Headset Management in the Dispersed World

By Paul Jenkins

As the call center market continues to grow globally, companies are fast coming to realize just how much money is invested in small operational equipment inventories. Due to the fact that these call centers may be widely dispersed, operational costs can sometimes be hidden from those working at a location level.

Too many people hear the term “asset management” and switch off, believing it has nothing to offer them or their organizations. However, asset management is the key to any service organization. Across a call center landscape, increasingly being squeezed to provide both a more comprehensive and efficient service whilst reducing the associated costs it becomes an invaluable asset itself. To this end, it is crucial for a business to have detailed knowledge about the activities of the equipment and its history that make up the service it delivers. This will allow them to insure every item is fully utilized before being replaced or retired.

Asset management means different things to different people. The traditional view is that assets are large expensive pieces of equipment that the accountants make sure are nailed down. Just try asking your accountants to include all those low value pieces of equipment that are crucial to your day to day operations in the annual fixed asset audit. You’re likely to get a curt reply. Perhaps a more accurate label for what we are discussing here is “operational equipment management,” with specific reference to headsets.

Headset inventory in a call center is only a proportion of the total inventory that could be included. All have associated warranties and service schedules and some have certain statutory obligations, but how many organizations have a clear view of the details? The possible geographically dispersed nature of all these items makes recording events such as changes in status, changes in user, write-offs, losses, and warranty management a difficult process to accurately record and manage.

Intelligent asset management solutions with a local update and interrogation facility can increase the efficiency of the service delivery and help managers prove service level metrics are met. The ability to know where people and equipment are makes for a more flexible service that can be far more responsive.

In many operations, it is not uncommon for call centers to spend more than 30% of their purchased headset inventory value each year on unnecessary replacement and repairs. In a large call center operation of 500 seats, this can amount to some $15,000 per annum. Ask a call center if they have a user history for each headset, and a glazed look will appear over faces. Marry this with multi-site operations and the call center’s ability to keep control is often defeated.

Welcome to the mobile world. Real-time updates are essential to the information capture process. Recording the raw data relating to operational tasks as they are performed is key to any successful solution. This methodology can make the service delivery easier and cheaper by managing service delivery needs in real-time. It’s no longer acceptable for information to be recorded on paper and mailed, business demands the information the same day and the report. Significant advances in Internet and wireless technology combined with the emergence of Application Service Providers puts the systems to provide services of this quality within the budgets of all but the smallest call centers.

There is no longer a requirement to invest in a huge hardware and software integration project with an onerous capital expenditure. The new market for “software as a service” brings a pay-as-you-go mentality to implementing headset asset management solutions. Open your Web browser and subscribe to an asset and operational equipment management solution. In the headset management world, such a solution can deliver cross-company and cross-border performance through a Web browser. If your requirements are a bit more sophisticated, you can incorporate RFID (Radio Frequency Identification Devices) and use intelligent handheld devices with RFID readers embedded. A wireless network allows you to freely roam around a call center hooked into an inventory management solution provider.

Headset Allocation and Control: A company that deploys headsets as a business tool should know the exact location, current status, warranty life, and age of all equipment allocated to agents. By adopting an intelligent asset management solution, the call center would benefit by having a fully up-to-date view of the whole headset inventory across any number of locations by:

  • Status
  • User and item history
  • Location
  • Unique serial number or tag ID
  • Value
  • Age
  • Warranty status
  • Financial planning for replacements and depreciation tools.
  • Tests data and status and due date
  • When last cleaned
  • When disposed of or lost

Call Center Managed Service Providers: In a managed service environment, an organization needs to have an even greater handle on its assets and be able to provide 100% accurate reports. The time lags between data capture and report generation is a continual dilemma. The delays and errors introduced by having to re-key data manually before invoices and reports can be generated do nothing towards improving the operational cash-flow.

Real-time data collection into an intelligent asset management solution can provide access to the right data in a timely manner. There are some common benefits that will be delivered if such solutions are used:

  • Significant year on year cost reduction through unnecessary replacement and repairs and maximizing warranty life and use. Typically, this can reduce the 30% loss to less than 10% in one year (with a return on investment of some 150%).
  • Better record keeping, removing the uncertainty.
  • Absolute user and item history records that can be used to answer searching questions.
  • Improved transparency reduces loss. Everyone can see the information and every entry or status change is audited back to the person who made the change.
  • Better planning, with significant improvement in financial planning and replacement strategies.
  • Better resource usage, longer lifespan for assets, and company benchmarking can improve poorly performing departments.

In conclusion, the key benefit of all of this is that managers can move towards actively managing a key piece of operational equipment (such as headsets) that is crucial to the smooth running of the call center rather than constantly guessing about what might be happening.

[From Connection Magazine May 2006]

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