Measuring Ambient Noise in a Contact Centre

How much is too much when it comes to ambient noise in a Contact Centre?

Measuring Ambient Noise in a Contact Centre

Most agents agree that some background noise is necessary to concentrate on knowledge work, without the sense of deafening silence. On the other hand, too much noise can get in the way of customer interactions. That’s why it is so important to measure and optimise ambient noise in a contact centre, staying within an appropriate threshold.  

What is Ambient Noise in a Contact Centre?

Ambient noise (also known as background noise) is a crucial component of contact centre acoustics. It can be defined as the steady background sound pressure level that serves as the baseline for any new intrusive sound source that qualifies as “loud” in comparison to the ambient level 

There is no industry-wide benchmark for the ideal ambient noise level, but studies indicate that you should aim for somewhere between 50 and 65 dB to help employees focus on knowledge work. On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) lays down noise level recommendations in different environments at about 35 dBA, speech in “relaxed conversation” is 100% intelligible, and additional vocal effort is needed only beyond 65 dBA.  

How do you Measure Ambient Noise?

To measure ambient noise in contact centres, one typically uses a sound level meter, capable of evaluating sound within a limited radius.  

There are industry-grade sound level meters available in the market, like the Handheld Quest for industrial and enterprise use. These devices tell you what the ambient noise level in your contact centre is in real-time, ensuring that it does not exceed healthy thresholds.  

Why You Need to Measure Ambient Noise in Contact Centres

Because of the unique nature of their business, contact centres have to strike a careful balance when it comes to ambient noise.  

  • There is both solo and collaborative work. Collaborators should be able to hear each other, independent, non-call agents should be able to focus on knowledge work, and on-call agents should be able to communicate with customers clearly
  • Too much ambient sound makes it difficult for customers to clearly hear what agents are saying. However, if the ambient noise level is too low, stray snippets of speech might become clearly audible to a caller, raising privacy concerns

Multiple shifts could be occurring simultaneously. This influx and outflow of agents in a contact centre, coupled with a variety of headsets, causes a high level of ambient noise. A sophisticated sound level meter can help you measure ambient noise in real-time, and flag instances of too-high or too-low noise levels for a prolonged period of time.  

3 Tips to Optimise Ambient Noise

  1. Use two-way headsets. This reduces background noise for the agent and ensures that they don’t have to raise tier voice to hear themselves talk
  2. Try out sound masking systems. These are devices emitting a soft, inconspicuous stream of background sounds over your loudspeaker system without causing distractions. Sound masking systems conceal any sudden, loud bursts of speech
  3. Assign break rooms for agents to transition between shifts and chat during breaks, without disturbing the ambient levels of your contact centre



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