MARKET ANALYSIS: Analyzing Modern Communications

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Introduction

The range of new communications tools in today’s office environments is impressive. From the trendy world of persistent chat-based tools such as Slack, through traditional VOIP-based phone systems, to increasingly popular videoconferencing-based software, the solutions being deployed for communicating with both co-workers and outside partners are wide-ranging.

Even considering these choices, however, it turns out the good ‘ol telephone is still one of the top two means of communications for most employees in businesses across the US. (Email is number one.) In fact, according to a TECHnalysis Research study on the Workplace of the Future that surveyed 600 US employees (300 at medium sized companies, with 100-999 employees, and another 300 at large companies with a 1,000+ employees), phone calls represent 32.1% of all communications with contacts outside the company, and 25.2% of communications with co-workers.

While the types of phones used for these calls obviously range across traditional office phone lines, smartphones, and even PCs, one common desire amongst workers is to use a headset to make communications easier. In fact, according to the same survey, workers spend about 48% of their working time engaging in some form of communications or collaboration with either co-workers or outside colleagues. As a result, the need to make those communications more convenient and more efficient with the help of a headset is obvious.

Another important trend to remember is that in today’s data-driven business environment, companies are trying to figure out ways to measure the quantity and effectiveness of all their communications. With digitally native communication tools like email, texting, etc., it’s relatively easy to capture, monitor and analyze metadata that looks at overall trends. With phone calls, however, the means to achieve those same types of goals isn’t immediately obvious. The answer, it turns out, is software-based connections to phone headsets.

Software-Based Control

In fact, tracking general trends about phone usage is made significantly easier by leveraging software-based connections to headsets. Details like call time, conversation analysis, user behavior, and more can all be determined through clever analysis of how the headset is used. Both individually and collectively, these data points can provide tremendously valuable insights for companies, and help them to improve the effectiveness of their communications. Plus, like any tech-based hardware asset, headsets need to be tracked, updated and have other basic management tasks applied to them, and software-based controls enable these essential tasks to be done as well.

Market leader Plantronics is one of the few companies that offer software-based tools to manage headsets and generate this type of analytical data on phone-based conversations. The company’s Plantronics Manager Pro analytics suites allow companies to track this kind of information on all of the Plantronics professional USB headset models, including the Voyager UC range of Bluetooth headsets and the MDA400 QD series.

Conversation Analysis Without Recording

One of the most powerful capabilities of Plantronics Manager Pro is its ability to gather information about phone calls in a way that provides very useful insights, but without the big-brother inducing concerns of recording every conversation. While some businesses certainly need to and do record all calls—notably call centers—in regular businesses, the concept of recording every call made at work would create enormous privacy concerns for most employees. Plus, in very privacy-focused countries like Germany (and much of Europe), there are also legal restrictions that prevent any unauthorized recording of work phone calls.

Thankfully, it’s not necessary to record phone calls to glean a great deal of useful information about characteristics of a conversation. As mentioned, call length, call frequency and other simple metrics are easily captured, averaged and analyzed for basic insights into phone conversations within a company.

More interesting insights are available when the audio signal is analyzed. For example, it’s possible to determine when audio is simultaneously going into and out of the headset, which would suggest that there is “overtalking” going on, when both participants in a conversation are talking over each other. In some instances, that could suggest that the conversation wasn’t as productive as could be and the results could be used for training purposes.

For organizations that have internal or industry regulations about the total amount of noise that any employees can be exposed, non-recorded audio analysis can also be extremely useful. Keeping track not only of call time, but long-term call volume levels is essential to be able to measure long-term noise exposure.

Device Management

Like other tech products, headsets are getting increasingly sophisticated. Along with that increased capability come concerns about easily deploying, monitoring and updating the physical features of the headset. In large organizations with thousands of headsets, simply keeping tabs on where they all are is a non-trivial task.

But device management for headsets can also go beyond the basics. For example, tracking drops in radio link quality can provide a simple form of predictive maintenance that allows IT and communications professionals to repair or replace headsets before they stop working mid-call.

In addition, because headsets are often used across a wide range of different softphones with different versions of different operating systems, the potential for software compatibility issues continues to grow. Being able to have automatic notifications of problematic combinations when employees update their own devices or there is a new version of a softphone can save a great deal of time and hassle for all interested parties.

Conclusion

Voice-based conversations will continue to be a key component of any business’ communications efforts for a long time to come and headsets will be a critical enabler of those conversations. By leveraging smart software tools that can connect to and analyze the usage of those headsets, companies can gain some very valuable insights into the effectiveness of these phone calls, ensure they remain within regulatory compliance, and physically maintain important physical assets. By providing a combination of asset, usage, conversation and acoustic analysis, Plantronics Manager Pro enables these capabilities and offers a unique way for companies to manage their voice-based communications.

About Bob O'Donnell (Guest Contributor)

Bob O'Donnell, the president, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, has a lengthy, multi-faceted career in the technology business. He is widely regarded as an expert in the technology market research field and his original research and advice is used by executives in large technology firms all over the world. O'Donnell has been listed in the Top 10 of AR Insight's list of most influential analysts. In addition, TECHnalysis Research was named a Best New Entrant in the Institute of Industry Analyst Relations Analyst of the Year Awards for 2015.