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Headsets: The Call Floor Perspective

Headsets: The Call Floor Perspective

/ Operations, People, Technology, Remote Work, Technology
Headsets: The Call Floor Perspective

Here’s what agents want from headsets, and issues with them.

Wearing and using headsets is central to the experience of working in a call center because nearly everyone uses their voice to communicate to each other, whether a customer to an agent, or an agent to a supervisor, at one time or another.

For no matter how popular automated and text-based channels become, there will always be a need to pick up the phone and talk to another human being. And headsets make it possible for agents to communicate with customers while entering their information or looking something up on-screen without the inevitable neck pain that comes with cradling desk handsets.

When I started as an agent, we had the dark gray Plantronics (now Poly) headsets with extended, curly cords. But we often got these entangled as we tried to move around while not on a call or walk to a colleague’s cubicle to ask for help while on a call.

The modern Plantronics headsets that we have in the current call center that I work in still have the long spiral cords, but they are now much longer than the ones I used when I took calls. The agents like this brand of headsets because of the freedom to move around and their clarity when listening to callers.

However, quite a few of our agents have requested wireless headsets. And I’ve noticed that in other call centers agents can purchase them, which gives a sense of ownership and a responsibility to look after this equipment as the cost of replacing them comes out of the agents’ pockets.

Here are the standard features agents are looking for in headsets.

Wireless. This allows agents to move through the call centers, as noted before, but also with the shift to work-from-home (WFH) to move around their homes, e.g., cook food, do laundry, pick up packages at the door, either between calls or while on calls.

Most call centers may frown on such activities, but this mobility removes the ball-and-chain feeling the typical call center headsets possess. But just because it’s wireless, the range of the headset is also essential, as the agents do not want calls to drop while on them.

Mute. This function is on the headset, which allows agents to mute loud sneezes, clear their throats, or cough. Then you have those agents who want to release their frustrations without the callers being aware of it.

One very nice-to-have feature includes an indicator light that lets the agent know when they are on mute. And I know firsthand how important that it can be.

I recall a few years ago I said “I love you” to a caller at the same time I was talking to my fiancé, who is now my wife, in the call center. I apologized profusely to the caller, who was surprised by the sentiment, leaving me feeling a bit embarrassed, as I thought I was on mute.

Good quality and lightweight. Since these headsets are being used five days a week, they need to be comfortable for eight hours a day. They should also have rotatable microphones. Finally, the headsets must be strong enough to take repeated drops, pulls, and the occasional abuse of agents slamming them on their desks or flinging them after getting off a long shift or an angry call.

Noise-cancelling. Whether agents are in the office or WFH this is a requirement for each headset to have to achieve exceptional customer service. I’ve heard that some call centers deduct points on quality assurance (QA) reports if background noise can be heard on calls. Though some callers understand when they hear dogs barking in the background, for example, not everyone does.

Both ears covering. Some agents prefer single ear coverings, but most agents I’ve spoken to always prefer headsets that cover both ears. It helps them hear the callers better and reduces distractions from background noises: no matter their work environment.

This feature is especially important when you have agents processing customer payments.

A few years ago, an agent insisted on having a double-ear headset because it helped her get all the numbers before submitting a caller’s payment. The agent didn’t want a caller to lose coverage because they transposed a number.

Volume control. Agents prefer headsets where they can control the volume coming into their earpieces, as some callers are either too loud or too soft, and then you have those irate callers who scream at the top of their voices.

no drivers installed. When call centers provide equipment to agents, there is usually an approval process to download software or drivers on the device.

Some companies may have a zero-tolerance approach to such downloads. However, this doesn’t become a concern if the call center has a bring your own device (BYOD) approach.

Battery life. If you have a wireless headset, you need to think about how long it can last on a full charge, as well as how long it takes to charge the headset entirely. Because if the headset goes off this will cause dropped calls.

Most WFH agents who have the freedom to purchase their headsets end up going for gaming headsets such as the Logitech G733 or G935.

Finally, there’s also the potential sanitary issues with headsets.

Our call center uses headsets with plastic tubes at the ends: which tends to collect food when our agents keep their headsets on while having quick snacks between calls.

This issue turns into a nightmare for our phone guru, who replaces these tubes due to build-up—which prevents callers from hearing agents—not to mention that it looks gross and if not cleaned the particles could begin to rot.

When I worked for a previous call center, the management was very reluctant to throw out a headset.

But these headsets’ cushions were made out of a sponge-like material, which was horrible for picking out and cleaning up the dandruff (from what it looked like to me), or ear wax from those headsets (again what it looked like to me).

I felt disgusted to provide these headsets to new hires. So, I would clean the headsets myself ,or would resort to replacing the headset cushions if they were discolored or the debris wouldn’t come out.

Getting the leadership team to purchase these cushions took some convincing. I did it by asking them if they would put one of these headsets on while in their next meeting.

At my present call center, we don’t let agents share headsets. I feel agents would be a bit freaked out about it. And yes, they are issued headsets individually.

Mark Pereira

Mark Pereira

Meet Mark Pereira, a passionate learning and development professional with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He is an experienced Trainer and On-Site Supervisor who has earned several certifications. These include the Certified Professional Trainer (C.P.T.), Certified Customer Service Professional (C.C.S.P.), and Modern Classroom Certified Trainer (M.C.C.T.). Combining his academic background in Commerce and Innovative Education and Teaching with practical experience, Mark is a valuable learning leader who boosts retention and productivity through proven teaching methods. He provides expert coaching to agents with empathy and skill and stays up-to-date with industry developments and advancements from his base in Indianapolis.

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