Even before the outbreak of the Covid Pandemic of 2019, more and more businesses have been migrating to computer based Softphones, and away from traditional desk phones.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of people across the globe that are still using standard, traditional desk phones, or desk phones that use Voice over iP. There’s still plenty of those phones being used every day.
Whether you’re making your phone calls using a traditional phone, or through a computer based Softphone, one thing that’s extremely popular is the ability to answer a phone call when you step away from your desk. This is often referred to as remote call control.
For those of you who might not know what remote call control is, here’s the short explanation;
If you step away from your desk, chances are your phone will end up ringing. That’s bound to be one of Murphy’s Laws. For those who have remote call control, they’ll get a beep tone in the earpiece of their headset to notify them of the incoming call.
Once alerted, they simply press a button on the side of the headset to answer the call up to 350 feet away from the desk if a DECT headset is being used, and up to 100 feet for a Bluetooth model. To end the call, simply press the call control button a second time.
If you are using a desk phone, remote call answering is available to you in two forms:
- Handset Lifter
- Electronic Hookswitch Cable (EHS Cable)
This is a device that, as the name suggests, lifts your handset. Though it’s a bit simplistic in design, handset lifters actually work quite well, and reliably, in most cases.
The handset lifter adheres to the surface of the phone, just beneath the handset receiver earpiece. Once attached, and a call comes in, the person wearing the headset will hear a quiet beep tone in the earpiece of the headset.
The answer, or call control button, would then be pressed in order to activate the handset lifter arm to lift the handset receiver out of the cradle. This causes the incoming call to be routed to your headset.
Once the call is completed, the call control button is depressed a second time to allow the handset lifter to place the telephone handset receiver back into the cradle.
Lifters work great, but they’re not perfect.
With a handset lifter, there’s a chance that the device can get installed improperly which can cause alignment problems. Incorrect alignment can cause the handset to not pick up correctly, or hang up right.
Additionally, lifters are attached through double sided tape between the lifter and the surface of the desk phone. Over time, the adhesiveness of this tape can fail, which can cause the lifter to move, and therefore become problematic.
Lastly, handset lifters have a motor that drives the lifter arm up and down. Over time, and repeated lifts, and hang ups, a motor can fail. In that case, the device would need to be replaced at the prevailing cost.
An Electronic Hookswitch Cable performs the same function as the handset lifter noted above, but without the need to lift the handset. Instead, the EHS cable does this electronically. This means that there are more compatibility requirements compared to the handset lifter that works with 98% of all phones that have a handset.
The EHS cable incorporates firmware to allow it to perform its function. There are a couple cables that connect to the base of the wireless headset, and a couple that connect to the telephone. Connecting an EHS cable takes only a moment, and they work flawlessly, and without the need to manually lift a receiver.
Electronic Hookswitch Cables don’t have these typical handset lifter problems because they don’t contain any mechanical components. As a result, they’re more reliable, easier to set up, require no adjustments, and tend to last longer. Best of all, EHS cables don’t cost more than lifters.
How does it work if I don’t use a Lifter or EHS?
For those who don’t use this feature (it’s optional in most cases), they won’t hear the beep tone to alert them of the incoming call. This means that one of two things will need to happen if you get a phone call when away from your desk:
- Sprint back to the desk in order to catch the call before the caller hangs up. And, in the process, try not to trip on a cord, run into a coworker or slip on something while frantically trying to get yourself back to your desk. This is pretty typical especially in those cases when you’re expecting an important call.
- You ignore the inbound call and let it go to voicemail. That's pretty common, and for many, there’s no other option. The problem with letting your calls go to voicemail is you then have a voice message to listen to, make note of, and a call to return.
Many times that call you just returned will end up in the recipient's voicemail box, which can get the game of voicemail tag underway. This problem can compound significantly if you get a lot of inbound calls which can negatively affect productivity.
Are Handset Lifters or EHS Cables expensive?
The price for a handset lifter or Electronic Hookswitch are typically priced between $40.00, and $80.00. This is a very reasonable price considering the value they represent.
My personal advice would be to choose an EHS cable over the Handset Lifter for the reasons noted in this blog. It’s an easy choice, if for no other reason than it costs the same as a handset lifter. The more you know about both devices, helps to make choosing an EHS cable over a Lifter an easy decision.
Whether you need a Handset Lifter, or if your phone is compatible with an Electronic Hookswitch Cable, you’ll be happy that you added that feature to your wireless headset order. All one needs to do is to talk to someone who’s using this feature, and that will be your best testimonial.
