Single ear, padded ear cups, Bluetooth – when it comes to call center headsets, the options are endless. But which delivers the best bang for your buck?
Treat your staff well and they’ll do well. It’s a winning philosophy, right? Plus, it makes double sense in a contact center where your agents are the literal voice of your company.
In an ideal world we all want the very best tech for our agents, including headsets. We know that headsets carry huge benefits – they look professional, the agent can work handsfree and can take more calls.
But let’s not kid around, headsets can be very expensive. Especially when you have a 1000-seat call center. You simply can’t afford to buy a thousand sets of ergonomic, 360-revolving headsets with extendable faux-leather bands and handy inline controls. Unless your contact center consists of 1000 hardcore gaming support staff.
But yeah, the average contact center manager has very different needs to say, a podcaster or gamer.
So what are companies looking for when it comes to call center headsets?
To put it bluntly, budget. Larger contact centers buy headsets in bulk, and the features need to balance the returns. They’re looking at factors like durability – these things are pulled off and dropped about 10 times a day – as well as noise cancellation and sound quality.
With old-school headsets, agents have to talk louder over the noise of the contact center –everyone is talking at the same time, pitching, closing deals, having impromptu meetings (soooo many meetings). The mic picks it all up.
And by the way, all this background noise can be heard on the other end of the line. It makes for a really uncomfortable call – not an ideal scenario for resolving queries or making sales.
So yes, sound trumps everything else.
What about the agents?
Sound quality and noise cancellation are just as important to agents – but remember, they have to wear these things all day. They want to know how comfortable they are, so padded ear cups are always welcome, as are easy-to-use, lightweight headsets.
Salespeople might prefer their headsets to be highly maneuverable – sometimes a sales pitch is going so well you need to circle the desk a few times to seal the deal or stand in the middle of the room and shout ‘Show me the money!’
In this case, a wireless version is best, preferably with a long battery life.
It might take a little competitive browsing, but it is possible to find a headset that ticks everyone’s boxes and won’t negatively affect your bottom line.
It’s time to adopt design thinking
When it comes to designing contact center headsets, all these factors are important. Zailab industrial designer Roelf Mulder believes less is more. Ideally, he believes, you don’t even want to see a headset.
‘You want to create an experience that doesn’t inhibit the user,’ he says. ‘Our philosophy is to create a space that is pleasant, exciting, and comfortable – a space that encourages production to go up.’
It’s all about the journey – creating a piece of hardware taking into consideration where, how and by whom it will be used.
Empathy is central to this philosophy. ‘Use technology where it’s needed,’ he says, ‘but keep the end user’s needs and their experience of the product in mind during design.’
What is the future of headset design?
This minimalist, deconstructed thinking can be taken even further. ‘The ideal’, suggests Roelf, ‘is to do away with headsets altogether.’
This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. In fact, the technology is already heading in that direction.
‘The agent environment becomes part of the solution,’ he says. ‘The workstation itself becomes noise cancelling – uses applied science to separate the good sound from the bad – and directs the sound where it needs to be. This ensures the agent can experience the very best sound quality without it interfering with their neighbouring agents.’
This enclosed environment would involve the design of a self-contained work pod with directional speakers and a noise-cancelling microphone that would replace the headset entirely. The agent talks to the screen and the sound directed back to them won’t travel anywhere else or be affected by outside influences, including Mildred’s killer sales pitch next door.
Its science meets user-centric design in action. And in case you’re wondering, it already exists.