A guest post by Mike Dershowitz, the CEO of Rethink Staffing, a Fair Trade Outsourcing Company, and its sister facility, RTS Philly Outsourcing Center. He believes that when companies focus on their employees’ social and economic progress, it motivates them to perform better at work and produce outperforming results. Contact him at 888-631-0398 or firstname.lastname@example.org for an initial consultation. Read more from Mike on his Medium site.
Original publish date: September 3, 2018
As much as the contact center world is deploying AI and bots, like any other business, to optimize its operations with existing humans, or someday replace them, there has been a parallel, growing body of practice known as “Video consumer Service” that is quietly changing our industry as well.
With broadband almost everywhere now, video conferencing has come into the mainstream and is used by many business professionals almost on a daily basis. A 2017 study by IHS Markit stated that 85% of companies surveyed use video conferencing as part of their unified communications environment.
Make no mistake, video consumer service could be coming to your contact center. Video consumer service gives us a fascinating window, not only into the future, but also into a world where “phone etiquette” is insufficient, and a place where bots will not be able to go for decades, if ever.
At Rethink Staffing, one of our earliest consumers was a company with a pure Video Consumer Service need. While we do handle their regular multi-channel support, their video consumer service staff is twelve times the size of their multi-channel staff. For their business, Video is consumer service.
Asked whether or not we could do this, our answer was “absolutely,” and we had a handful of early Agents who were game. But once we got started, there were a host of issues we definitely had to worry about, for which neither we nor our client was prepared for.
For the uninitiated, video consumer service is simply rendering a consumer service session via video, where you can see the consumer, and your consumers can see you, and interact with you through a microphone, speakers and a webcam. While not for everyone, you’d be surprised how many consumers find it a viable option.
In preparation for the day when a video consumer opportunity may be at your doorstep, here’s a small list of things to consider if one of these comes across your desk:
First up? “Eyelines.” When your consumers can see your agents via video, it’s a whole new ball game about what your contact center actually looks like. The consumer will care, and comment, about what they see. Embarrassment ensues, like the time we inadvertently positioned an agent’s desk in front of the door to the men’s room without realizing it. Luckily all the consumer saw was hands being washed before we caught that mistake and corrected it.
Second: “New Etiquette.” We had to re-write the rules here, on both sides. What shocked us most was how some agents became lax in their behavior on camera, in many cases without noticing it. Like the time that a consumer who went to retrieve a piece of information, and our Agent decided now was a good time to brush her hair, and reapply makeup, and continued to do so when the consumer returned.
Third: “Connection.” Connection and computer speeds at your consumer’s point of contact will vary greatly. While the software for video consumer service should validate your consumer’s technology, this will impact the way your Agents render service. They have to be on the lookout for pauses, echoes, and other impediments to smooth communication. Think back to the early days when we started getting calls from consumers on mobile phones.
Fourth: “Thick Skin.” We had to retrain folks on what they could expect to see from those outlier consumers. No longer were we worried about sarcastic comments, profanity, or yelling. Now, we had to worry about the visual side of all of that, as well as a window into consumer’s lives that turned early agents into enthusiastic voyeurs.
And then there was the time when the Agent, confronted with an attractive member of the opposite sex on their video screen, tried to end the call by getting a date.
In the beginning, while it was certainly an entertaining and a profound window into the human psyche, the video feed ended up normalizing Agent behavior, once they were made aware, much faster than the phone does. Simply put, the human psychological need for esteem and not to be embarrassed turned out to be our biggest ally in creating professional behavior while on video.
Also, it’s important to not neglect the IT issues here. Forget about just good webcams and microphones — that’s table stakes. Your IT department has to worry about massively greater bandwidth consumption, redundancy, congestion, as well as packet routing.
Finally, the intimacy of video is so much greater than the phone; 90% of all human communication is nonverbal. The upside to video consumer service is that when it’s good, your agents feel much better about helping their consumers and the thanks they receive make a much larger impact on them.
So, if you see a video consumer service application come across your desk, I say go for it. If nothing else, it will be challenging and fun. Just make sure you’re prepared for what you’re getting yourself into!
One of our customers had a very good question for us, and we realized that others may be wondering the same thing:
Now that Jabra, Sennheiser, and Plantronics have all come out with new wireless headset options, will my existing EHS cable still work if I purchase one of the new headsets?
The short answer is, "Yes, as long as the new headset is the same brand as your old headset!"
And, as long as you are utilizing the same phone brand and model.
