A trend that is being monitored by IT departments is the consumerisation of IT.  Basically, people are seeing that they have better technologies at home than they do at work, and so are bringing those technologies into the enterprise and asking corporate IT departments to support these technologies, and expect them to become the standard going forward.

One of these areas is voice quality; for years programs such as Skype have featured higher quality voice than any telephone does (in or out of the enterprise really) – this feature may go under different names such as HD Voice, wideband audio or the exciting G722, but basically the aim is the same, to broaden the frequency bandwidth so that you hear more of what the other person is saying.  In technical terms (sorry!) The human voice has about 14KHz in a face to face conversation, but this is cut down to 3.5KHz on a phone conversation – approx 15% of the original.  Most of the energy in speech is in that 3.5KHz so you can understand people (its called ‘good enough’) but as soon as you start doing other things, or the background noise rises then you start struggling to understand the speech.  With HD Voice, the bandwidth of the phone conversation increases to 6.8KHz, significantly increasing the intelligibility of the speech by including more of the frequencies that carry the intelligibility.

Because of the improved experience on voice quality, this technology is starting to appear in the enterprise with all recently launched phones supporting it. So, will it appear in the contact centre?  Yes, undoubtedly, although how long it takes to appear will depend on a number of factors. 

To get HD Voice, every component in the phone call needs to support it.  We’re doing our part at Plantronics with all of our premium headsets such as EncorePro or Savi700 supporting it already.  Most recently installed phone systems already support this as well, so the big upgrade needed is the network.  The mobile service providors Orange and Three in the UK have upgraded their network to allow HD Voice calls, hopefuly the first of many to do this.

One area where HD Voice may appear quickly in the contact centre is if a product such as Skype is used to enable peer to peer calls into a contact centre. As this would deliver calls over an IP network end to end, it would support HD voice now.

What should you do? Make sure anything you buy from now on for the contact centre supports HD voice.  And if you haven’t experienced HD voice yet, try Skype with a great headset to see the difference it makes compared to your normal phone call.