How to Choose Call Center Headsets
Choosing the right headsets for a call center is a complex decision. There are many different factors to consider that could make a big impact on your employees, your customers, and your company’s bottom line.
Why Choosing the Right Headset Matters
Call center employees wear headsets for up to eight hours a day, five days a week. That’s roughly a third of their lives. You want to make sure they’re comfortable in their headsets so that they can deliver the best possible service to your customers. Research shows that the productivity of call center employees is directly related to the equipment provided to them and their level of comfort. Happy employees lead to happy customers. If your employees are uncomfortable, they’ll be less likely to deliver patient, friendly service to their customers.
Uncomfortable headsets can cause other physical problems, like muscle aches, neck pain, and shoulder pain. These problems can result in serious injuries that will put your employees out of work and lose the company money.
Poor quality headsets can cause problems in other ways. If customers can’t properly hear employees, the employees will have to continually repeat themselves. This leads to longer calls, which means that fewer customers can be helped per day. It also leads to frustrated, annoyed customers who may not call back. If employees can’t hear customers, not only will they have to ask customers to repeat themselves, but they could end up making costly mistakes that hurt the customers, the employees, and the company.
Using the wrong headsets can actually lead to hearing loss for your employees. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that employees working eight hours a day be exposed to a noise level of no more than 85 dBA (A-weighted decibels). Anything higher than that can lead to ear pain, tinnitus, and temporary or permanent hearing loss. Poor quality headsets can lead to high volume levels that damage your employees’ hearing.
Poor quality headsets can also lead to acoustic shock, a condition caused by sudden, brief bursts of very loud sound. A loud caller, background noise, or a sudden screech of feedback or interference can cause these. Symptoms of acoustic shock include nausea, headaches, numbness, and even anxiety and depression. A recent survey by the U.K.’s Health and Safety Executive found that about 30 percent of call center employees reported experiencing acoustic shock.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Call Center Headsets
Call center employees are all different with different needs and preferences. It’s best to offer a variety of different types of headsets to ensure that every employee is comfortable. Headsets should be adjustable in length and tightness to fit different sized heads. Different headband thicknesses and positions should be available, such as headbands that stretch across the top of the head and those that stretch across the back of the head. Padding should be offered to ease the pressure on employees’ ears.
In a 24-hour call center, you’re likely to have employees share headsets. When one shift is over, the next shift will come in and use the same headsets. In that case, hygiene is important to keep your employees healthy and happy. Consider providing each employee with their own set of ear pads to place on their headset at the beginning of the shift.
Voice tube microphones work well in sharing situations because they can be easily replaced. Provide each employee with their own voice tube to help keep microphones sanitary and prevent the passing of germs from one shift to the next. Voice tubes can also help save money because they can be replaced when they stop working, so you don’t have to replace the whole headset.
Make sure the headsets you choose provide high quality audio both through the headphones and the microphones. It’s very important for customers and employees to be able to hear each other clearly. Test the headsets before you buy them to ensure that you’re getting the best audio quality for your budget.
Wireless or Wired
If your employees need the freedom to get up and walk around the office while on the phone, wireless headsets will work best. Wireless headsets can help reduce hold times because employees can walk around as they’re speaking to the customers instead of putting them on hold. Make sure wireless headsets have a range long enough to reach the full length of the office or floor. The range might need to be as long as 50 yards.
If your employees sit in front of computers while on the phone, they may not require wireless headsets. However, supervisors may need wireless headsets so that they can take calls while they’re walking around the office helping their employees.
Cord Length and Position
On wired headsets, the cord should be long enough for employees to be comfortable, but not so long that it can become entangled or be accidentally stepped on. The cord should also be located in a position that is comfortable and convenient for the employee. Consider a headset that includes a clip so that the employee can clip the cord to their shirt or jacket while in use.
USB or 3.5mm
Depending on how employees are using their headsets, you’ll need to choose either a USB connector or a 3.5mm audio jack. Consider whether your employees will use hard phones (handset phones that sit on a desk) or soft phones (VoIP software applications). Softphones normally require a USB connection, while hard phones require 3.5mm jacks.
Binaural or Monaural
Whether headsets should be binaural (two earpieces) or monaural (one earpiece) depends on a few different factors. Consider the noise level in the office. Busy call centers are often noisy due to the fact that many different employees are talking on the phone at once. In that kind of environment, a binaural headset is usually best because it isolates sound to help the employees to hear the customers clearly and focus on their conversations.
However, if your employees need to hear what’s going on around them, a monaural headset may be required. In that case, make sure you have other ways of keeping the noise level down, such as a spread out floor plan or cubicles lined with sound absorbing material. Supervisors may require monaural headsets so that they can focus on speaking to employees while also having the ability to take calls when needed.
In a noisy call center environment, headsets with noise-canceling binaural headphones are the best way to help your employees concentrate on their calls and hear their customers clearly. According to the Call Center Times, noise-canceling headphones can reduce background noise by up to 75 percent.
Noise-canceling microphones are also important in noisy call centers. A noise-canceling microphone acts as a gate that either blocks sound or allows it to pass through. When the employee is speaking, the gate is open and the microphone is on. When the employee isn’t speaking, the gate stays closed and blocks out background noise. This helps the customers to clearly hear the employees without any distracting call center chatter.
Noise-canceling microphones can help lower the general noise level in the office as well. Employees don’t feel the need to raise their voices over background noise, so they speak more softly, which lowers the overall noise level.
Since headsets are used for up to 40 hours a week, normal wear and tear can cause them to break over time. Not only that, but headset accidents are not uncommon. Call center employees have been known to accidentally sit on their headsets, spill drinks on them, and break the cords by forgetting to take them off before walking away. It’s very important to ensure that your headsets are durable and long lasting. Read reviews and use your industry contacts to learn which headsets will last a long time and which ones will break easily.
Even with the most durable headsets, some might still break every once in a while. Make sure you establish a relationship with a headset vendor that will provide you with a good warranty and replacement plan. Most headset warranties last between three and five years. It’s also a good idea to make sure your vendor offers support for your headsets after you buy them.
Headsets come in a variety of styles with many different functions. When shopping for headsets, consider how experienced and tech-savvy your employees are. If they’re very experienced with headsets, they might be able to use more complicated headsets with additional functions. If they’re not experienced, you’ll either need to provide training on headset use or choose a more simple style that’s easy to learn.
It’s clear that choosing the right headsets for your call center is no easy task. Keep these factors in mind while shopping for headsets, and consider getting your employees’ input. This will ensure that your employees are happy, which will make you and your customers happy.