Here's why: (WARNING: Stop reading now if you aren't interested in the finer details of wireless headset remote answering).
EHS cables are built to be compatible with specific phone brands and models; as phone vendors release new phones, the headset manufacturers create compatible EHS cables.
EHS (Electronic Hook Switch) cables electronically connect to a wireless headset and phone. An EHS passes predefined signaling. Users can handle calls with the headset only, freeing them from remaining next to the phone. EHS cables provide a ring alert signal to your headset anytime your desk phone rings. It also allows you to answer and end calls right from your headset anywhere within your headset's range. EHS adapters eliminate the need for an old-school handset lifter. Yealink is one phone brand that manufactures its own EHS adapter, compatible with the various headset brands. We sell that as well!
Please note: If you switch headset brands, then you will need to also update your EHS cable to the new brand.
While you may be familiar with high-quality devices from Jabra, such as Evolve headsets and Speak speakerphones, you may not know that Jabra also provides innovative, AI-enhanced software that supports its USB (and Bluetooth with Link 360/370 adapter) products. Jabra Direct 2.0 is available now — and, it's free.
Core functions of Jabra Direct:
•Automatically get firmware updates so that your headset is always updated and secure.
•Personalize your headset settings according to personal preferences, or company requirements. Functions such as ringtone, sound optimization for music, audio protection level, sidetone level, and many more areas can be controlled.
•Remote call control (answer/end/call, mute, redial, etc.) for UC platforms.
Jabra Direct has an intuitive, user-friendly interface that provides overall status of each connected device, and notifications of updates. To receive firmware update notifications, go to Settings and switch Update Notifications to "On." This alerts you to open Jabra Direct, and run updates as they are available.
Key updates in Direct 2.0: Enterprises that use a proxy server, and those who prefer on-premise deployments, are now supported. Jabra Direct 2.0 will be able to connect to the Internet and receive settings and firmware in proxy-based environments. For enterprises that prefer not to be connected to the Internet, change settings or firmware updates on Jabra devices can be managed and controlled by the enterprise, within their firewall. Another update: Direct 2.0 provides data about end-user name and PC/Mac name, which is also then added as a service in Xpress 2.0. Additionally, Jabra announced that it has certified the handling of customer data in the Jabra Cloud with the SOC 2 declaration. Jabra is committed to protecting customer data against unwanted usage by a third party.
Download Jabra Direct 2.0 for Windows or Mac, from the Jabra Direct page.
Jabra Engage 50
Jabra Engage 50 is a new generation of digital headsets that provide additional call analytic metrics. The Engage 50 is the first Jabra corded headset to have the chip in the headset itself, making it a true digital headset. The Engage 50 uses the very latest chipset, and this, along with the positioning of the chip, delivers enhanced functionality and user experience.
No longer are headsets an accessory to a phone system, simply transmitting human audio; they are now a "business critical element of the whole infrastructure," according to Jabra SVP Holger Reisinger. These digital devices provide call analytics that in some cases can listen to how people say things, extracting human sentiment from the human voice. Reisinger says that Jabra is providing proof of concept with new KPIs for the contact center, such as measuring agent friendliness against customer anger, in real time. Rather than recording calls and doing transcription analytics, this information is measured in real time and shown as a graph, in front of the agent who is on the call, so that the agent can adjust tactics, mid-call.
Jabra Xpress 2.0 Now Available
For organization-wide updates and inventory management, we recommend Jabra Xpress, a free online tool. Read all about Jabra Xpress on our blog, here: Jabra Xpress: Mass Headset Deployment Made Easy. This program allows IT staff to create software packages for remote updates, configurations and asset management of Jabra USB devices. Jabra Xpress has also been updated to a 2.0 version. To create an account to begin using Jabra Xpress, or update existing Jabra Xpress to the 2.0 version, go to the Xpress microsite: Jabra Xpress 2.0.
Jabra Direct 1.0 and Jabra Xpress 1.0 will be discontinued June 30, 2019. We recommend updating to the new 2.0 versions today. Please reach out to us with any questions you have about these updates, and let us know if you need any assistance: 1-866-998-9991.
With 10 years in the headset business, headsets are our bread and butter. Of course, it makes sense that we see value in, and appreciate the use of, headsets. We came up with a (brief) list of reasons why we love headsets; and we are curious why others love their headsets. Share the reason why you love your headset on the Comments tab, above.
Headsets increase productivity. Studies show that workers using headsets are up to 40 percent more productive than those who don't.
