When is a Brand Important?

Let’s face it, choosing a headset these days is not an easy task. Today we are faced with an ever-increasing number of options and brands. In the over 25 years that I have been in this business I have seen the number of headset brands grow, consolidate and grow again!

That being said, what are some of the reasons we choose brand A over brand B? Here are some common reasons I encounter:

  • Brand loyalty (we have always used that brand).
  • Reputation
  • Style
  • Perceived value
  • Quality

The interesting thing I have found is that last on the list seems to be technical specifications that may differentiate one headset or brand from another. Now my experience may be a little unique as my career has been with several manufacturers, a distributor and as a reseller. I appreciate the experience I have gained being able to look at headsets through the various “looking glasses” of each business type.

When I was working for a headset manufacturer some time ago I was hired away by one of their largest rivals. I had to be very careful when talking with clients to be able to present my new “brand” as the optimal solution without bad mouthing my previous employer (that would call in to question anything I had ever done for the previous company). This is where you find out that every brand, or headset type, has features and qualities that will fulfill a customer’s needs.

My advice is simple. It never hurts to evaluate a different headset, whether from the brand you currently use or another brand. There are quite a few quality choices out there today and some brands you may have never heard of. You never know, you may come across a headset that sounds better and saves you money at the same time!

I enjoy being a reseller because I am able to offer an unbiased view of headsets and simply want to match the right product with the right environment. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.   – Eric

Choosing a Wireless Headset

There was a time when choosing a wireless headset was relatively easy (but expensive). That was due mainly to a lack of viable options. Today we see a wide range of options that can be a little overwhelming!   I would like to attempt to narrow down the choices to make choosing a wireless headset a little easier.

Here are a few factors to think about:

Function

It is truly a great time to have a wireless headset! Wireless headsets used to be retrained to being used on the desk telephone but now there are models that offer dual and multi-connectivity. Giving the user more connection options such as telephone, computer and mobile device is the new normal for a wireless headset. The decision on which functions you want is to ask yourself how you communicate!

Range

On average a wireless headset today will give you about 300 feet of range (some go from 350-400+ feet!). Now, before you run a football field away from your telephone there are some things to consider, as the listed range is not an absolute. Lots of factors can determine your actual range such as building material, type of environment (open, cubicle, closed office, etc.) and more.

Density

Most wireless headsets operate in the DECT (1.9 GHz frequency range). This may become an issue if you are looking at deploying more than 50-70 wireless headsets in the same environment (about 10,000 square feet). Density issues can create a host of issues that will degrade your communication experience. Plantronics has a solution with their CS500-XD family that utilizes the 900 MHz frequency range to help increase wireless density in your office space.

Design

This is very important as you may be wearing the headset all day! Each manufacturer has their own approach to design so the best thing to do is to narrow the results by function and then look at the various designs to make sure you have a unit you will be happy with. Most wireless headsets sold today are “convertible” offering you the choice of over the head, over the ear and, sometimes, behind the neck wearing styles. The choice is yours!

Wrap

These are just some of the basics to get you going. There are more things to consider so your best bet is to contact your local headset expert and get the ball moving J     Thank you! Eric Anderson from Your Telecom Source, Inc

In Defense of The Call Center

When people think of customer care they, almost always, think about a call center. As times and social patterns change we see a movement into other forms of customer care contact. Some of these methods are more reliance on FAQs, social media or with online chat windows.

According to recent surveys your chances of having a customer service issue resolved using a traditional call center is 90%. This drops to around 70% when using some of the new social media choices.

UC_ProSet_21

Although some people like the convenience of accessing customer service via social media channels and assorted web tools the traditional call center allows you to achieve better results through human interaction and expression.

Alas this has not always been the case! For years a call center has evoked images of robotic human voices reading off of a script will little to no regard for the customer calling in. Luckily this has been, and will continue, changing for the positive. More and more customer care centers are realizing that the quality of customer service can make or break a brand or company. Trending now is the call center agent becoming human again! This is evident in companies allowing the customer care agent to show compassion, empathy and a personality with the customers that are calling in. This human touch will begin to energize the interaction we have with the products, brands and services we use and the customer care department behind them.

Today we have a wide range of choices when it comes to how do we connect to customer service. Calling into a contact center is still the first choice for a majority of customers and a large majority as the second choice) after trying email or social media). This alone demonstrates the importance of maintaining a quality call center to address any customer service issues.

Evolution of the Plantronics Supra headset

I wanted to share my thoughts and knowledge about the widely popular Supra headset from Plantronics.  Having been in this business for over 25 years I think I have a pretty cool perspective .

1983 brought us the StarSet Supra headset. Originally this “over the head” style headset was available in Nutmeg Brown and had to be matched to your telephone (as did the amplifier). In order to receive the proper headset you needed to know if the microphone element in your handset was carbon, dynamic or electret.

StarSet Supra Brown

1990 was a major leap in several areas. The Supra was now matched to the M10 “universal” amplifier and now the same headset/amplifier could be matched to any telephone!

H61N M10 amplifier

This Supra headset (models included the H51, H51N, H61and H61N) became the bestselling headsets in Plantronics history! As times changed the Supra was destined for a makeover.

