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Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Article written by Melissa Vokoun

A Look Into The Future Of The Headset Industry In North America And Beyond

It is estimated that in North America there are over 30 million "knowledge workers" who use the telephone in excess of 2 hours per day. Yet, according to the Gartner Group, the telephone headset penetration rate is less than 10 percent of those workers outside the Call and Contact Center market. These users represent a tremendous untapped market for the headset industry. Plantronics estimates that workers aged 18-24 are 58 percent more likely to use a headset in the workplace than a worker over the age of 45. More of these potential customers are more comfortable with the wearing of headsets due to their experiences using headsets in conjunction with cellular phones, computer gaming, and listening to music on mp3 players all heavily integrated with headphone, earphone or headset usage.

The Call and Contact Center market while mature is experiencing rebirth in North America, as well as continued growth overseas. According to a recent study by the Incoming Calls Management Institute, Inc. (ICMI), there are currently 50,600 Call Centers in the United States containing 2.86 million agent positions. Additionally in Canada there are approximately 4,500 Call Centers with 212,000 agent positions. In North America alone, this is in excess of 3 million agent positions with an estimated 2.4 employee shifts of operation in these centers which is approximately 7.4 million Call and Contact Center Agents with over 97 percent of these agents currently identified as headset users in North America. Additionally there are over 1 million agent positions overseas devoted exclusively to servicing the U.S. market. That market is expected to continue to grow over the next several years.

Companies looking to outsource BPO functions are on the rise. Many of these outsourcing contracts will be awarded to companies with call centers in India. India expects to have 20 million call center related jobs by 2008 filling 81,000 call centers.

However, growth is also expected in North America where companies sensitive to customer concerns about off-shore call centers handling personal and financial information are causing an increase in domestic outsourcing. According to Datamonitor, PLC, and industry tracking service, there are 1,075 call centers employing 295,000 people with an annual payroll of $4.88 billion.

There is an incredible opportunity for knowledgeable and dependable headset suppliers and vendors to work with U.S. corporations on a domestic or global basis with the opportunities for assistance in bringing industry expertise to outsourced locations in conjunction with in-house operations for a cohesive product strategy for a growing corporate client base.

Suppliers who will survive the future must be able to offer a complete offering of services to both Call and Contact Center users as well as assist in a cost-effective implementation and usage of headsets within the entire organization.

This moving of the usage of headsets out of the Call and Contact Center and in specialized job functionality has caused an explosion in the overall acceptance of headset usage in the office. However, most of the traditional "headset distribution" specialists are still pursuing the volume based Call and Contact Center customers leaving the majority of "new adopters" of headsets to rely on the catalog and office products suppliers to procure their headsets. While this proliferation and availability of headset products in the market has benefited these retail and e-commerce suppliers, many customers do not find the same level of satisfaction as would be found in working with organizations who are well-versed at recommending products and assisting in the integration of these hands-free products that meet each particular workers' application.

Another consideration is the fast-growing usage of headsets with cell phones. With more and more state and local governments mandating "hands-free" use of cell phones when in transit, a traditional barrier to headset usage is rapidly breaking down. Organizations need to be poised to help transition those cell phone users to satisfied headset users in the workplace. Additionally, as many Fortune 100 companies continue to decentralize to be able to attract workers from diverse geographic areas of the U.S., more regional and branch offices are in need of attention in supplying headsets and related services on a smaller basis. At present, many of those offices are relying on the office supply channel to procure their hands-free communications products, but are limited in choice to the number of SKUs at their local retail outlet.

From a financial viewpoint, the adoption and use of headsets by "knowledge workers" has been shown to increase employee productivity and efficiency by an average of 23.5% (see attached Plantronics White Paper). The financial ROI on the purchase of a headset for employees in Accounting, Marketing, HR, Engineering, Administration or Mid-level Managerial functions when compared to the increase in productivity, decrease in employee absenteeism due to fatigue and "handset usage" in conjunction with telephone usage will insure that within the next 20 years, the majority of all "knowledge workers" will consider their headset as integral to their job as a computer, calculator, or phone.

As a result of our market research, the industry is ripe for a consulting firm to focus exclusively on the headset industry. There are many established consulting firms that focus on assisting their customers on telecommunications billing, or consult on the purchasing and implementation of ACDs Call Center telephone switch equipment (Automatic Call Distributors), IVR (Interactive Voice Response), CRM (Customer Relations Management software solutions) and all aspects of Call Center Human Resource functionality. This consulting firm would be unique in its approach to working with companies on providing a complete turn-key solution or in offering individual project modules specifically designed to provide expertise and guidance in the assessment, procurement, implementation, training and maintenance of headsets for every client.
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