Headsets, especially those with integrated busylights, or used with external Busylights displayed on monitors or cubicle walls, are a clear notifier of status ... red means "do not disturb." Productivity increases without interruption.
Headsets produce clear conversations. Headset microphone technology has been designed to cancel background noise and focus on human voices, for the best possible audio experience.
Headsets protect hearing. Each headset brand has its own patented technology, providing hearing protections that guard against sound spikes and other sound hazards.
Headsets provide quiet work spaces. If we can't erect walls and a door around our desk, we can put a headset on our ears and block background noise. To really get the benefits of a quiet work space, we suggest an Active Noise Canceling headset. Read a round-up of all of the ANC headsets we offer here: Active Noise Canceling - The New Trend in Office Headsets.
Headsets support correct body alignment and good posture. One of the most important things about body mechanics and posture is alignment: how the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles line up with each other. Proper alignment of the body puts less stress on the spine for good posture.
Headsets reduce stress. Noise can cause stress: ringing phones and conversations affect the rhythm and rate of our hearts. Interruptions cause stress. Open offices and the noisy environments they produce cause stress. By sealing yourself away from the noise with a headset, stress levels are lessened.
Headsets are a fashion statement. Headsets can represent a certain cool, edgy, "don't bother me, I'm busy" vibe. And, with all of the wearing styles available today, there truly is a headset for everyone: from ear buds to headbands, and everything in between, you can choose your look.
If you're not feeling the headset love, it may be time for a new, high quality, professional headset. We offer the top brands: Jabra, Plantronics, Sennheiser, BlueParrott, and VXi, and work with our customers to ensure the best fit for each environment and connection type. Give our headset experts a call today at 1-866-998-9991.
Hearing loss statistics are staggering: 30 million Americans age 12 and older has hearing loss in both ears. The Better Hearing Institute says that a large number of people wait up to 15 years from the time they know they have hearing loss until they purchase their first hearing aid, usually around the average age of 70 years old.
It is easy to blame loud music, headphones and ear buds as the cause of hearing loss; in fact, it is more complicated than that. According to Healthy Hearing, illnesses, head trauma and tumors, prolonged exposure to excessively noisy environments, genetic factors, and some medicines, can all play a part.
Aging is another factor that contributes to hearing loss. Currently, we are seeing an aging workforce: Workers are staying in the workforce past age 65. This is the highest it’s been in 55 years. And, by the year 2024, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 36 percent of 65-to-69-year-olds will be part of the labor force.
Regularly, we are asked for headset recommendations for hearing aid wearers, and people who are having difficulty hearing calls. Through testing of our own, and daily use of the professional high quality headsets that we sell, we have some tips that will help you find the best set-up for clear calls.
Tip #1:Headsets must be designed for phone calls, not music or gaming. Taking phone calls all day on a headset not designed for human voices can cause problems. And with all-day wear, hearing fatigue can occur over the course of long work days. Beware of consumer-grade
headsets that are tuned for music, rather than speech. Proper acoustic tuning in high quality, professional headsets removes noise that
is not audible to the human ear, and simultaneously boosts higher frequencies that make
fricatives* easier to discern.
Tip #2:We always recommend a dual ear headset. A mono headset covers one ear, leaving the other ear exposed to background noise. With a dual ear headset, both ears are covered, providing Passive Noise Canceling. The amount and degree of Passive Noise Canceling depends upon the shape and size of the ear cushions, and we recommend headsets with ear cushions that completely surround the ear.
Tip #3: If you choose a corded headset, we recommend the purchase of an amplifier, too. Amplifiers are designed to enhance voice quality and call clarity for headset users, boosting the headset's performance. They make sound louder. This technology enables headsets to be used with corded phones and phone systems. In addition to amplifying sound, amplifiers usually include additional features to enhance communication, including mute and volume controls.
Tip #4:Active Noise Canceling headsets may be an option. Active Noise Canceling technology uses one sound to reduce another sound, and is the latest office headset trend. We have compiled a comprehensive list of the ANC headsets from all of our brands: read the ANC Headsets blog post for more information.
We look forward to working with you on finding the best headset for your hearing needs. Our headset experts can be reached at 1-866-998-9991, or by email. After all, Communication Is Our Business!
*Fricatives are consonants that are formed by impeding the ﬂow of air somewhere in the vocal apparatus so that a friction-sound is
produced. For instance, the "f" in fine or the "ch" in Bach.