Over the past several months we have written about how important increasing adoption rates is to proving a positive Return-on-Investment for unified communications deployments (for example, these posts here, here and here). One of the recurring themes has been the importance of transitioning to headsets as the audio endpoint of choice, with multiple case studies pointing out the importance of the shift, and Frost & Sullivan even releasing a report stating that headsets increase the ROI of UC and collaboration tools.
Since the promise of UC has always been about collaboration and communication on any device from any location, whether that be from a hotel, a home office, corporate headquarters or a cab, we thought we would dig a bit more into why headsets play such an outsized role in getting employees on board and delivering ROI. According to Mark Derby, the VP of Distribution, Sales and Operations for Jabra, there are only a couple of things that impact an end user’s experience when it comes to UC - the UC software itself, the employee’s computer or mobile device, bandwidth and their audio endpoint. “Knowledge workers are working anytime, anywhere these days, with a mindset of my office is wherever I am”, says Derby, “They need and expect to have a professional experience every time, and without the right audio endpoint, the solution doesn’t deliver and the users get frustrated.”
Defining ROI for High Quality, Professional Headsets
I’m going to come clean here. When my first client asked me to start using Skype to communicate with them about 5 years ago, I went out and bought a $25 headset from Staples. About 4 months later, I went and bought another $25 headset because the first one literally fell apart. That one, I had to duct tape together (classy, I know) and it lasted about a year. Finally I gave in and invested in a great headset which has been worked hard, used every day since, and still looks and feels like I bought it yesterday. The sound quality is significantly better, my productivity while on the phone has skyrocketed and I can’t imagine going back to a deskphone (I don’t even have one anymore). When I realized how much more efficiently I could do my job, the rest of my team quickly received quality headsets as a present, we committed to Skype as a small business UC platform and the deskphones went away. According to Derby, this spike in productivity is a common experience for businesses, and they find it easy to justify the investment in professional quality headsets (you can check out a headset ROI calculator here). Some areas businesses use to build a case for return-on-investment when it comes to headsets include:
Increased Unified Communications Adoption Rates
“When voice gets deployed in a UC environment, that is when the real hard cost savings take off in areas like lower telephony and conferencing costs, elimination of international calling and lower travel costs,” explained Derby. “That is, as long as employees use it.” With deskphones still available, employees have a crutch and don’t necessarily utilize UC as the primary way of doing business. Eliminating that crutch and providing the team with wired or wireless headsets or desktop speaker phones (depending on each employee’s use case) can result in a spike in usage and a shift to a UC-first culture, as we highlighted in this UC best practices post.
Headsets Increase Productivity
One thing contact center workers have known for years is that having your hands free while on a call, significantly increases your productivity. With the number of Unified Communication endpoints exploding, knowledge workers are now experiencing that first hand. “Once you make the shift to hands free, you don’t go back...your productivity would suffer,” says Derby. A recent study backs that up, noting that 95% of headset users wouldn’t go back to a handset even if given the opportunity.
"The importance of having a ‘professional experience every time’ while on a phone call, web conference or video call really can’t be overstated,” says Derby. “Having an audio endpoint that delivers exceptional call quality from both a listening and speaking perspective can improve the employee’s experience, minimize the amount of time spent on a call and improve the satisfaction of customers and prospects.” With microphones that eliminate background noise and noise cancelling speakers that provide workers with personal concentration zones regardless of environment, quality headsets become must-have devices for knowledge workers.
Durability and Comfort
This goes back to the story of my first couple of headsets. If you are going to be using a headset as your primary audio endpoint, you are going to be using it a lot, and as my grandmother always told me, if you invest in quality, you only cry once.
“Headsets have to be comfortable and they have to last. Professional grade headsets deliver on that promise” says Derby. “More comfort means less complaining, and higher durability means better warranties and less replacement, which means less hassle for IT and lower total-cost-of-ownership.”
More endpoint devices can mean more of a headache for IT teams. Having the ability to manage those devices remotely can go a long-way in eliminating those challenges. “Having headsets that are built with a software-based architecture provides IT the ability to manage firmware upgrades, make changes to audio controls and enhance clarity levels from a central dashboard,” explained Derby. We discussed their Jabra Express product that provides organizations with visibility into which devices are on the network and the ability to update features, software and settings on the devices remotely. As an example, he told the story of a client that recently expanded the size of their contact center and needed to change the wireless range settings on all the agent’s headsets to avoid channel interference (something we discuss in this post about the difference between DECT and Bluetooth wireless standards). With the Jabra Express solution, the IT team was able to make those changes en masse and avoid spending a couple of overnights updating each device individually
When asked about building a quantifiable case for headset ROI, Derby pointed me towards contact centers that have migrated to wireless headsets and have proven significant return based on increased productivity, shorter call times, enhanced first call completion rates and improved customer satisfaction (which is much easier to nail down since they had all of the ‘before’ numbers to compare things against). Keep your eyes open for a post highlighting these details coming soon.