If you work in a Call Center, you’re using headsets. And if you’re not, contact us, because using a headset in a Call Center should be a requirement if you want to be efficient, have happier employees, and give your callers the professional sound quality they deserve.
So here’s a question I’d like you to ask yourself; In your opinion, are the headsets you’re now using the best for you in terms of comfort, reliability, worker efficiency and sound quality?
The truth is, it’s hard to know for sure. But there are some things you can explore to help find out.
Headsets come in many sizes, shapes, makes and models. And because there are so many different ones to choose from, it’s hard to know for sure if there’s a better headset available that’s more comfortable, and can even help you to be more productive.
And though I can’t say which headset would be best for your exact situation, I can provide you with some points to consider that may lead you to a better headset solution, starting with comfort. Because headsets used in Contact Centers first and foremost need to be comfortable. Just ask anyone who spends their day wearing one.
Headset weight and design + personal preference = Comfort
As I mentioned, headsets come in several different styles, and most of us have preferences as to which we prefer. And no matter which wearing style we might prefer, we all want our headset to be as comfortable as possible.
Business headsets are available in these configurations:
- Over the head covering one ear
- Over the head cover both ears
- Behind the neck
- Over/around the ear
- In the ear
Some people get headaches, or even migraine headaches from wearing headsets that go over the head, just like the one shown above. This is generally caused by the pressure exerted from the headband as it presses against the top and side of the head. Needless to say, anyone who experiences this is in for a long and difficult day if that’s the type of headset the company provides.
Other people prefer to have one ear uncovered. This allows them to hear their surroundings while on a phone call. For those, this is a very popular headset design. But if the company provides single ear headsets to everyone on the team, those wanting both ears covered are going to be disappointed.
Perhaps the most common, and most popular headset ordered for use in Call Centers is the type that’s worn over the head, and covers both ears.
This headset wearing style is the go to model because it covers both ears which passively helps to reduce unwanted background noises that can be distracting, and even become a drag on worker productivity. If you’d like to read a short article from Quartz, titled “Neuroscientists have figured out why you can’t concentrate at work” click here.
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone wants both of their ears covered. So for those who would rather hear what’s going on around them, being givena double ear headset isn't something that will make them happy.
Some people don’t like, or can’t wear a headband style headset. And if that sounds like you, there’s always the option to consider one that’s worn around the ear.
These headsets typically have an ear loop that rests on top of the ear, and behind it. Depending on the size and shape of someone’s ear, and the geometry of the headset, you might get a match. But you might also get a mismatch. In those cases the headset will typically either feel loose, and possibly fall off when in use, or it could feel too tight and press against the ear.
When they’re too tight, that can cause soreness and result in some people not wanting to wear it. Others will tough it out and continue using it in spite of that discomfort. The good news though is that initial discomfort settles down in time for a lot of people.But the challenge is getting through the break in period with the hope that the soreness will vanish over time.
Considering that the opening in our ears vary in size, and to a degree, shape, it underscores the importance of having an in-ear headset that fits correctly. If it’s too loose it will literally fall out. And if it’s too tight, it means you’re in for a painful experience that could be temporary, or ongoing.
The headset manufacturers have taken fitment into account by including different sizes of ear tips. The sizes provided are generally small, medium and large. In most cases, one of these three sizes is just right for most of us, and at the very least, close enough to provide a comfortable fit.
Some people who opt for an in the ear style headset find over time, if they don’t remove the headset periodically to allow the ear to breathe, they can develop ear issues. Having some airflow in the ear canal is important, and something to be mindful of if this is the style of headset that you like. And before leaving this subject, it isn’t a bad idea to periodically clean your headset, especially for those models that are worn in the ear.
That leaves the behind the neck wearing style, which is generally well- tolerated by most people, though some don’t prefer to wear a headset configured that way. For those, they’d likely choose one of the previously mentioned models.
The advantages of wearing a headset behind the neck are twofold:
- Neckband style headsets are usually very light making them comfortable.
- This style of headset distributes the weight differently because it’s not pressing against the head or weighing down your ear.
Because of these things, neckband headsets can generally be comfortably worn by most people making them a good choice.
Company issued headsets - is this the best approach?
It’s not uncommon for companies to purchase headsets for distribution to their staff. And though that might seem logical on the surface, that can be a problem.. Take for example a situation where the company makes a bulk purchase for over the head, double ear headsets. Will employees welcome those double ear headsets if:
- They get headaches from wearing things over their head.
- They prefer a mono headset so one ear is uncovered allowing them to hear their surroundings
- They prefer an earpiece, or neckband design rather than a headband model.
Broad acceptance of a one style fits all, can be hit or miss. Deploying the type of headset employees don’t like, or can’t wear, can lead to employee frustration and discomfort. And when you spend your entire day on calls, like many Call Center Agents do, headset comfort is something that ranks pretty high on the list of things mportant.
