With good old phone calls topping the ranks of customer support and sales channels, immaculate call quality is the backbone of today’s online business. For around 64% of consumers in the United States, over-the-phone conversations are the easiest way to bring in results, drawing up to 15 times more conversions than web interactions. But not all phone calls are equal. Incongruent with growing customer service expectations, low-quality calls are still a major obstacle for businesses of all scales. For example, poor voice quality alone can prolong a phone conversation by 27%, decrease customer satisfaction, and even force a caller to abandon the call midstream. From bandwidth limitations to suboptimal live operators, call quality is under constant threat, with your ultimate goal being to ensure all your calls are as clean as a whistle and profitable both on the spot and in the long run. To solve a task that ambitious, you first need to learn call quality through and through and understand what key technical and human components can ensure an influx of quality calls for your business. Without further ado, let’s dig into call quality and how to achieve it. What Is Call Quality? The story doesn’t conclude at the end of a phone call. Once a caller hangs up, whether converted or bounced, you must dissect the call, including estimating its quality and interpreting call data into possible business improvements. Source: Giflytics But how do you differentiate between high-quality and low-quality calls? Is a bounced call necessarily low-quality? Are all converted calls high-quality? Undoubtedly, quality calls must provide a positive user experience, but what’s the watershed dividing quality and lousy calls? Here’s the truth: Call quality is a subjective interpretation of the quality of a particular call – or the average quality of all calls – by a business, call agent, or caller. Since call quality encompasses more than just the technical parameters of the call – the human part of call quality will always be subjective – the result of the call doesn’t determine its quality. Likewise, high-quality calls with Company A may be seen as medium or low-quality calls with Company B. But then again, the technical part of call quality is easier to measure. Below are specific technical call quality criteria you can adopt for your call center. Technical Call Quality Criteria Audio Clarity With customer decisions based on the information received in a phone call, speech clarity is among the most important call quality criteria. Clear audio eliminates misunderstanding and enables effective communication without the need to redial or redirect a caller. Wonder why your phone is terrible at calls? Here’s how to fix it. Speech Clarity Clear pronunciation, proper volume, and articulation will minimize miscommunication and help overcome accent barriers. Language or location-based call routing, when local operators are the first to receive local calls, is another viable way to deal with accents. Quality Consistency There are two dimensions to call quality consistency: Technical consistency: A quality call must be clean throughout its duration – 90% of calls last under 90 seconds – so the caller can confidently navigate the conversation without feeling the pressure of possible distortions. Routing consistency: A quality call must be processed by a best-matching live operator or an interactive voice response (IVR) system, avoiding long call queues and tedious questioning. Latency Near-zero latency eliminates awkward breaks or pauses resulting from the fear of overlapping the opponent’s reply. For example, Zoom recommends a latency of 150ms or less and a jitter interval between packets of 40ms or less for comfortable video calls. Bandwidth Your cloud contact center might need to process a few to a few hundred calls simultaneously, which may get even more difficult if you run video calls. You need the following minimum bandwidth per call: VoIP calls – 100 kbps for clear voice transmission High-quality VoIP calls – up to 1Mbps for enhanced audio quality Video calls – up to 10 Mbps for 1080p video calls For 20 concurrent calls, 15 of which are video calls and the rest are regular VoIP calls, you need a total bandwidth of 150.5 Mbps. Even if you reach the peak load only once a year – for example, around Black Friday – you need the capacity to capitalize on it. Compliance With the growing consumer concerns about online data, you must comply with relevant industry standards and regulations. Here are some provisions that shape the legal field of business calls in the United States: Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry Federal Trade Commission Act A surefire way to avoid legal issues is implementing a ready-compliant SaaS solution. There are more call quality criteria than in the table. You may also consider: Call setup time – the time required to establish two-way communication. Dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) tone accuracy – the accuracy of reproducing DTMF tones within your IVR system. Call transfer – switching a caller to a more appropriate live