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Sounding Off On Headset-Only Phones

Call Center Magazine

Wouldn't it be nice if agents didn't have to contend with handsets?

Some headset makers offer amplifiers that double as phones, which means agents can plug one of these units directly into a wall phone jack.

Headset-only phones usually include phone keypads and redial buttons in addition to the mute buttons on most amplifiers. These phones cost about the same as corded headset amplifiers.

The newest headset-only phone from a headset manufacturer is GN Netcom's (Nashua, NH) GN 7100. The list price for the GN 7100 is $118.

We found it easy to use this unit, which we connected to a GN 2120 noise-canceling headset GN Netcom supplied. The GN 7100 features a display that indicates the time, which an agent has to set initially. When an agent is on the phone, the display indicates the duration of the call. Like most amplifiers, the unit has a mute button. Unlike most amplifiers, it has a full dial pad and lets agents set up speed dial for up to 13 numbers.

All of these features are useful on a home phone, but are they necessary in an inbound call center? Dana Ahern, who runs Quincy, MA-based telecom products distributor Ahern Communications, points out that phone switch manufacturers like Avaya and Nortel already offer headset-only phones.

He believes it's easier for call centers to use phone sets from the same vendors that provide their call routing systems.

"I don't see headset manufacturers getting into the phone business," says Ahern.

Besides GN Netcom, headset-only phones with built-in amplifiers are available from other headset manufacturers, including Plantronics (Santa Cruz, CA) and Headsets.com (San Francisco, CA).

Are headset-only phones starting to gain interest among call centers? Referring to his company's headset-only Chattaway model, Headsets.com founder Mike Faith says, "It was only within the past year to 18 months that we started getting volume on it."

But he's not ready to say if greater demand indicates a trend.

"It took us by surprise," he acknowledges, adding that he "thought people would want the choice" of a handset or headset.

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