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Since 1961, when a pilot in Santa Cruz, California conceived of an alternative to the bulky headphones of the day, lightweight communications headsets have been making people more comfortable and more productive everywhere from outer space to office space. In busy contact center environments, headsets have become indispensable tools, as they increase productivity by delivering sound that is clearer and more natural than any other option. Headsets also free employees’ hands, making it possible to talk and listen while typing on keyboards, handling files or taking notes.

But not all headsets are created equal, and making the right choice is critical because contact centers require headsets with superior comfort and sound innovation. It also pays to choose a headset from a manufacturer with a proven track record of reliability, service and support.

Treble: Music To Your Agents’ Ears
People have become accustomed to technology getting better. Today’s cars last longer and run better than ever. Computers are faster and more user friendly. More features and better performance come in ever-smaller handheld electronics products. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with audio quality over telecommunication networks. The proliferation of mobile phones, voice over IP and other network variables has made audio quality increasingly unreliable and, as a result, the critical high-frequency signals in calls can often be lost.
Giving up these treble-like high-frequency sounds represents a big loss for contact center operators because it limits intelligibility and makes the audio sound muffled. This makes the agent listening prone to repetitions and data input errors, decreasing customer satisfaction and aggravating the agent.


How do you make up for the variable audio quality due to the jumble of sources on today’s networks? Pick a headset design that will compensate for the loss of high frequencies. Trouble is, this can be a tricky choice because as consumers we have become trained to think of speakers and headphones that emphasize the “bass” as having better audio quality. Commercial headsets that rely on this consumer sound may sound better at first listen. But, in fact, an emphasis on the bass range will cause problems in contact center applications, where intelligibility is critical. For example, operators will have to strain to hear the so-called fricatives. These are the S, F, Z, V sounds that mainly come through at higher audio frequencies.

So be wary of the bass-sounding headsets from consumer audio makers. Testing different headsets side-by-side over several shifts with real-world calls will demonstrate how the high frequency boost that Plantronics uses to compensate for poorer quality landline and mobile calls — with their diminished initial loudness — will eliminate operator fatigue and errors. This improves customer satisfaction while also helping companies retain agents.

An Obsession With Ears
As a dedicated maker of telephone headsets, Plantronics conducts the industry’s most comprehensive research into the human ear. The result is the perfect headset for every ear for less fatigue and superior comfort. This added comfort not only boosts productivity but it also translates into a smiling face on the other end of the phone line, which always boosts customer satisfaction.

A Dedication To Reliability
Contact centers are stressful environments where agents can be tough on their equipment, so the reliability of headsets affects uptime, productivity, ROI and daily operating costs. Plantronics engineers draw on over 40 years of field performance data to ensure the highest standards of quality and reliability. On top of this, only Plantronics headsets are manufactured entirely in ISO 9000-certified plants.

Plantronics also works closely with the world’s leading telephone equipment makers to tune its headsets to work reliably with their phones.

So when choosing a headset, make a side-by-side comparison of audio performance, comfort and reliability. You’ll discovery why the majority of contact centers worldwide rely on Plantronics headsets and accessories for superior sound innovation, reliability, and service and support.

Joe McGrogan is Director of Marketing, B2B Solutions, for Plantronics, Inc. (www.plantronics.com).

Alleviating Headset Headaches

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Interaction Solutions

Every time I visit a call center floor and tour the facilities with the manager, I ask about the challenges of running that call center. In my early days in this industry, I expected to hear that the biggest headaches were people-related: turnover, bad attitudes, distractions. But hands down, the one word I know I can utter to get a manager hot under the collar and grumbling is “headsets.”

It’s a common (and very erroneous) perception among executives who are responsible for call center operations but who have never managed a call center floor that any headset will do, and that spending any time or money at all on the subject is a waste. The unfortunate reality is that substandard headsets break, wear out, cause user fatigue or injury and, regardless of the nature of the problem, cause call center managers to waste far, far too much time trying to solve equipment problems.
“You would be stunned at how much time I spend worrying about headsets,” one call center manager told me. At this particular facility, executives had run with the lowest bidder, and it showed. The call center manager spent fully a quarter of her time trying to get return authorization numbers for broken headsets from the manufacturer. She showed me the “dead headset graveyard” bin in the building’s stairwell — the place where broken or otherwise non-functional headsets went to die and await return to the manufacturer IF that manufacturer’s warranty was up to par which, more often than not, it wasn’t.

I’m often amazed at the ripple effect that seemingly small details can generate. Just as a piece of software that shaves five seconds off each phone call can, when multiplied by hundreds of thousands of calls, save a company millions of dollars in the long run (though at first glance a budget-minded executive might think five seconds is not worth consideration), a reliable headset can have a ripple effect that can run forwards and positively affect your customer satisfaction while simultaneously traveling backwards and positively affecting your agent performance and retention.

And think of all the expensive real estate space you’ll save if you could get rid of the “dead headset graveyard.” Install a cappuccino machine in its place, and you’ll make your newly happy agents even happier.

The author may be reached [email protected]

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