operator during a call. Call forwarding – auto-redirecting inbound calls to an appropriate office or department. Caller ID – displaying your customized number or name on a caller’s device. Call quality is individual and elusive, but one thing is clear: quality calls are absolutely worth it, decreasing your call abandonment rate to around 2%, building trust with your callers, and eventually growing your bottom line. Call Center Quality Monitoring: Three Key Components of Quality Calls Ensuring high call quality requires effort at every stage, from displaying your call number to an over-the-phone conversion attempt. For the purpose of this article, though, let’s reduce call processing to three major stages: Call initiation – the display of your call number on a traffic channel. Call routing – distributing a caller to a live operator. Call conversion – an attempt to convert a caller or solve their request. Source: Phone System for Small Business: What Is It and Why You Need It Let’s take a walk through these three stages and see how you can contribute to the quality of inbound calls throughout the customer journey. 1. Call Initiation As your marketing campaigns run across different marketing channels – web, mobile, print, and TV – you need unique call tracking numbers (static for traditional and dynamic for digital campaigns) to invite customers for a call. Call tracking numbers are unique phone numbers that help you collect information on a caller, such as demographics and marketing insights. You can use local, international, or vanity phone numbers – for example, 844-PHONEXA – with the latter immediately representing your brand to the caller. Source: The Definitive Guide To Call Tracking: How It Works & What Is Its Impact How Unique Call Tracking Numbers Increase Call Quality Call Attribution By understanding which campaigns draw which calls, you can double down on quality calls and eliminate unprofitable traffic sources. Proper call attribution will reduce the number of misplaced calls and grant you more happy callers. Call Analytics Real-time and post-call analytics will increase the relevancy and quality of your inbound calls, allowing you to distribute local and international callers to relevant live operators. Likewise, you can use call patterns to guess who a particular caller is and what they need, even before they’ve shared any personal data. Learn to realize your business potential with call analytics software. Conversion Tracking Integrating call tracking numbers with your CRM or lead management platform will allow you to track the caller's journey from A to Z and the sales agent's performance. Knowing what agents are more effective with what calls will help you increase your call quality. Whether local, international, or vanity toll-free numbers, you can get them at Phonexa as part of our call tracking software that smoothly integrates with other proprietary web and call management solutions. https://youtu.be/vpDZutGsBqQ Unravel the mystery of call tracking with this definitive guide to call tracking. 2. Call Routing Now that you’ve sparked interest in your product, you need to distribute callers using the data you’ve collected so far: demographics, history of interactions, and – if the caller is recurrent – psychographics and history of purchases. The easiest way to route callers is to allow them to pave their conversion path, whether they want to connect immediately to a live operator or an IVR system. Choosing between the two, an IVR can further qualify the caller and – most importantly – collect more insight on them. Likewise, an IVR system can handle some requests independently, taking the pressure off your live operators. https://youtu.be/IrjxQtFEIXU Need more details about how an IVR works? Here’s your comprehensive guide on IVR systems. How an IVR System Increases Call Quality Refined Call Qualification Through detailed yet unobtrusive questioning, an IVR system qualifies the caller while collecting exhaustive information on them. Next, you can use this info the way you want. For example, you can prioritize high-intent leads in call queues or connect them to your best agents. Adequate Workload An IVR system ensures an adequate workload distribution, preventing irrelevant or solvable calls from reaching live operators. As a result, your sales reps have more energy for important calls and – if empowered with features like call forwarding and call transfer – can manage inbound calls more effectively. Smart Alternative Not all customers are enthused to speak to a live operator in the first place: over 81% of callers would rather research matters independently before contacting a live representative. Interacting with an IVR is a convenient way to qualify a caller for a matching operator while ensuring they really need that call. A well-thought-out IVR system connects the right caller to the right operator while solving simpler requests on the spot. Learn about other benefits of an IVR for call centers. 