You want your employees to be as comfortable, and productive as possible. An uncomfortable, or poorly fitting headset can become frustrating and something that takes attention away from work which can lead to lower productivity. Both aren’t the outcomes Call Center Managers want. So as a Buyer, IT Director or Call Center Manager, how can you solve this problem?
First,as most of us know, it’s impossible to please everyone, so there’s no sense in spending a lot of time trying to do that. But one thing you can do is to poll your staff to obtain their input on wearing preferences. You can learn more on this by checking out a blog we wrote on this subject titled "3 reasons to survey your employees before investing in new headsets"
This might not be practical if you manage a large group, but if you go down that path, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you did your best to take into consideration the individual preferences of each person. This doesn't guarantee that everyone will end up being happy with their headset, but you should see a high acceptance level.
You can also consider purchasing a headset type that’s referred to as “convertible” which simply means that you can “convert” the headset from one wearing style, to another. An example of this style of headset is the Discover D904 that can be used with a desk phone, as well as with a computer, and switching between them is a simple press of a button.
For large groups, this approach can make a lot of sense, because convertible headsets give you several different wearing options. Headsets can be deployed, and each person can select the wearing style that’s best for them. And if they want to change wearing styles, all they need to do is change over to one of the different configurations included in the box. This helps to keep complaints low, and productivity high.
Headsets and worker disatisfaction
Spending a full day on calls can seem even longer if the headset being worn isn’t a good match to the individual’s comfort level. An uncomfortable headset can make an already challenging job seem even harder. And nobody likes going home at the end of the workday with pain and discomfort, and if they do, do you think this could be one of those things that adds to worker dissatisfaction, and ultimately turnover? Though headset discomfort might not be the main reason someone quits a job, it could be a contributing factor. Turnover is costly, and anything that can be done to minimize it is a good idea, even if it’s something as commonly overlooked as employee comfort.
So if you’re someone who tends to get headaches from things worn or placed on your head, clearly you’ll want to have a discussion with your Manager or Supervisor about this so you’re not provided with a headband style headset. Even if companies adhere to distributing a specific headset make and model, that doesn’t mean that exceptions can’t be made.
Having trouble finding an earpiece that fits?
And if you’ve had difficulties finding an earpiece style headset that will stay on your ear, you may have more luck with a model that’s worn over the head, or behind the neck. Otherwise, it might be worth your time to look deeper into the available earpiece style headsets because from a design perspective, they do vary. Ear loops, for example, can vary in their design. Some are fixed and don’t allow for any adjustments, while others may offer a fastening mechanism that secures the headset to the ear, or raises and lowers to accommodate varying sizes of ears. So if an earpiece style headset is your preference, don’t be discouraged if the one you’re now using doesn’t fit well, because there are others out there that might.
Lastly, if you can’t wear a headband style headset, and you simply cannot find an earpiece that’s comfortable, don’t throw in the towel. Behind the neck headsets are lightweight, and for most people, very comfortable. But these headsets aren’t promoted nearly as much as the other styles, especially headband headsets, so you may not be aware of them. Your comfort and the image you project is at stake, so spend the time to find the headset that’s best for you because it’s worth it in the long run.
Now that we’ve spent some time going over headset comfort, and the different headset wearing styles, we should move on to the next thing you should be giving some thought to, which has to do with:
Sound - from your headset, and your environment
Sound is unquestionably subjective, because we all hear and perceive things differently. And when speaking about sound, it can refer to several things:
- The amount, and types of sounds you have in your work environment
- The amount of sound you hear coming from your background when wearing a headset
- How your headset microphone sounds (how your callers hear you)
- How well your headset microphone reduces unwanted background noise
- Sound dampening from the headset
- Even the degree to which you can have a face-to-face conversation with a coworker while wearing a headset, if you can at all.
My recommendation would be for you to do an assessment of your work environment by asking yourself a few questions.
- Do I have a lot of distracting background noise where I work? If you do, does your current headset do a superior job at removing that noise?
- Do I find myself getting distracted from that noise? You can’t maximize your work efficiency if you’re being distracted by what’s going on around you. If you are being distracted, you should look into a headset that has Active Noise Cancellation which gives you the ability to dampen the noise you hear.
- Would I like to be less distracted from that noise, and if so, could I get more done without those distractions? Active noise canceling headset is your answer.
- Have my callers ever commented, or complained about the sounds coming from my background? Your current headset microphone may not be noise canceling, and if it’s not, you will benefit, as will your callers, by having a microphone that removes noise.
- Do I want my callers, customers, clients and coworkers to hear me loud, clear and professional? Am I getting that now, consistently? All headset microphones are not made the same. Some headsets sound good, but not all of them. How does your headset rank?
- Does my current headset remove my background noise? If so, how much does it remove? Would you like to remove more of it? Your callers deserve clear, professional sound, and that isn’t possible if they’re hearing what’s going on in your background.
- If I had a headset with a better microphone to give me a more professional sound, and remove more of the room noise, would it be helpful? You’ll be more professional sounding in the eyes and ears of your callers, and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you are coming across loud, clear and professional to your callers.
