Conference Call Service — Quality Matters!
There are three main components to a quality conference call, and these are clarity, usability, and cost. To put it simply, the audio during a conference call must be clear, with no delay, jitter, or fuzziness; the interface must be easy to use for both participants and the group leader; and the service must be affordable and deliver a good ROI within a reasonable amount of time. Achieving the best quality in a conference call is not just under the purview of the provider of the hosted service; quality can also be enhanced by the end users.
Diminished call quality may come from individual participants who may be unknowingly or unintentionally allowing background noise to filter into the conference call, by using a poor quality speakerphone or one that is positioned incorrectly, or simply by being in a noisy room. The first step to ensure conference call quality is to remind participants before the conference starts about proper protocols, which include finding a quiet room, shutting off other phone lines including cell phones, and avoiding eating while participating (the chewing noises will get magnified during the conference call). If possible, participants should call in on a landline. Another very simple step that participants can take is to mute their line while they are not speaking during the conference call.
If there are multiple participants in the same room, it will be better to use a single line for the conference call and allow all parties to join in via a speakerphone; having multiple lines and participants in the same room may cause feedback during the conference call. And lastly, participants should be instructed that, if they need to step away for a moment, that putting their line “on hold” may trigger their own system’s hold music, which would disrupt the entire conference call.
Ensuring the quality of the conference call however, starts before the call even begins with the process of choosing a provider. If using a hosted conference call service, which has become increasingly common, arrange for a trial before signing any long-term contracts. Fortunately, many of the services available today offer the possibility of a no-contract arrangement where you pay only per call, per minute. Although this may be more expensive in the long run, it is a good way to test the service before making a commitment.
When choosing a provider, consider their reputation, and whether they back up their promises of quality with a guarantee. If you choose to bypass the hosted conference call service provider and install your own on-premises conference bridge, then call quality takes on even greater meaning, since you will be putting out a capital expenditure up-front. In this case, a trial run is a necessity, and make sure the vendor is able to provide you with a live demo. Also, if you are hosting your own conference call and are using VoIP, make sure that there is adequate bandwidth for hosting the calls without any degradation of quality or incidence of packet loss.