Q - Why do our users often complain that the volume controls on our headsets are not loud enough? Are the units failing?
A - While it is possible that units might be failing, if more than one user is complaining about low volume, there may be several different explanations.
Headsets have protection circuitry so that your users cannot in any way permanently damage their hearing with a single sound burst, data burst, etc. This protection is called a varistor that limits incoming receive volume to a safe level. Many manufacturers use a compression circuitry to further protect users' hearing from damage when using the headsets. This is a sophisticated technology that prevents a "clipping" sound when the incoming signal is being lowered to a safe level of hearing. Most headsets utilize a volume control for each individual to allow adjustment at a limited range for incoming volume. However, if users always keep the volume control on higher settings, when calls come in that need additional volume range, there is no additional volume boost to allow for better hearing.
The best analogy to this would be what happens when you are traveling in a car, boosting the radio volume each time a new song is played that you want to hear. If you should stop the car for a few moments, then turn the car back on, the radio is "blaring" because you had allowed your ear to become accustomed to a louder sound at each level of volume raised. Then when you left the car and your hearing became accustomed to a lower level of sound and then return to the car, your hearing was not accustomed to the louder volume.
Therefore, during the course of the day, as users continue to turn up the volume control of their headset, the volume seems less loud and more comfortable. But eventually, the volume is turned as loud as it can go, and then users may complain of low sound.
We suggest that supervisors monitor the volume controls on users' units to be sure that they are set between 4-6 for normal call usage. The higher ranges should be made available for calls that indeed are weaker in transmission signal or in clarity
Q. Should employees "share" headsets from shift-to-shift? Employees have concerns about cleanliness etc.
A - There are several solutions. It is not hygienically proper to have employees using the same ear cushions when sharing units. The most economical way to share headsets is to assign a "Headset Wearer" kit. This should include ear cushions, voice tubes or windscreens to be-taken off the units after each shift. In addition, an alcohol-free solution available either in bottles or individual wipes should be provided each day for a quick clean up of the headset at the beginning of each shift. Cold and flu germs often linger on headsets and thorough cleaning will minimize shared illness.
All headset manufacturers realize that the workhorse of a headset unit is the headset "top" and market their products as "tops" and "amplifiers". If your employees are uncomfortable sharing units with other employees, it will still be cost-effective for you to provide each employee their own "top" and assign an "amplifier" for each station. Your employees will actually have more responsibility for the condition of their own headset "top" and their comfort level by using their own headset.
Q - Our new telephones look similar to our old phones. Yet, when we tried to plug in our headsets, we could hear the caller, but the caller could not hear us. How can we get the headsets to work?
A - Unfortunately, you can't! Your problem is indicative of an incompatibility of your phones and headsets. Although many telephones appear identical, there are different types of microphone elements that each telephone set utilizes. There are three different categories of microphones being used: carbon, electret, and dynamic. If you have a headset that was made specifically for any of these three technologies, it is not possible to have them perform in conjunction with microphones of another type.
There are advantages to each of these types of microphones. Carbon is by far the most widely available. Electret is a newer, clearer sounding microphone developed for the recording industry in the 1970s. Dynamic is yet another recording industry find that is light weight.
Headset manufacturers have to build their products to interface with the phone manufacturer's specifications, not the other way around. In the past, this sometimes led to headset manufacturers not being aware of compatibility problems until the product reached the customer's site. Now each manufacturer has application engineers that work exclusively with the telephone manufacturers in order to insure all new phones and current products are properly identified and matched up to work with headsets. This information is provided to all headset suppliers who should be able to initially recommend headsets that work with the phones you are utilizing.
For this reason, we suggest that prior to installation of phone systems, you provide your headset supplier with as much information about the new phone system as possible. Call your supplier to investigate purchasing compatible headsets for your new phones - and be sure you get some credit or trade-in value for your existing units.
Q - What is the problem with wearing headsets comfortably for protracted amounts of time? Why are users, who seemed so happy with the headsets they chose two years ago, now say the headset is uncomfortable and bulky?
A - While the telephone headset is considered an equipment purchase, the headset itself is an item that your users must wear, each and every day. Like wearing the same suit or same pair of shoes for two years, we all feel the sense of boredom with the same headset day in and day out. We would suggest that if you have a stable work force without much attrition and turnover, you may think of purchasing one of the several new-style headset tops introduced in the past few years. Another option is to select one of the convertible models that manufacturers have introduced. This allows your employees to convert to a different style without any further expense. There are many new designs that may allow to economically quell your office uprising. Giving users a new headset top to "change off" with the old will lessen their boredom and keep them productive. Just be sure when purchasing the units you are positive the quick disconnects - the part of the unit that breaks away the headset top from the amplifier - are compatible and you will see happier users.
Q - What is the average life of a headset? Why do some of our units look as if they have been through a war and others are much more functional after years of use?
A - There is no average headset life set by the industry in general. In specific, headset life is determined by the care of the units. Headsets that are cleaned; often have their spare parts changed (fresh ear cushion and windscreens) and are treated with respect will have a longer life cycle than those that are allowed to build up dirt and residue on cords and parts over many months or years of use.
We have determined by gathering data informally that "average" headset life is between 31-38 months. This thumbnail definition of average life may help you in planning your headset budgets. But remember that the more preventative care you take with your headsets, the longer your headset's life will be.
Q - What are the plusses and minuses of binaural headsets?
A - Binaural headsets best facilitate total involvement with the caller because they best duplicate a normal speaking environment while helping to block out the distractions of the workplace. If interaction between staffers is required, binaural headsets may not be the best selection. In this case, you would probably want to look at a monaural over-the-head.