The 8 Best Call Center Headsets
8. Plantronics HW540 EncorePro
7. Plantronics 202580-01 Wired
6. Andrea Communications NC-185VM
5. Jabra UC Voice 550
4. Mpow 071 USB Wired
3. Sennheiser Century SC 630 USB ML
2. Jabra PRO 920
1. Sennheiser OfficeRunner
Hello, Operator: A Brief History Of The Call Center
Call centers tend to get a bad rap these days. Having become synonymous with frustrated customers and dead-end jobs, many folks balk at the idea of ever having to work in one. And let's be honest — when has calling a customer service representative ever been viewed as anything other than tedious? However, this stereotype doesn’t always ring true, and when they first came about, call centers were revolutionary for the companies that utilized them. In the early days of the telephone, an operator had to physically move wires around a switchboard to connect various calls. Naturally, this meant that processing them was a slow business, and if a company only had one incoming phone number, this severely curtailed the volume that an operator could receive at any given time.
Advancements in the field eventually led to the opening of what's generally accepted as the first ever call center in the United Kingdom. In 1965, Birmingham Press And Mail spearheaded the setup that would become the bread and butter of most call centers today. Agents sat in rows, each at their own workstation. They received calls through a new system known as Private Automatic Branch Exchange. This consisted of an electronic device that acted like a tiny switchboard. It enabled operators to patch external calls coming from a single access number through to various internal extensions throughout the building. Although it wasn’t entirely automatic, as a live agent was still necessary to field and distribute callers, this new method was swift and efficient.
A few years later, Continental Airlines was looking to streamline their telecommunication methods. They wanted to increase their capacity for receivable calls and eliminate the need for an actual operator. They initially approached AT&T to devise such a system, but the telephone giant couldn’t come up with the technology fast enough for the airline's needs. They then turned to Rockwell International for assistance. A man named Robert Hirvela received a technology patent, which he used to develop the Rockwell Galaxy Automatic Call Distributor. When this new automated system launched in 1973, Continental saw immediate benefits. Customers were able to get information quickly over the phone without ever having to speak to a person, and this, in turn, ensured low wait times and overall customer satisfaction.
This revelation gave the industry the push it needed, and it wasn’t long before call centers sprung up all over the United States. Continuing throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the field expanded rapidly. The technology was continuously improved upon, giving us innovations like touch tone phones, interactive voice response, and toll-free telephone numbers.
Comfort Is Key
An agent’s comfort is a vital component of any call center’s success rate. How productive would you be if you were constantly fidgeting or adjusting your headset? As a result, many options are ingeniously crafted to benefit the wearer’s overall well-being and to help prevent burnout, so it’s paramount that you choose the best one to fit your physical needs. Many headsets are ergonomically designed so as not to adversely affect your posture. A device that is too heavy or imbalanced can cause you to lean forward or cock your head in order to compensate, resulting in muscle tension and back stress.
Another key feature is padding. Now, this depends on your personal preference just as much as your head shape. For many, a padded headband and cushioned earpieces will prevent aching and discomfort over long periods of use. The material most widely used as padding is foam, as it doesn’t weigh the headset down. On the flip side, some prefer no cushioning at all. Some modern designs are so sleek, they feel as though they’re barely there. Most single-eared sets are reversible, so you can switch sides throughout the day without experiencing any fatigue.
A thin, flexible boom mic also goes a long way in determining your comfort throughout the day. A pliable gooseneck mic is perfectly customizable, although it may take some trial and error to discover the ideal angle for your facial structure. You’ll also want to be sure that the cord length of your headset is adequate, but not overlong. Try to select a model that comes with a cable that resists bunching up, or shoot for a wireless device.
All The Bells And Whistles
These days, headsets boast a handful of features that the agents of yesteryear would’ve have killed for. Many come outfitted with built-in hearing protection technology to identify sudden peaks in volume, suppressing any sound that goes over a certain decibel level so as not to damage your hearing or startle you. They also have settings that ensure the average noise level of the call stays at a reasonable amount, so if you’re constantly fielding calls from clients who seem to be driving down the freeway with all the windows down, fret not — you’re covered.
As for the sounds coming from your end, such as the rustlings of your coworkers and their conversations, noise-canceling microphones that block out this unwanted background noise are par for the course. The result is that your voice comes through crystal clear, so you don’t have to repeat yourself or risk the customer becoming irate. Many headsets also employ digital signal processing, which eliminates static and prevents annoying echoes. And while it may seem simple, plenty have in-line controls that address a variety of tasks. These include muting or rejecting a call, redialing the last outgoing call or adjusting the volume, with some even specifically tailored to video calling.
Some of the best products out there are wireless, and the benefits of going completely cordless are numerous. These models can last a full workday on a single charge, and can usually pair with any corded office phone seamlessly. They also enable you to get away from your desk from time to time without technically taking a break. In today’s sit-and-stay office culture, taking a quick lap around the building or even simply standing up for a few minutes is crucial for your health.