The Plantronics M22 Audio Processors “formerly known as” the M12 or M22 Headset Amplifiers because they do so much more than just amplify the sound. They always have, we just forgot. This fact became apparent to me the other day in a live test in a contact center that was using direct connect cables on their VoIP phones and experiencing different types of audio issues. All of them were cleared up with the installation of an Audio Processor (amplifier) and there are added benefits that I’ll explain below. You should read this if you are connected to a Contact Center in any way. If you are not, please forward it to them. They might thank you!
Please note this article pertains to corded headsets. NOT wireless headsets. Wireless headsets have the Processor built in.
A little history. Years ago all phones needed an amplifier to make a headset work because phones were not wired for headsets. So everyone who needed a headset got an amplifier and the audio quality was excellent. Newer phones, most notably VoIP phones, were then designed with a jack for a headset that was wired to allow users to plug one in with a cable instead of an amp and save money! These phones have the amp built in so why buy one, right?
The reality is that although those phones do have rudimentary amplifiers built in, they just provide the rewiring necessary to make a headset work and add little value beyond that. If you are using a direct connect cable with your headset on a VoIP phone you know what I mean. If you are running a Contact Center using direct connect cables you really know what I’m talking about. In the Contact Center the deficits of the built in amp are magnified over all the agents and the cost of this money-saving solution becomes very apparent.
Issue number one is volume levels; the “amplification” provided by the amp. You don’t have very much control over that with a cable. You can turn up the volume on the phone but sometimes that’s not enough. Turning up the phone volume also turns up any hiss that is on the line along with the call volume. What if the person on the other end says you sound too low to them? No solution for that with a cable. What about a 3 way call where one caller’s volume is low and the other high? What can you do about that if you only have a volume button on the phone? What about acoustic shock? That’s a very loud noise that comes unexpectedly. It can happen over the phone. Fax machines, white noise, audio feedback etc. can all create sound spikes that hurt your ears. What does a phone amp and a direct connect cable do to protect people from this painful risk? Nothing. What about echo? That can happen on a VoIP system where the voice traffic is running over the data lines. VoIP phone HAND-sets are designed to reduce echo. No help here if you use a headset with a cable. The fact is that these are very real issues and they can all be solved with an Audio Processor.
Solving problems is great and in itself justification for the added expense of an Audio Processor but can we add other benefits as well? What if the Audio Processor automatically reduced the transmit volume (agent’s voice level) when the agent was not speaking thus complementing the noise canceling mike making it even more effective. The M22 does that. Can we do anything to actually increase call clarity and make it even better than the best handset conversation? We can! The Audio Processor moves the tonal range of the conversation up an octave. That’s like turning up the treble a little. Why? Because the human ear perceives sound in this range more clearly than it does in the mid or lower tonal range and that improves intelligibility. The person using an Audio Processor will understand the caller better and that can save time and reduce errors! Does it sound tinny? At first maybe. After 5 minutes, no.
What is the big problem with the Audio Processor? It costs more than a cable. “Holy Acoustic Shock, Batman! You mean these benefits come at a price? What about the budget??!!”
What about the budget? This is a very real problem too. All businesses encounter it whenever they want to spend more than a few dollars. Luckily most businesses are in the business of making money so anything that either makes them more or saves them some has a pretty good chance of being approved if the business case is strong. In fact the stronger the business case the faster the project will be funded because the organization will recognize that every minute of delay will result in lost revenue or unnecessary cost. (Businesses are so logical.)
So the problem becomes making the business case for the Audio Processor so that those in charge of the purse strings clearly understand the cost of not having them. Below are some ideas for making a strong case.
Due to the benefits described above Audio Processors save money by:
Improving productivity by reducing the length of the call. If the agent or the customer don’t have to ask each other to repeat what they said, the call will be shorter. How many seconds shorter? 5, 10, 20 seconds shorter? Multiply that by the number of calls per day then by the number of agents = hours saved per day/week/month/year = surprisingly high $$$. Shorter average call lengths mean each agent can handle one or two more calls per day multiplied by the number of agents and maybe you don’t need that additional headcount…
Reducing data input errors due to poor call clarity. What is the cost of an error? That depends on the business and on the error of course. If you track error rates and have an average cost this one is easy. If not, a little effort should result in a justifiable average like $25 per error. Just one error saved per agent per month can justify the investment in Audio Processors.
Eliminating any potential medical costs associated with hearing damage caused by acoustic shock. It can’t happen with an Audio Processor which reduces loud noises to safe levels in 6 milliseconds.
Reducing turnover. Let’s face it, if you were on the phone all day and the audio experience was less than completely comfortable and there was nothing you could do to improve it and you were shocked by loud noises occasionally and your boss was complaining about your error rate, you might look for a new job too.
Audio Processors make money by:
Saving it! See above.
Improving the customer experience because they can hear and be heard with no effort. If the audio experience is unpleasant due to low volume or loud background noise, customers will be dissatisfied with the experience and the company.
Reducing turnover, thus providing an experienced agent who is more able to maximize the revenue potential and/or improve customer satisfaction than a new employee.
So what can Plantronics do to help? How about a Promotion? It’s called the M22 12 pack trade up! Buy 12 M22 Audio Processors and get your choice of 3 more M22s or 1 Supra Plus Wireless unit if turn in 12 of your old cables or headset/amplifier combos.
By Bob Shay
Call Telcom & Data at 800-335-0229 for your Plantronics Headset needs! or visit us online at www.telcom-headsets.com