3. Call Conversion With an advanced Call Logic ecosystem, you can guarantee high call quality even before the conversation starts. Up to this point, not only has the caller been routed to the best matching live representative, but this representative has been informed about the caller’s problems and may have already found a solution. https://youtu.be/uiBxn_0WXiI Whether the caller converts or bounces, an advanced call intelligence platform will search for patterns that can help you increase call quality for different groups of callers. But that’s not all! State-of-the-art technologies like predictive modeling can dig into historical and real-time call data to predict which campaigns are more likely to succeed and which callers are more likely to convert. Such data-driven guesses are enlivened by analytic algorithms that simulate various outcomes and choose the winners. https://youtu.be/aK4EfjWjw4Q Call Quality Assurance and Call Monitoring: How To Ensure Immaculate Call Quality There’s a certain mismatch between the importance of call quality and the ability of operators to ensure it: While 76% of customer service leaders believe sales quality is crucial for their business, 46% of call center operators still develop the skills required to ensure quality calls. Quality call monitoring and assurance leave much to be desired with most businesses. Only 39% of customer service leaders believe their call center quality assurance is well-optimized, whereas 27% rate it as “basic” or “somewhat basic.” Source: Statista Not all companies can ensure quality calls at all times or even monitor call quality throughout their lifecycle. To add insult to injury, many cannot understand the all-encompassing nature of call quality, attributing it solely to the skills of their live operators or technical aspects like speech clarity. In reality, call quality depends on a combination of human and technical factors, requiring knowledgeable personnel and up-to-date call processing technologies within your call center. Now, let’s walk through a minimum viable contact center quality monitoring algorithm. Step 1. Hire Call Quality Professionals Of course, to ensure call center quality monitoring, you need call quality assurance professionals. Your need: People who know what it takes to serve a quality call. These are customer service and sales representatives with knowledge of quality assurance. People who know how to ensure top-notch call quality. These are technicians with expertise in setting up and maintaining call or contact centers. Likewise, you must ensure effective communication between these two groups so they can put their minds together in search of optimal quality assurance solutions for your call center. Step 2. Develop Call Quality Standards and KPIs As you’ve gathered your call QA dream team, you need to develop call quality criteria for your company (see the table above). For a niche business – for example, auto insurance – you may only need a single set of call quality criteria. For a heterogenous business – for example, selling automobiles AND auto insurance – you may need several sets of criteria not to mix car buyers and car insurance seekers. Likewise, you need call quality KPIs. See the table below. Call Quality Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) First Call Resolution (FCR) An ideal call is a call converted on the spot without the need for a follow-up or callback. Therefore, a high FCR rate clearly indicates quality calls. The average FCR is around 70%, with 30% of calls requiring a follow-up on the same issue. A 1% increase in FCR results in a similar rise in customer satisfaction and a rise in Net Promoter Score by 1.4 points. Average Handle Time (AHT) The balanced duration of a call – four to ten minutes, depending on the industry – signifies that your operators can efficiently handle inbound calls without forcing callers into rush decisions or long conversations. Here are some ATH values by industry: Finance – 245 seconds Healthcare – 208 seconds Telecommunications – 156 seconds Note that you should not follow any AHT benchmarks but instead find an AHT that reflects your specific business case. Hold Time Putting callers on hold is still viable if there’s no other option, but not for too long. The average hold time across industries is 56 seconds, with 15% of callers abandoning the call after 40 seconds. Minimizing your hold times is crucial to retaining callers. Call Abandonment Rate The more callers abandon the call before contacting a live representative, the less effective your IVR is. A call abandonment rate of 5% is considered healthy, whereas anything above this threshold calls for a revision of your call routing model and/or IVR system. Call Transfer Rate Throwing calls from one agent to another like hot potatoes often results in losing callers. On the other hand, a minimal call transfer rate indicates a well-optimized call processing algorithm. