September 22, 2010, 5:09 PM

Call center frustrations may cause consumers to shop elsewhere

A new survey finds 68% of consumers hang up if they have trouble hearing an agent.

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To start, many consumers phoning a call center aren’t happy to be spending time on the phone dealing with a customer service issue. Those frustrations are exacerbated when they can’t hear or understand the agent they’re speaking with because of poor voice quality stemming, which could be a function of the agent’s accent, a weak voice-over Internet protocol connection or faulty speech recognition software, according to a new report commissioned by testing services provider Empirix Inc.

The report, “‘Could you repeat that please?’: The costs and impact on the customer experience of poor voice quality,” is based on a survey of 3,925 consumers in the United States, U.K., Germany and France.

The survey found that 42% of all contact center calls are affected by voice-related issues. That can be problematic, says the report, because 68% of consumers say they hang up if they have trouble understanding an agent, and if they’re calling about a new product or service they are likely to call a competing company instead.

The word survey respondents most commonly used to describe a poor voice quality experience with a call center agent was “stressed.” The next most-used terms were “angry” and “frustrated.”

“Consumers quickly lose patience with companies that suffer from poor voice quality,” says report author Morris Pentel, chairman of the Customer Experience Foundation, which conducted the survey. “The truth is it’s a consumer’s market and they have choices in today’s market. Consumers are having major issues that they will not tolerate, which has obvious ramifications for businesses.”

Among those potential ramifications are the inability to upsell, sell new products or even to keep current customers coming back, he says.

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