The voice quality of a call between a customer and an IVR and a live agent is a crucial part of a customer’s experience. Today’s customer journeys start with customers using self-service channels (web, IVR) as they attempt to complete their transaction or obtain information on their own. Failing that, customers call the IVR and transfer to an agent. Companies need to know of voice quality issues before customers come across them.
There are many factors that affect voice quality. There are complex software, hardware, networks, and resources that make up an IVR and phone (often VoIP) environment. Customers are increasingly on mobile phones that are affected by cellular networks. In addition, a high volume of calls could diminish voice quality. Testing voice is a challenge for contact centers as there are a wide range of variables that affect voice quality.
The most common issues include:
- Codec incompatibility, the software that allows us to efficiently move voice traffic by compressing and decompressing the voice signal
- Excessive transfers which may result in a loss of volume with each transfer
- The caller’s voice network provider — the most obvious example is a poor cell signal based on location
- Bandwidth constraints which can result in packet loss leading to jitter (voice signal breaking up), echoing, low volume, and other conditions that make it difficult for the customer and the agent to communicate effectively
- Hardware issues such as headset or softphone incompatibilities
Voice Quality Testing Approaches
With such complex contact center environments, companies need ways to voice test and locate sources of voice quality issues. Voice quality testing should be run at every stage of the development lifecycle, including functional and, regression testing during development, load testing before deployment, and monitoring in production. Load testing is particularly important to ensure that quality does not diminish during high call volumes. Equally important is monitoring for voice quality on an ongoing basis.
Solutions are needed to support new test approaches: testing from the customer’s perspective, and testing end-to-end in both directions (bi-directionally), including to the agent handset. Here are the approaches.
1. Monitor Voice Quality from the Customer’s Perspective
The easiest and least intrusive way to measure audio quality is from the customer’s perspective. The first step is to test from the customer to the IVR. This is the simplest scenario to determine if there are quality issues between the customer’s equipment and the IVR.
2. Test End-to-End, Bi-Directionally
The next step is to test the whole chain from the customer to the agent, in both directions. This enables you to find incidences at any point in the chain where the customer or agent has difficulty in hearing one another.
When testing bi-directionally, there are two critical points that need to be specifically tested. #1 above tests the customer to IVR portion of the chain. Test the next part of the chain, which is the “switch,” to uncover any voice quality issues happening up stream from the switch. Then test the “agent station” to find any issues between the switch and the agent phone, which is the last part of the chain. Learn about the CX Assurance Platform, Voice Quality: A Critical Factor in a Great Customer Experience blog, and Can You Hear Me Now? 4 Best Practices in Voice Quality Monitoring.