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Can you hear me now? Five surprising ways that phone support can fail

As a customer service agent, you know what it takes to have a great customer phone call—listen to the customer, be empathetic, aim for first-contact resolution, etc. But even when you do everything right, bad phone quality can ruin the conversation. Carrier connectivity, cellular signal strength, and network issues are usually to blame for poor audio quality. But support agents have uncovered a few additional and unexpected culprits that may surprise you.

A Hairy Situation

The most surprising offender? Your beard. It turns out that facial hair frequently muffles the sounds of calls. That doesn’t mean you have to lose the big, beautiful beard. Only that, if customers report difficulty hearing a call, try switching to headphones that accommodate your lustrous facial hair.

Relate customer phone support beards

Too Close for Comfort

Mic to mouth proximity plays an important role in audio quality. Positioning a microphone too close to your mouth can make for a garbled sound and too far away makes it hard to hear. Kind of like Goldilocks and her porridge, our agents suggest experimenting with microphone positioning to get it just right.

"Zack Morris" phones

Are you using an old cell phone? Phone, um, maturity can make a difference. Twilio once investigated an incident of poor phone quality and found that the caller was using a 20-year-old mobile phone. If your caller sounds like they are phoning in from the mid-90s—make a ticket on their behalf to continue the conversation.

Relate phone support phone models

Pump Up the Volume

The right type of headset is key for high-quality phone support. Is your headset USB or analog? Wireless or connected? All of these affect how well you can hear the customer. Agent comfort is important, too. We recommend a wired USB or analog headset. Try to steer clear of cell phone headsets!

The Case of the Missing Customer

Experiencing one-way audio? Might not be a carrier issue. After listening to hundreds of call recordings to find root causes, Zendesk agents have uncovered that many dropped calls happen when the caller on hold has walked away or fallen asleep. If this is the case, we suggest making a ticket to follow up via email.

Relate phone support

There you have it. Now you can triage the reasons for muffled, garbled, scratchy or downright mysterious phone calls.

For more tips on great phone support, check out this guide on How to Conquer Your Fear of Phone Support.

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