Remote call answering and Softphones
Several Softphones today have a built-in feature that allows for calls to be answered remotely. This is a smart addition to the suite of services available on those platforms because many Softphone users previously used desk phones. And, as desk phone users, they were accustomed to being able to answer their phone calls when away from the desk.
Keep in mind though that not all Softphone providers offer remote call answering, so make sure to ask if their service offers it. The same question could also be posed to your headset provider because like with Softphones, not all headsets can offer you this feature as well.
The most common type of wireless headset used with Softphones today are Bluetooth models. Though there are DECT headsets that have the ability to connect to computers, Bluetooth models are being rolled out in earnest and have become the headset of choice.
Remote call answering, when using a Bluetooth headset, differs from its DECT brethren. To take a call remotely, when using a Bluetooth headset, you use the USB Adapter that comes with the headset.
Not all Bluetooth headsets offer a USB Adapter for remote call control, so if you’re shopping around for a new computer headset, make sure to ask if it comes with a USB Adapter (sometimes referred to as a dongle), and if the headset will allow you to take calls when away from your desk.
Though connecting is best done using the USB Adapter, you can also connect directly via Bluetooth. Many computers today have Bluetooth built into them which makes it easy to pair the two devices together. However, a Bluetooth connection won’t allow you to access remote call control which is a great feature.
A few advantages of using a USB Adapter instead of connecting by Bluetooth include:
- Longer wireless range. It’s been proven that using a USB Adapter can increase the wireless talk range compared to using a Bluetooth connection. Everyone wants as much wireless range as possible, so it makes sense to use a USB Adapter if it’s available on the wireless headset model you’re using, or looking to purchase.
- A more stable connection. When on important business calls, there are few things that are more frustrating than dropping the call, or having inconsistent call quality. A USB Adapter helps to stabilize the connection.
- Better audio quality. If having the best possible audio quality is important to you, then you should strongly consider a wireless Bluetooth headset that offers a USB Adapter.
How far away from the desk can you take a call?
The short answer is it depends on the make and model of headset. There are different classes of Bluetooth, each providing a different wireless range. Calls can be answered at the same distance as the wireless headset is rated, which is typically between 50 - 100 feet.
DECT headsets, on the other hand, offer far greater wireless range which commonly offer up to 350 feet, or even more. However, for most people, 50 - 100 feet is normally adequate to enable them to move freely around their workplace.
Here are some things that make choosing a compatible headset worth your while
DECT or a UC model that includes a USB adapter. Most brands like Jabra, Poly, Epos, Orosound, Shokz and Discover will have models to choose from.
- Answering calls when away from the desk allows you to be accessible even when not at your desk.
- Having the ability to know when you’re getting an incoming call, and then being able to take it, allows you to move around your office, or workspace confidently knowing you won’t miss an important call.
- Allows you to multitask. You can go to the printer to retrieve a printed document. You can go to the lunchroom to grab that much needed second cup of coffee. You can dash out to the warehouse to check on a shipment. These, and many other things can be done while still being reachable by phone.
- Increases productivity
- Helps you to avoid wading through mounds of voice messages for those calls you missed while away from your desk.
- Provides your customers with a higher level of service.
- Being able to take a call when away from the desk is very convenient.
If you use a wireless headset for business purposes, or you plan to, you’ll be faced with a number of things to consider pertaining to the purchase of a new headset. Among them includes the wearing style, brand, battery life, sound quality, comfort and a host of other things.
You may also have the ability to add the optional remote call control feature. For those who want the ultimate in convenience and efficiency, having this feature can go a very long way towards giving you the total wireless headset experience.
Too often customers find themselves disappointed to learn that their headset doesn’t include remote call answering. There’s a common misconception that a wireless headset comes with it, where in reality, it doesn’t. If that’s a feature you want, make sure to confirm with your vendor or online source about whether it’s included, or offered as an option.
Remote call answering is a wonderful feature that’s very useful, and helps you to be more productive during your workday.
After all, who likes listening to a bunch of voice messages and returning all those calls? And, who doesn’t like having the flexibility to grab a cup of coffee, or collaborate around your office knowing you won’t miss a call? Especially if that call is from your boss who’s wanting to talk to you about that raise you’ve been asking for.
Remote call answering is so useful, I think it should be viewed as a required add on to any new headset ordered.