smartphones can be an erratic and, subsequently, loud nuisance at workplaces. Who knows when your cellphone starts blaring loud ringtones or buzzes on your desktop while you are away? Being a major workplace distraction, most office administrations have banned the use of cell phones during work hours.
Update your company’s policy, obliging all staff members – agents and supervisors – to switch off their phones before turning in for work. This can be an effective productivity and morale booster for your workforce.
8. Reduce Staff Density
Call centers are known to be overstaffed and crowded workplaces. Most companies focus on employing more agents to expand their services and cater to a maximum number of customers. However, the strategy often backfires. A room packed with operators will naturally be louder and noisy even if they try to maintain their tone of voice.
You may consider operating your full workforce in rotating shifts to fully utilize the facility or transferring them to an additional facility ensuring favorable working conditions. While it may come out as the most expensive option on the list, it gradually pays off in terms of satisfying customer experience.
9. Be Flexible to Work From Home Ideas
If exorbitant property rents and operation costs keep you from shifting into a larger facility or you’re hesitant to lay off your valuable workforce, perhaps you should consider other, more creative options.
Offering your agents work-from-home flexibility will lessen the burden on your workplace and thus reduce call center noise. You can provide incentives to those staff members who opt for the work-from-home facility to boost their morale.
10. Improve the Acoustics with Soundproofing Equipment
No matter how much you improvise the company policies to minimize background noise in an office facility, there’ll always be a need for some practical steps. Make proper use of acoustic panels, for instance. Place them at the entryways, beside the windows, and onto each cabin divider.
Moreover, replace the standard acrylic or fiberboard ceiling with soundproof tiles to minimize echo and absorb sound waves.
- Dekiru Acoustic Panels – Made from eco-friendly polyester fiber, these acoustic panels feature a hexagonal structure with beveled edges limiting high-paced sound waves. They can be easily mounted and detached from any surface.
- Soundsulate ceiling tiles – The fiberglass tiles exhibit excelled sound absorbing qualities that reduce echo, making sound clearer. Besides the high NRC rating, they are also fireproof for safety.
Soundproof Call Center – Is It Really Necessary?
Unnecessary noise interference is among the primary reasons for miscommunication between call center operators and customers. Often, customers fail to assess or interpret what the agent is proposing due to extreme background interference, resulting in a potential customer loss.
Similarly, operators also have difficulty discerning their customer’s queries because of the disturbances around them. It would be best if you redesigned the acoustic patterns in the workplace to make curb noise in your contact center.
People Also Asked
This section deals with the most common questions arising in a reader’s mind.
Why are call centers so noisy?
Typically, call centers are full of operators who are busy conversing with clients and customers. The clacking keyboard sounds, noisy office machines, blaring cellphone ringtones, and external traffic noises penetrate into a call center.
Are headsets effective in reducing background noise?
Unlike single-ear headphones, two-year binaural headsets come with active noise cancellation that prevents outside noise from reaching your ears.
What is white noise in a call center?
White noise is an artificially produced sound that masks unwanted background noise with ambient sounds that are more pleasant and less distractive.
How can you eliminate unwanted noise in a call center?
You can minimize disturbing noises in a contact center by:
- Introducing white noise machines
- Instating separate cubicles for operators
- Redesigning the acoustic patterns in the office
- Prohibit speaking in a loud voice and using cell phones
- Relocate the noisy office machines to a different room