Plantronics unveils new family of headsets for contact centre market

Plantronics says their new family of lightweight headsets with noise cancelling technology are designed to change what headsets provide to an organization.


Nick Eisner, Senior Director of Global Contact Center at Plantronics

Santa Cruz CA-based audio communications vendor Plantronics has made what by its traditional standards is a very bold and dramatic move. It has unveiled five offerings, including four new contact center headset solutions in the new EncorePro HW500 series.

The contact centre business is only one of three markets Plantronics makes products for, with the consumer and office product markets being the others, but it is the oldest of the three, and by far, the most conservative historically.

“The contact centre business has always been very, very conservative, and is generally the last to adopt new technology,” said Nick Eisner, Senior Director of Global Contact Center at Plantronics. However Eisner said the contact centre market is changing, which requires changes on Plantronics’ end.

“Today, as much as can be handled through self-service is done so, with the result being that while the total volume of call time has been steadily increasing, the number of calls is actually decreasing, because the calls that are handled by CSRs (Client Service Representatives) tend to be more complicated,” Eisner said. “The simpler things are now largely handled by self-service. This means that the role of the CSR has changed as well. They now have to be trained to handle calls for longer periods of time, and they have to be trained to recognize that they have also become brand managers.”

The changed role for CSRs means the tools they require has changed as well, Eisner said, with more options and more flexibility required.

“Before, we never introduced more than one new line at a time for our professional product, but this time, I asked for five,” he said. “We have set out to change what headsets provide to an organization.”

The EncorePro line is a premium one which is distinguished by noise cancelling technology, together with a comfortable ergonomic fit that is lightweight and comfortable for all-day wearing. Previously the EncorePro name just referred to a single SKU, which was the HW 291n and HW301n. These have now been rebranded as the HW 710 and HW 720, and these become the high end models in a full family of new headsets. The new models are numbered 510 through 540.

The 510 and 520 are conventional over-the-head models, with the difference being that the 510 has one speaker and the 520 has two.

“Our SuperPlus headset has been successful in the market for ten years with this type of headset, but there have been tremendous advances in components and materials used since then, so we can build products that are even more reliable, and up to 22 per cent lighter,” Eisner said. “Even though the SuperPlus had only a 1.2% return rate on a 2 year warranty, which is excellent, we can do even better with these.”

The HW 530 is an over the ear headset.

“Historically, the over the ear headsets haven’t been that popular in conference centres, because they get annoying over an eight hour shift,” Eisner said. “However, the new components here will make a difference. This weighs only 22 grams, and has been very successful in testing.”

The fourth new entry, the HW 540, is a convertible product with three different wearing styles, over the ear, over the head or behind the neck.

“It can accommodate all CSR preferences with just one SKU,” Eisner said.

Plantronics also announced the DA 80, the middle member of a new family of digital adapters running from DA 70 to DA 90.

“As contact centres move to softphones and put more audio content on the PC, these allow that content to be accessed more effectively – but they do more than that,” Eisner said. “They change what a headset is. We have built wearable technology for 50 years, but this new DA line does new things. For example, when you call a call centre, and think you get through, but then get a quick disconnect, that’s know as a RONA (Roll Over No Answer), where the automated call distributor thinks a rep is available but there is not – usually because they went on break and didn’t log out. This decreases RONA, which makes everyone happy.”

In addition, Plantronics announced exposed API’s within the Plantronics Spokes software suite, which make actionable, real-time information available to major ACD vendors’ systems and third party applications.

“We are partnering here with the six major ACD vendors, who will integrate our APIs with their ACDs,” Eisner said. “They see the value in the more intelligent call routing.”

These exposed APIs also will benefit Plantronics channel partners, particularly the ones who are strong on the software side.

“Historically our channels have been headset specialists, and telecommunications hardware integrators, but this is changing very much as we move forward,” Eisner said. “Our newer channel partners are very software savvy. They can take the exposed APIs and tailor them to customers. This is something that becomes more important as our channel becomes more software oriented.”

The new EncorePro convertible (HW540) and over-the-ear (HW530) models are available now. Dedicated over-the-head monaural and binaural models (HW510 and HW520) will be available in both noise canceling and voice tube versions in December. The DA 80 will ship in December with additional models following a short-time later.