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Telephone headsets and amplifiers can represent a significant expense for contact centers. To minimize total cost of ownership, these products need to stand up to the rigors of tough contact center environments and still provide peak performance every day. In addition to repair charges, stocking extra headsets and spare parts, and other hard costs, headset failures also cost organizations in terms of less agent availability and lower performance metrics. So when deciding which headsets to deploy in your contact center, it pays to determine if the product has what it takes to stand the test of time. Likewise, it’s good to select a vendor that has been around for a long time, one with a proven track record of innovating quality designs, conducting rigorous product testing to ensure initial quality, and a company that stands behind its products.

A History Of Reliability
The search for a reliable headset starts with finding a manufacturer with a history of sound technology and proven reliability. Plantronics began establishing that pedigree over 40 years ago, when the company invented the lightweight communications headset. Since then, the company’s products have served reliably everywhere from FAA control towers to the surface of the moon — where a Plantronics headset sent the historic words "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" back to earth.

All Headsets Are Not Created Equal
This reputation bears out in rigorous testing, where Plantronics headsets have been demonstrated to break less often than products from other manufacturers. These headset comparison tests include:

Drop test. Units are dropped from a height of 60 inches (average wearing height while standing for headsets) and 30 inches (average desk height for amplifiers) until a failure occurs or until each piece is dropped 72 times, simulating 18 drops per year over four years.

Cable flex test. The cord connecting the telephone to the headset is flexed until a failure or 400,000 flexes, simulating 100,000 flexes per year over four years.
Boom rotation test. The boom is rotated until a failure or 40,000 rotations, simulating 10,000 rotations per year over four years.

Headset/handset switch cycling test. The switch is activated until a failure or 200,000 times, simulating 50,000 activations per year over four years.

Volume control cycling test. The headset volume control is rotated end to end until failure or 20,000 rotations, simulating 5,000 rotations per year over four years.

Electrostatic discharge (ESD) test. Voltages of plus and minus 8 kV are discharged into the product until failure or 20 discharges, simulating 10 ESD hits in each polarity per year over two years.

Storage/thermal shock test. Simulates temperature and humidity extremes that a headset may experience during shipment.
Beyond laboratory testing, the ultimate measure of product quality comes in the field. For the past two years, the average field defect rate on Plantronics’ most popular corded product line was less than one percent.

The secret behind this type of superior reliability is tough product design, rigorous product testing and state-of-the-art quality control throughout the manufacturing process. Plantronics Reliability Engineers draw on over 40 years of field performance data to develop detailed performance specifications for every headset adjustment and articulation. Advanced statistical process control then allows Manufacturing and Test Engineers to continuously monitor product quality and to detect and correct problems in production before they cause units to depart from their specification limits. Finally, 100 percent unit testing ensures that every headset and amplifier built delivers the extremely high quality performance designed into Plantronics products. As a result, selecting Plantronics products can significantly reduce the amount that contact centers spend on headsets overall.

For more information about Plantronics' contact center line of headsets, visit www.plantronics.com/contactcenter.

Testing In The Call Center: Not For The Faint Of Heart
By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director

The call center can be a jungle.

Well, not literally. I've been through too many companies, large and small, to count, and without fail, the call center is always the busiest, most intense, crowded, noisy and high-traffic part of the business.

Many solutions designed to make life easier in the call center — both software solutions and physical products — often underestimate the amount of abuse the solutions will be subject to. For this reason, rigorous testing designed by people who understand the intense call center environment is absolutely essential.

There are solutions that simulate calls, demands on Web servers, incoming e-mail, denial of service attacks, power outages, hacking attempts, system crashes and mechanical failures. But many companies don't employ them, and they only find out where their weak spots are when the real emergencies come into play.

Headsets should not be an exception to rigorous testing. The average call center headset takes a regular beating. Being dropped, sat on, stepped on, scratched, bent and possibly flung across the room in frustration (nobody ever said call center work is easy) is an everyday occurrence. (I've seen call centers in which one would be wise to wear a hard hat.) In many call centers, headsets are not dedicated to one user. It's not uncommon for different shift employees to share headsets, which means they are being adjusted (earpiece, headpiece, boom, etc.) several times a day to fit the preferences of different users.

Additionally, the turnover rates in call centers are typically high, which means that incoming employees are frequently inheriting the headsets of exiting team members. The chances that a departed employee and a new hire will have the same size head, same hairstyle and same comfort preference are minimal.

Headsets of sub-par standard can be adjusted a limited number of times before they break. I've seen it happen. I've HAD it happen. Broken headsets end up in a "dead headset" bin, and cost companies money, lost productivity and administrative time.

So before you buy another headset, inquire about the company's testing policies. Ask to see the stats. Try the headset on yourself, and put it through a full range of abuse (as in, bending, twisting, adjusting and dropping from a reasonable distance — don't break out the sledgehammer).

You'll probably find that there's no such thing as "a bargain."


The author may be reached [email protected]

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