This paved the way for the SupraPlus and the HW SupraPlus (high bandwidth version). This product is still being sold today and is the most popular headset sold. Coming very soon is the HW510 (called Encore but I am pretty sure it will be the replacement of the SupraPlus line)

HW251                                              HW510

HW251N HW510N

Now, an interesting thing of note is that if you explore the colors of the Plantronics headsets they follow a similar pattern in the color schemes for Avaya telephones. During the time of the Nutmeg Brown and Sand White headsets Avaya (ATT) had the 1A2 key phones which were off white and brown (fake wood panel) trim. Along came the Merlin phones and now Plantronics had black headsets. Continue this a little further and you will see Avaya telephones moving to a medium gray finish. What do you know, so did Plantronics headsets (SupraPlus, Encore, TriStar). Now we see the newest Avaya telephones done in a dark charcoal gray and, alas, the newest Plantronics headsets are very dark gray.

I am not sure if this is just a coincidence or planned, but just an observation.

Choosing the right headset

Choosing the right headset sounds easy but sometimes ends up being a bit confusing.  For example, what is the best way to connect a headset to my telephone?  Do I use an amplifier?  Should I use a wireless headset? Which is better, sound in one ear or two ears?

These are excellent questions and essential to picking a headset that you or your employees will use and appreciate.  After all a headset is usually worn more than 4 hours each day!

Let’s take a look at some factors to consider when choosing the right headset

First, how are you connecting this headset to the telephone (or soft phone)?  A majority or business telephones have a dedicated headset port making the connection easier and the headset functions on your telephone.  With the continued growth in the Unified Communications (UC) environment we find telephony functions being handled by your computer.  This now requires a headset with a USB port and call control functions.

Wired or wireless?  Most headset users still use a corded headset, simply because the majority of conversations occur while you are at your desk.  Some environments require you to be mobile while talking on the phone and this is where a wireless headset comes in handy. Today most wireless headsets offer over 6 hours of battery life and a range of 300+ feet.  Well able to keep up with general office use.

Single or double ear?  This is mostly determined by the environment in which you are using your headset and the amount of interaction needed with co-workers.  Noisy environments with little interaction with co-workers is best served with a binaural (sound in both ears) noise canceling headset.  A monaural headset is a great choice in a quiet or reasonably quiet area and where you desire one ear “open” to hear what is going on around you.

This is just a quick guide and not meant to be all inclusive.  After all, that is what we are here for  🙂

I hope this helps and we look forward to serving your telephone headset needs.

UC_ProSet_21

Hosted VoIP

Hello!

As a small business we need to make sure that we have a phone system that can handle our current needs and, yet, be able to grow with us.

For years we have used a traditional phone system and separate phone lines for our outside folks.  This meant separate phone bills for HQ and outside, separate Internet plans and bills and reliance on hardware that may breakdown and/or become obsolete. Just over a year ago one of the “boxes” to our phone system stopped working.  We placed a call with our phone guy and he was able to use “Box 2” as our primary.  This caused us to lose 2 incoming lines and 3 extensions.  Now we felt like even a smaller company  😦

To add insult to injury, the equipment provider was suffering financial troubles and was not able to replace our “Box 1.”  This meant that we needed a better solution immediately and moving forward.  I did some research and relied on a former colleague to help us find a better overall solution for our telecommunications needs.  After much thought and calculations we decided to go with a hosted VoIP system by Jive.  As for hardware all we needed was a PoE switch!  The good news is that if this equipment ever went down I could literally replace it at Micro Center, Frys or some other computer super store same day!

Now, some of the other benefits we have enjoyed:  Our outside folks just need a phone and an internet connection and that phone is preprogrammed with their extension making ads moves and changes a piece of cake!  We have eliminated almost $500 per month on our overall telecommunications budget and enjoy top of the line telephony equipment (we chose Polycom telephones).  Our plan comes at a flat rate per extension and includes long distance.  Some of the other benefits have been managing the entire system through a web portal from anywhere I tend to be.  This includes setting up extensions, running reports and viewing/listening to voice mail.

Prior to this we had 8 incoming telephone lines plus our fax.  We now have one incoming line plus the fax and still have 9 extensions!

Please let me know your thoughts and experiences with VoIP.   I would love to hear about them.

UC or Unified Communications

Now here is a term that we hear just about every work day (and some days off too!). But what does it mean? Importantly, what does it mean to you and me?  Now, I am not going to pretend to be able to fully explain UC in a blog post, but I do want to give a quick synopsis as to what this means to people in the IT and telecom realm.

In its most basic form UC is the integration of voice, video and electronic messaging to help people to communicate more efficiently and collaborate more freely.  For example, using a “smart phone” you are able to text someone and then switch over to a voice or video call right away.

Now, please understand, this is not full UC as one of the primary factors in UC is “presence” whereas you are able to know when the person you want to communicate is available.  That being said, think about the different ways you communicate today, such as being able to retrieve you voice-mails via a web browser, or text to speech to hear your text messages. These are all components of a UC environment (photo courtesy of Ball University).

UC

Why is this important when only 10% of Enterprises are using a UC platform?  Because, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan, UC in the Enterprise will reach 90% by 2018!  Now, my company is mainly involved in the audio end points and that means about 22 million UC headsets will be sold by then!

I will write more, but I wanted to start with a quick overview.  This is a very exciting time for telecommunications and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.