- I work in a busy Call Center and I have a lot of people talking around me all day. Is this distracting me, causing me to be less productive? Studies suggest that it can take as much as 20 minutes, or longer to regain your focus once you’ve been distracted. How can you be most productive when you have noise going on around you that’s preventing you from staying focused on your work?
Once you evaluate the details about the noise you face each day, and the kind of headset you’re now using, you can better determine if it's best suited for your needs, or if you could benefit from a model change.
Your current headset might be perfect for what you need. Or, you might find that you could benefit from a headset upgrade that gives you better comfort, sound quality, and noise reduction. Who doesn’t want to sound their best, and who wants to hear their callers complaining about background noise or poor sound quality? The truth is, nobody does..
Today, you have a ton of choices for wired, or wireless headsets. But which type is best for you? Some Call Centers don’t support the idea of having Agents using wireless headsets because they want them at their desk working, and not away from it. And though I can understand that point of view, there are some advantages and some disadvantages of using wireless headsets.
Advantages of using a wireless headset
The most obvious advantage of using a wireless headset is just that; it’s wireless. That means no cords to break, no cords to get slammed into your desk drawer, or get wrapped around the arm of your office chair.
The other thing is you have the ability to move around your workspace. This means you can do things that you would not otherwise be able to do if you were using a wired headset due to being tethered to your desk by a cord.
So if you want to move around your office area, even when on a call, you have the freedom to do that.
Disadvantages of using a wireless headset
Some people feel that wireless headset audio quality is inferior to that of a wired headset. I’m not a huge believer in this because the sound quality in wireless headsets today is very good, and in most cases, you can’t really tell the difference.
One thing that I can agree on is with wireless headsets, you can experience reduction in wireless range, or even compromised sound quality if you place too many in a confined space. This overcrowding issue is real, and can be problematic though there are some workarounds such as commingling Bluetooth headsets with DECT models for example, or DECT with Digital based models. Still, this is something to be mindful of if you’re planning on a large-scale deployment of wireless headsets for your Call Center.
Wireless Headset Batteries - the pluses and minuses
It’s possible, and even probable, that at some point, the battery in the wireless headset won’t get charged. It's a common thing for it to not get plugged in, or docked before leaving work for the day. That can be a problem because when you arrive to work the next day, guess what, you don't have a useable headset because the battery is dead. The good news though is that a lot of headsets today can be used while the battery is being recharged. This is a feature we're seeing more frequently in new models.
The other thing is battery technology continues to evolve and improve. The amount of talk time is increasing which means you not only have more battery power available, but if you forget to recharge overnight, you'll still have power in the headset when you get to work in the morning..
And finally, a wireless headset may not come with enough battery power to get you through the day, or give you enough wireless range to allow you to move around your office.
Regarding the battery, what most people do to help overcome a battery power shortage is to recharge the headset when taking breaks or lunch. Normally that’s enough of a refresh to get you through the balance of your day. So as long as you remain mindful of the amount of charge you have in the headset, it’s fairly easy to overcome shortcomings in battery life.
Connectivity - needs of today and tomorrow
Another point to consider is connectivity. It’s worth the effort to evaluate your current needs so far as what you need a headset to connect to, but you’d be wise to also give thought to where you see your organization’s technology headed. The last thing you need is to buy new headsets today, only to find that your company’s technology changed direction, and those new headsets aren’t compatible. That will result in more time spent researching compatible headsets, and of course there’s the added expense.
This can be avoided by having a clear understanding of your current technology as it relates to the devices and software being used, and how your organization will communicate in the foreseeable future. To have this kind of insight requires close interaction with your IT Department, but it’s well worth the investment of time.
Here’s one example: A company is using headsets with their iP desk phones, and a Call Center Manager is looking for a headset refresh. If future needs aren’t taken into consideration when doing that headset refresh, you might find yourself back in the market for new headsets when you learn that the desk phones are going to be retired and replaced with Softphones. If you’re aware that a migration to softphones is in the works, you can purchase headsets that have that can be used with your current iP phones, and computers. This avoids incompatibility issues downstream, and saves you time and money in the process.
Today, headsets connect to:
- Desk phones
- Desk phones and computers
- Desk phones, computers, and mobile devices
So having a good sense of where your company's technology is headed will help to steer you in the right direction for the headsets you need today, and what you'll need tomorrow.
Summing it up
If you’re using headsets now, congratulations! Using a headset for your business communications is far superior to using any other alternative. You have better ergonomics to stave off work related injuries brought on by cradling phone receivers, and you have both hands free to be more efficient. And of course you benefit from better sound quality, and noise reduction. But that doesn’t mean the headset you’re now using is ideal for your situation.
Knowing if you have the best headset based on your needs requires some close examination. Examination in terms of the details of your work environment, your particular headset preference, and of course available funds, and what your budget will support.
A headset mismatch can lead to worker frustration, lower productivity and even contribute to turnover. But keeping the lines of communication open with your employees and the IT Department, you can be more assured that the headsets you select will be better received by your staff, and able to meet the needs of today, and tomorrow.