Call Centers

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Call Centers present a difficult task as to creating an acceptable acoustical environment, considering the constraints imposed by the companies that establish these centers.

Typically, a large number of people are performing a very noisy task in a confined space. In addition, management frequently feels that maintaining sight contact with the workers is important from a supervisory aspect, both to assure that the employees are working and to respond to call center employees signaling for assistance.

A frequent solution for Call Centers is SOUND MASKING. View our tutorials for more information.

So, to begin with, the call center has already broken a lot, if not all, of the rules of open plan office acoustics.

  • Partition height is less than 60″ – typically less than 54″.
  • There are numerous lines of sight between people, therefore no barriers.
  • The barriers are most probably not treated with absorbent surfaces and, if they are, they are used as a tack board and covered with paperwork (this is like buying a sponge and leaving it in the wrapper.)
  • The ceiling is probably not optimal in terms of its acoustical performance. It probably has a NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) of .60 – .65; i.e. it absorbs about 65% of the sound that hits it.
  • People are close to one another.



What to do? More correctly, what can be done within these constraints?

In addition to sound masking, it is quite possible that the answer lies in the telephone headsets used by the operators/customer service representatives.

If the headset has an earpiece that covers only one ear, the other ear is left exposed to hear and be distracted by other conversations in the area. To compensate for this, operators will raise their voice level. So will other operators in response – and so on and so on. We have what is often referred to as the “cocktail party effect”. Decibel escalation. Competition for air time.

Frequently, this raising of the voice levels is not necessary for the client calling in (or being called) to hear but the operators think that it is. Or they may be raising their voice to hear themselves talk over the din. If the microphone on the headset is directional, it will exclude most of the extraneous conversation from other operators. If it isn’t, it’s part of the problem.

 

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