Your Call WILL Be Recorded…

Imagine retrieving your mail from your letterbox and noticing that all envelopes have been ripped open, and sloppily re-sealed with a sticker reading: “This mail has been opened and inspected for quality control and training purposes”. Imagine even more bizarrely: not even caring about that and even accepting this as a normal function of doing business with the post office, or with the company which sent you the letter in the first place.

The disclaimer: “This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes” is one which I’m hired to voice several times in a day — and its a phrase which we all hear as a matter of course whenever we call anywhere. It’s as accepted and normal as “Your call is important to us”, or “Please listen to all the selections, as our menu has recently changed.”

And I used to take them at their word. I envisioned a training session in which a manager coos in front of a group of call center agents: “Now, listen to this call on November 14th, where Stan diffuses this lady’s anger at being signed up for the yearly fee Visa Gold Card, and he switches her to the no-fee Classic II card. Even got her to agree to receiving a mail out about travel insurance. Exactly what we want you people to do! Good work, Stan!”

And it’s true: quality control is still a large component and reason behind call recording technology — it’s  a great way to gauge performance of workers, to track efficiency, and head off  problem/ineffective employees at the pass.

Consider, though, the more self-protective aspects which primarily drives firms to implement call recording:  to insulate the company from  lawsuits. Audio evidence that their employee behaved appropriately, accurately, and legally — is invaluable.  What used to be an “our word against theirs” scenario can easily be reviewed, analyzed and verified.

More sinister, though, is the use of carefully planned and executed information-gathering techniques by call-center staff which can be recorded, reviewed, and analyzed for demographic and marketing purposes. Information freely divulged by the caller about their income, their spending patterns, how often they call, and their general perception of the company, can also be elicited by well-placed questions on the part of the call-center agent — providing useful feedback from the customer, given somewhat unknowingly and unsuspectingly; recorded and preserved for posterity.

All but 12 US States — and Canada and the UK —  require only one-party notification (meaning that only one of the party on a two-party call needs to know the call is being recorded). In all other areas, “consent” must be given by callers by hearing the recorded disclaimer, and the continuation of the phone call indicates their compliance. An automatic tone must be repeated at regular intervals throughout the call, occurring every 12 to 15 seconds and must be audible to both parties.

What can you do if you are not completely comfortable with the idea of having your call recorded? You can request that the recorder be turned off, or elect to contact the company in an alternate method. Chances are, you will weigh the cost of having the matter take up even more of your time by writing them a letter instead; like our ever-expanding transparency and our ever-shrinking entitlement to privacy, chances are you will tolerate a brief recording of your personal traits if it will resolve your issue and allow you to tackle others. Or — like the ever-growing number of surveillance cameras we encounter on daily basis or the accessibility to your information via social networking sites, you likely don’t give a second thought about how much of your information is out there, and to what end it’s being used.

Put best by Leonard Klie on SpeechTechMag.com, commenting on how the IVR prompt would sound if companies decided to give full disclosure about the whyfores of recording your call: “…This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes or to glean customer data, compile customer profiles, tailor upsell and cross-sell opportunities, identify market trends, streamline operations, improve the customer experience, boost agent productivity, evaluate agent performance, resolve disputes…”

Nobody would stick around for all that. It’s best to keep your call brief, to the point, and don’t divulge any more than what’s necessary.

Next blog: I’ll be writing about my “Dream Jobs” — projects which I aspire to voice at some time in my career. Just sending it out there…!

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