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Headsets to replace deskphones?


Headsets are the new black, according to vendors and resellers. New legislation is changing the design and spreading the uses of headsets, to the point where many believe there will one day be no need for the desktop telephone.

The European Noise at Work Directive came into effect in May 2006. What this means in a nutshell is that workers can only be subjected to a maximum amount of noise each day (over an eight hour shift, a maximum of 87 decibels). While manufacturers have created devices to manage this, a consultative sell is crucial here. This is thanks to environmental noise from air conditioning units, chairs scraping the ground, and background chatter from other people, which add to the general volume and do not give devices a true picture of how many decibels people’s ears are being subjected to. Another area that came into play in the headset world some time ago, but which is sometimes confused with the Noise at Work Directive, is the need to protect people from acoustic shock. This means not allowing sharp noises (of over 112 decibels), such as whistles being blown down phones by disgruntled customers, from blowing the eardrums of call centre workers. Again, technology protecting phone users from this type of mishap has been manufactured by headset vendors. Paul Baxter, general manager at Corporate Telecommunications which generates 90 per cent of its business though peripheral sales, says all businesses need to look at the new legislation, but that the first place to start is with internal policies. “They need to have something in place in their health and safety policy really. Then they can look at product. There are lots of call centers out there that haven’t done anything about it. It’s a very hard bit of legislation to follow, and acoustic shock and the Directive are two different things, which are often mistaken for the same.” The Directive and acoustic shock issue make the role of the reseller ever more important, says Neil Watson, channel marketing manager for the UK and Ireland at Plantronics: “Resellers are key. This isn’t the type of technology you can just plug in, as environmental factors will interfere. This sell needs that consultative approach. The Directive can be used as a good selling message for the channel. It’s about future proofing and ensuring your employees are protected.” Richard Peak, business area manager at Sennheiser UK, adds: “Using Noise at Work as a vehicle for developing leads, resellers should ask their customers, ‘Are you prepared for the Noise At Work legislation?’, or ‘When the HSE comes knocking, who will you cry to?’. Dealers should compile a brief summary of the legislation, something titled ‘Facts not myths’ and should use focused calling campaigns, which when used in conjunction with a direct mail piece always prove fruitful. Resellers can also obtain facts on the number of noise related accidents reported, and host an open day where demonstrations of safety features and debates on Noise at Work can take place.” Yet while manufacturers are keen for the channel to go out and use the Noise at Work Directive as a sales tool, Nimans is preaching the opposite. Philippa Parrish, headset business manager at Nimans, explains: “There is a hesitancy to talk about the regulations. The regulations themselves are a criminal act – I won’t allow any of my sales people to talk to customers about this regulation. They might say ‘If you buy this product, you’ll comply with the regulation’, but you won’t. It’s a lot more involved than that. You can talk about products that are compliant with the regulations, but then send off the manufacturer’s pdf.” Parrish continues: “This [regulation] is anadditional margin opportunity for resellers, but if their customers are concerned about this regulation, resellers should call us to get us in, or the manufacturer, to explain it all to the customer. I don’t want resellers to tell everyone, ‘Buy this and you’ll be compliant’.” Yet Nimans’ attitude shocks Jan McNair, UK managing director at GN Netcom, who states: “I don’t understand Nimans. I think it’s the wrong approach. This is about helping people today to get a better solution. If Nimans was to go out and sell headsets without explaining that customers need a consultative sell on noise levels, then that would be the wrong advice. But I see this as a little bit of an excuse not to sell at Nimans. I don’t think we in the headset business should walk away from this responsibility; it’s wrong. I think it’s a pity
we don’t see more people taking the protection of employees more seriously.” Plantronics has created an adapter for call centres designed to tackle noise level measurement, called the Vista Plus, which was released two months ago. This device fits between the phone and the earpiece. It works on the acoustic noise requirement by picking up very loud noises and cutting them off from the listener’s ear in milliseconds, so protecting them from harm. Additionally, it measures sound levels in the environment and from the phone to ensure that the Noise at Work Directive is followed.
replace deskphones? Headsets to FURTHER READING • To read more on the Noise at Work legislation and details on acoustic shock, visit: Headsets are the new black, according to vendors and resellers. New legislation is changing the design and spreading the uses of headsets, to the point where many believe there will one day be no need for the desktop telephone. On top of legislation, wireless is another major trend affecting manufacturers. Many, like Plantronics and GN Netcom,
have brought out wireless versions of best selling headsets to meet demand.
One area this helps in is compliance with health and safety issues, such as neck and back problems caused by holding a phone under the chin. If this is the case, headsets can also
be bought by the health and safety budget and not just the IT stash of cash. While entire call centres are unlikely to use wireless, for supervisors the ability to roam the office while staying on the phone is a great asset, Watson states. The growth of headsets into the office space over the past 12 months has been aided by increased interest in wireless designs, McNair says. GN Netcom experienced 200 per cent growth in its wireless headset sales in its last financial year, and is moving at a rate of 75 per cent growth for this year. Another area affecting the design and manufacture of headsets today is the advent of VoIP. As people move towards soft phone systems, headsets make even more sense, not just in the call centre but in the office. Watson states: “There are lots of changes affecting this industry. It’s all good for resellers, who aren’t just trying
to sell new headsets, when existing headsets are still doing the job. Plus it’s all going into a more consultative sell, from the Directive to VoIP.” In the VoIP arena, GN Netcom has
created the 9350. VoIP has allowed manufacturers to transmit sound on wider bands, improving sound. The 9350 also aids seamless switching between landline and Internet phone calls, plus roaming, where the distance a headset can go from its base canbe set. On compliance with acoustic shock regulations, the 9350 will cut off sound pitched between 112 and 118 decibels, and on the Noise at Work Directive, it measures total levels. Gary Booth, sales person at Pennine Telecom, states: “The way it’s going to go, you won’t have a phone on your desk any more, in the call centre orthe office. Headsets are the future and resellers need to realise that. You have to look at it from the point of view of a consultative sell, going into people’s offices and advising them on new ways of working. It’s a very sensible sell.”


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