What You Need to Know About Voice Channel in Calls Centers

Call Center | 5 minute read

The voice channel is here to stay.

In recent years it has faced numerous technological challenges but has retained its place as the most widespread channel in contact centers.

Customers all around the world rely on this personal method of communication to resolve issues, pay bills, renew services and more. Calling customer support is a natural part of our behavior, but when it comes to improving the calling experience, contact centers may not have all the facts straight.
In recent years, the voice channel has faced numerous technological challenges but it has retained its place as the most common channel in contact centers. It's clear that voice is here to stay. #cctr #phonesupport Click To Tweet

Voice Channel is Still #1

Many expected call volume to decrease as new channels like chat, social, and SMS became available, but that has not yet become the case.

Social media customer support, in particular, is now almost as prevalent as voice channels  but real human interaction is essential for producing high customer satisfaction levels. Voice is a key part of the omnichannel contact center because customers expect to be able to get through to a live agent on the phone when they need to.

Call centers have invested in these new channels in order to keep pace with their competitors, and will continue to do so. But as we have always said, contact center leaders may be short-changing their long-term goals by focusing too heavily on alternative channels.

Here’s everything you need to know about the voice channel in the contact center.

What is the voice channel in a contact center?

female call center agent holding her hands wide and looking confused

‘The Voice Channel’ in the contact center world refers to a contact center’s phone lines; customer interactions over the telephone (at least for now).

Voice channel was for many years the singularly most important communication channel for customer service. There wasn’t any other way of getting in touch with a company quickly.

Why is the voice channel important?

When the internet arrived — and email with it — many companies resisted providing support through email. The uptake was slow and it is still not as prevalent as voice. It is more cost-effective than the voice channel in many ways, but also not as effective. Many customers still prefer to speak to a live agent.

When social media support became more common, most contact centers thought it would go the same way as email. But over the last ten years, social media support has overtaken all other channels except one — voice.

This is because when customers call your support line, their number one priority is to have a skilled agent solve their problem quickly and efficiently. If they could do it another way, they would.

Many of their issues can’t be solved simply through chatbots and social media support, although they are capable of solving many others. Our partner call centers have found that live chat options don’t reduce call volume rather, it opens the door to a new level of interaction with customers.

The way we communicate through phones may change. But at this point, it seems likely that voice will continue to reign supreme.

Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Voice Channels

There are two types of voice channels in the contact center: Inbound and Outbound.

Inbound Voice Channel

This is what we usually talk about in the contact center world. Inbound describes when customers call into the contact center, usually to resolve a problem although it’s sometimes used for sales purposes too.

These days, callers will usually reach an ‘IVR’ or Integrated Voice Response system that will help them navigate to the correct person to resolve their inquiry.

Outbound Voice Channel

Outbound describes when agents make calls to customers or to non-customers, either to make a sale or to follow up on bill payments and account issues. This can also be used to describe scheduled call-backs, when a customer requests a rep to call them back — usually from a form or widget on their website.

The Future of Voice Channel Technology

Call centers know that technology and training agents are the key to the success of the voice channel. But we can also definitively say that almost 80% of contact centers’ existing customer service systems won’t meet future needs. As companies continue to funnel money into improving other channels like apps, SMS and chat – inbound call volumes still continue to rise.
Call centers need to be aware that the voice channel is not disappearing — rather, these alternative technology channels will enhance the customer experience around it, making the process much better for all. #cctr #phonesupport Click To Tweet

A report published in Destination CRM, predicted that the global IVR systems market would grow at a rate of 27.4% through 2019. However, many companies are still reluctant to spend money on their IVR systems and are prioritizing newer channels over them. The recent pandemic may have changed things, but we’ve yet to see just how many of those changes will stay in the long term.

Call centers need to be aware that the voice channel is not disappearing — rather, these alternative technology channels will enhance the customer experience around it, making the process much better for all.

Speech Recognition

So, if you’re looking to upgrade your call center software, pay close attention to these companies who are determined to improve how your call center handles the voice channel:

[24]7 speech recognition integrates across different channels of communication, including web chat, mobile devices and interactive voice response, which incorporates the company’s proprietary natural language technology.

West has crafted competitive speech recognition systems with natural language capabilities and has made a number of strategic acquisitions to support this technology even further.

Advanced call-backs

Fonolo offers cloud-based call-backs that work for web, mobile and within the call queue, allowing you to give your customers the option of a call-back rather than waiting on hold. These solutions reduce cost per call, reduce call abandonment, improve the customer experience, and are accompanied by a multitude of features to keep your CSat levels high through the worst call-spikes.

A new start-up called telbee is also using voice tech to cut out the wait time. Customers can leave a voice message, which is translated to text and passed on to an agent, who can then call the customer back when they know the answer to the issue.

Conversational IVR

Convergys recently added strong, stable IVR solutions to its portfolio. These are developed in-house, giving customers the flexibility to choose the most convenient channel and media for each step in a customer service interaction.

Plum Voice is a good example of how to use AI to improve contact center systems. The technology can better recognize, sort, and prioritize inquiries in a far more effective manner than existing IVRs — and can do it through voice to AI conversations. We are now at the stage where even simple payments and account transactions can be done over the phone.

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