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Score CSAT scores evaluate phone calls across chosen dimensions, allowing you to design customer surveys however you see fit. The global standard for CSAT scores is 75 to 84%, with only 5% of call centers surpassing 85%. The Margin of Error A call quality assurance error margin is a way to understand how accurately you can measure your call quality. The larger your sample size – the more calls you can assess – the smaller your margin of error. Here’s how you can determine your ultimate call quality score: Choose specific call quality KPIs for every group of calls or apply all KPIs to all calls if you’re a niche business. Assign a numerical value for every KPI on a scale from 1 to 10. The calculated KPIs' mathematical average will be your ultimate call quality score. Source: GIPHY Step 3. Recognize Best Practices and Eliminate Harmful Ones Now that you have developed a universal call quality score, you know exactly – with the lowest margin of error – what calls are successful and why. This gives you almost a significant advantage in consistently improving your calls on the fly. Here’s your perpetuum mobile recipe: Identify your most successful call practices Promote these practices among your live operators Rinse and repeat In theory, this should work like clockwork. In practice, though, a major hindrance is the inability to process call data effectively for multiple concurrent calls. Call Management Automation To Process Big Data The only viable solution to retain good call quality as your call volume grows is to automate processes that can be automated, including call tracking, distribution, analytics, and auto-handling of calls by an IVR system. Keep in mind the global marketing automation software industry expected to skyrocket from $5.4 billion to $11.2 billion in 2031. AI has arrived to automate call processing to the core, and you can’t stay on the sidelines. Call automation will optimize your workflows, take the pressure off your live operators, enable deep insights into marketing data, and – most of all – allow you to process any number of calls simultaneously without sacrificing call quality. For most marketers, automation improves customer experience (43%), time management (38%), and decision-making (35%). For you, it will convert more callers while establishing you as a market leader. Want customer satisfaction as your weak link? Examine three failproof ways to redefine your customer experience strategy by Phonexa CEO, Lilit Davtyan. Boost Your Call Quality With Phonexa Whether you want to revolutionize your call campaigns with a fully-fledged VoIP-based digital call infrastructure like Cloud PBX, track inbound calls with Call Logic, or visualize caller behavior with HitMetrix, Phonexa has it all for you! Eight proprietary solutions around web, call, click, SMS, and email marketing are united into three customized software suites – Lite, Premium, and Enterprise – each of which creates an all-encompassing marketing platform for your business. https://youtu.be/DXH3X3pXcLY Waste no more time – get your unique call automation software suite now or schedule a consultation to learn more about Phonexa. Frequently Asked Questions What is call quality? Call quality is a subjective assessment of a phone call based on the following factors: helpfulness, clarity, intelligibility, and consistency. Good call quality goes beyond a clear audio signal to estimate to what degree your callers are satisfied with your call center services. What factors affect call quality? There are two groups of factors that affect call quality: - Technical factors: intelligibility, clarity of speed, audio delays, echoes, etc.- Human factors: how well your live operators handle phone calls. Achieving a spotless call experience is possible with a well-thought-out quality assurance process, when technicians and QA engineers work hand-in-hand to design optimal call quality KPIs and call evaluation criteria. What is call quality assurance? Call quality assurance is achieving the highest possible call quality through employee training, optimizing call infrastructure, implementing a call intelligence platform, and conducting regular call audits. What is the difference between call quality assurance and call quality monitoring? Call quality assurance and call quality monitoring are related terms that apply on different levels. Call quality assurance includes call quality monitoring AND measures to achieve and keep the desired call quality. What are the call quality monitoring best practices? Although there’s no universal set of call quality monitoring best practices to guarantee top-tier call quality for a call center, the most popular call quality practices include call sampling, call reviews, call analytics, predictive modeling, and more. How can I improve call quality for my call center? To improve call quality for your call center, you need a unique combination of strategies and practices pertaining to your business case. For example, call quality strategies for a landline phone system will differ from those for a Cloud PBX system. In general, you can improve call quality for your call center by upgrading telecommunications infrastructure, training your live operators, integrating advanced call center software, optimizing your call routing and IVR systems, fostering cooperation within your call department, and updating all scripts and protocols.