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This month, the editors of Customer Interaction Solutions® spoke with Hans Henrik Lund, President and CEO of headset manufacturer GN Netcom (www.gnnetcom.com).

Carl E. Mergele

CIS: Nearly every time I visit a call center, the floor supervisors and managers tell me their No. 1 headache happens because of headsets: breakage, lack of a warranty/replacement program, headsets that don’t suit the call center’s needs, etc. What has GN Netcom been doing to address the traditional problems of call centers’ headset needs?

HHL: Headsets are often taken for granted in call centers. Our competition likes to tell call center managers that “a headset is a headset is a headset.” But leading call center managers tell us that the choice of headset does make a difference. GN Netcom understands that an uncomfortable, poor-sounding or broken headset translates to an agent who isn’t making calls, or worse, is not able to communicate effectively and efficiently with the customer. That has a negative impact on both revenue and cost.

That’s why we have taken a two-step approach to this issue. First, our headsets are designed not to break! In a typical call center at the end of a two-year period, 98 out of 100 GN Netcom headsets will still be in use. Our headsets are designed and tested — including heat, cold, moisture and extensive physical cycle testing — to withstand the harshest contact center environments. Second, in those rare cases when our headsets do require service, we make it fast and easy for the call center manager to get replacement headsets through our unbeatable warranty program. GN Netcom has a two-year “No Fine Print” warranty. We will replace your in-warranty headsets with no questions asked, and ship replacements within 48 hours. It’s an easy promise to make when you know you have the best products in the industry!

CIS: What are the top three things companies should keep in mind as they buy headsets for their call centers?

HHL: Durability, safety and sound quality. I’ve already covered the importance of durability, but let me talk a bit more about the other two.

Call center managers are beginning to put more thought into workplace safety. Our global experience tells us that noise safety regulations are becoming more commonplace. GN Netcom has products to solve these regulatory and workforce liability issues. GN Netcom headsets protect wearers from sudden loud spikes of noise — such as what you hear when you call a fax machine. Our amplifiers attack loud signals faster, and guard against recurrence longer, than the most widely used competitive amplifier. GN Netcom amplifiers actually attack sudden loud signals before the brain can even register them!

Finally, sound quality is also something that’s overlooked. A headset can sound “good” — but does it meet the needs of a busy contact center? What is the quality and frequency response of the speakers and microphones? Can your agent hear customers in noisy environments? How do your agents sound to your customers? Our products are built from the ground up to deliver noise-free, human-sounding voice reproduction. This means less repetition and better communication — and that means happy customers and lower costs!

CIS: Over the years, has customer feedback played any part in improvements or new product offerings in GN Netcom’s contact center headset lines?

HHL: We work closely with our customers to use innovation to exceed their expectations. Here are a few examples:

The GN 8210 Digital Amplifier — a revolutionary product — was created through our close involvement with one of the largest contact center operators in the world. They needed a solution to solve two critical problems: poor customer interactions due to noise and volume spikes, and workforce risk due to acoustic shock. The GN 8210 Digital Amplifier uses proprietary DSP technology to cancel out background noise on the incoming signal and protect agents from sudden loud noises. It dramatically improves conversations between call center agents and customers, and meets key workforce noise standards worldwide. You can hear the difference with a demonstration on our Web site at www.gnnetcom.com/gn8210/demo. It’s amazing!

Binaural headsets are important in noisy call centers, but our competitor’s binaural headsets had two wires that “yoked” below the wearer’s head. We listened to hundreds of customers complain about constantly getting tangled in these wires, and we were the first to market with a single-wire, binaural headset.

Another example is the multipurpose amplifier, which evolved into today’s GN 8000. Prior to this GN Netcom innovation, customers needed specialized amplifiers for each telephone system. We solved the compatibility problem and simplified the buying and inventory process.

CIS: Is there a good “one size fits all” headset for the call center, or can users tailor which lines of headsets they buy based on agent preferences?

HHL: There’s an interesting paradox in that question. Contact center managers have many competing priorities when choosing a headset. First, agents like different wearing styles and ear cushions. At the same time, call center managers want to ensure a basic level of standardization in their centers to allow for lower cost, faster deployment, greater staffing flexibility and minimal workforce relations issues.

GN Netcom has solved this paradox by offering headsets that work with our proprietary Quick Disconnect (QD) feature, allowing many different headsets to work with the same PBX/ACD through our leading multipurpose amplifier and adapters. Agents can be offered a choice of headset styles (e.g., monaural or binaural), ear cushions (e.g., foam or leatherette) and wearing styles (earhook, earloop, headband, in-the-ear or behind the neck) that best meet their preferences. This results in better agent performance and, ultimately, better customer relationships.

CIS: What kinds of things are we going to see in the future from GN Netcom?

HHL: This fall, GN Netcom is introducing the GN 2000 series — a completely new line of headsets specifically designed and built for the demanding needs of modern call centers.

Longer term, GN Netcom will continue to meet the needs of next-generation telecommunications in the contact center. We have committed significant R&D spending to understanding the evolution of how companies communicate with their customers and how headset solutions can enhance customer interactions.

With significant investments being made to implement VoIP in contact centers, I believe the choice of headset matters for contact centers. It’s the “last three feet” of your entire VoIP investment. You need the right headset to reap the benefits of VoIP — benefits like cost savings and the ability to use advanced applications. This fall, you’ll see some major announcements from GN Netcom to further support VoIP in the contact center.

Personally, I expect that in the next few years, GN Netcom will build on our 136-year heritage of superb sound quality, unmatched durability and leading-edge innovation. We will continue to help companies around the world be more successful with happy customers and productive employees! CIS

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