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The Benefits (Read: ROI) and Challenges of Wireless Headsets in Contact Centers

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Feb 27, 2015

Businesses have traditionally looked at contact centers as a cost center….an important, customer-facing cost of doing business.  Over the past decade or so, that has begun to change as forward thinking organizations look for ways to turn them into profit centers, or at the very least, to improve their operations, service-levels and run themselves as effectively and efficiently as possible. wireless_headsets_contact_center_manager

Several years ago it seemed like contact centers were in a race to the bottom when it came to driving costs down (outsourcing and hiring agents with questionable language skills was in vogue), whereas leading companies now look at their contact center as a key part of their brand, and their agents as knowledge workers.  These organizations are now empowering and engaging their agents in helping achieve company goals when it comes to service, efficiency, lowering costs and upselling.  As such, they need to invest in these employees with training and by providing a technological platform that will attract and keep workers on-board.

Wireless Headsets Provide Opportunities to Deliver Return

One area that has been gaining a lot of attention as a way to move the needle in the right direction is the migration towards wireless headsets in contact centers.  According to Chris Schultz, the Director of Marketing for Demand Generation at Jabra, untethering agents from their desks can revolutionize the operations of a contact center.  “Depending on the type of organization and their processes, freeing agents to move around while still on a call can result in dramatically shorter call times, fewer transfers and improved first call resolution.”

Reduced Transfers

“One of the real benefits of mobility in the contact center is a drastic reduction in call transfers,” explained Schultz.  Many transfers to supervisors, or for escalation to a subject matter expert, can be eliminated when an agent can simply get up from their desk and walk to ask that person a question.  “A cruise line we work with moved to wireless headsets and the number of calls transferred to supervisors was cut by more than half.  The agents simply stood up, walked to find the supervisor and asked their question significantly reducing the overall call time,” said Schultz.  

Another example came from a technology company that supports a variety of complex products in their technical support contact center, including years worth of legacy products.  When a customer required service that was beyond an agents area of expertise, they previously had to put the customer on hold until a subject matter expert was available, bring that agent up to speed and then transfer the call.  “That company saw a reduction in calls transferred from 26,000 to less than 9,700 in the first month as the agents simply walked over to their colleague’s desk and asked a question, allowing them to get back to the customer quickly and improving first call resolution.”

Shorter Call Times

That business also was able to recognize a sizable reduction in total call time by allowing agents to move freely and have hands-on access to the actual equipment in question.  “Although there was a good knowledge management system in place, the agents often needed to have hands on access to the devices so they could resolve questions quickly.  Allowing the agents to stay on the phone while they found the correct make and model in question and then talk the customer through the problem, as opposed to putting the customer on hold and walking back and forth while they waited, resulted in reduced call times and happier customers,” explained Schultz.

Between the improved first call resolution, reduced transfers and overall shorter call times, this company was able to recognize a first year Return-on-Investment of over 1,300% on their wireless headsets.  Not too shabby considering the wireless deployment also resulted in a significant improvement in overall agent satisfaction.

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Challenges to Consider When Migrating to Wireless Headsets

With success stories like that, you have to wonder why more companies aren’t rushing to implement wireless headsets in their contact centers.  According to Schultz, it is a trend that is growing quickly, however the decision to go wireless depends on the company’s business case and there are some challenges to be aware prior to making the transition.

Environmental Assessments Help Avoid Density Issues

As we discussed in this previous post, pack too many agents with wireless headsets into a tight environment and without proper planning you can have interference issues, especially when using DECT headsets.  “Busy contact centers with hundreds of agents benefit from performing an environmental assessment ahead of time in order to determine the best case scenario,” explained Schultz. Clearly defining the use case for various users and the best combination of DECT and Bluetooth headsets helps avoid any density conflicts and ensures happy agents and happy customers.

Shrinkage

Unlike wired headsets, wireless headsets are, well, mobile.  That means they can walk out of the building.  This is something businesses need to be aware of and train their employees on.  “Many of our customers keep the headsets connected to individuals and even inscribe them with a name or number.  Making each employee responsible for their own headset goes a long way to keeping shrinkage down,” says Schultz.  While the headsets are mobile, the bases are attached to the workstations, so when the second shift user comes in, they bring their charged headset, sit down at their desk, put the headset on the base and it pairs automatically.

Ensuring Headsets are Charged and Ready to Use

Keeping wireless headsets charged and ready to use is probably the largest change to day-to-day processes in the contact center.  Most good wireless headsets have 8 to 10 hours of battery time before they need to be recharged, and ideally they should be charged overnight (or for the entire next shift) to keep them fully powered up.  “Making each agent responsible for their own headset also extends to keeping it fully charged.  Setting up charging stations can really help,” says Schultz.  

Also, as anyone with a smartphone knows, after a few years battery life starts to suffer a bit.  “Companies are addressing this by planning on replacing devices every three to five years, which is the same approach most contact centers take with corded headsets as well,” says Schultz.

Has your organization considered making the switch to wireless (or cordless) in your contact center?  Let us know how it’s going and your pros and cons in the comment field below.  

Topics: Technology, Voice, Contact Center, Business Case, Employees