The Last Foot to the Mouth: Why Your Choice of Headsets Matters

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Organizations are still failing to recognize the value in deploying specific devices to suit their employees’ varying workstyles.
  • To get the most out of their UC investment and the productivity of their employees, managers should ensure that the last foot to the mouth (i.e., the distance between the headset and the device) is a primary consideration.

As a former British soldier in a Signals regiment, I was told the vital importance of communications by means of a battlefield story. The short version tells of a message being sent back up the chain of command which originally stated: “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance.” The message was finally received as: “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance.” Regardless of the authenticity of the tale (or indeed the context), clarity remains an essential component of modern day communications.

Voice over IP (VoIP) and conferencing services are broadly adopted within enterprises today; such technology allows employees to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, partners and customers from anywhere and on any device, wherever there is Internet connectivity. Indeed, as vendors implement wideband codecs which provide excellent audio quality over the Internet, users oftentimes elect to use VoIP instead of the lower-fidelity mobile phone. However, VoIP technology is but part of the story; unfortunately, businesses (and indeed users) overlook the importance of headsets – not only from a call quality perspective, but also from a productivity perspective. How many times have you been on a call to hear the all too familiar ding-dong of an airport announcement, or the clacking of keys as a conference call participant types on their PC while balancing a telephone handset between ear and shoulder?

Many organizations still fail to recognize the value in purchasing specific devices to suit their employees’ varying workstyles. Some expect employees to utilize the sub-optimal microphones and speakers of their tablets and laptops or the free earbuds that ship with smartphones. Consequently, productivity suffers as a result of poor audio quality, and oftentimes employees will resort to their mobile phone, while businesses struggle to work out why their UC deployment is failing to get broader adoption. As the need to cater for a distributed and highly mobile workforce increases, cost should not be the driving factor behind the procurement of headsets, as poor manufacturing, audio quality and comfort are oftentimes the tradeoff when selecting low-cost products.

Today’s modern workforce collaborates from a multitude of locations; understanding and being understood are critical when communicating. That means selecting headsets that do not just deliver high-fidelity audio, but also devices that reduce the everyday background noise that comes from working from home, an open office environment or public space. Consumer headsets are not best suited to a business environment. Enterprises need devices that are durable, are comfortable and employ features such as noise cancelation, multiple microphones, enhanced digital signal processing and automatic gain control.

Poor-quality audio can result in missed communication, lost productivity and poor customer service. To get the most out of their UC investment and the productivity of their employees, managers should ensure that the last foot to the mouth (between the headset and the device) is a primary consideration.

About Tim Banting
As Principal Analyst within the Business Technology and Software group, tracks and assesses the rapidly evolving communications and collaboration marketplace. His areas of coverage include collaboration platforms, unified communications, video collaboration and social analytics

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