“This call may be recorded for quality and training purposes.”
If you work in the contact center industry, you know what this means. Calls are recorded and stored for a number of reasons, including playing back to agents as examples of best (and worst) practices. They’re also used to evaluate an agent’s performance for raises and promotions. They may be recorded and stored because federal law demands it, in the case of financial services and healthcare. Or the recordings may be run through an analytics solution in order to gain intelligence from a critical mass of calls (such as, “Is our new marketing campaign working?” or, “Which competitor are we losing customers to?”).
But what does the fact that contact centers record calls mean to you as a customer? We all hope that particularly bad calls are being used by the company later for quality control purposes or to fire a really bad agent. But if we have a dispute with a company, do we have a right to listen to that call and vindicate ourselves?
A recent story on South Africa’s Cape Times recounts the effort of a blogger to have an authorized debit card charge refunded to a household worker. The worker received a call from an individual who had personal information about her. A week later, a charge showed up in her account. The worker said she never authorized the charge. The blogger placed a call to the company that debited the woman’s account.
“I called the number and was put through to a woman who gave her name as ‘Cathy.’ I identified myself as [the individual’s] employer and said she denied agreeing to a debit order or supplying her bank details for this purpose, suggesting that the call recording be retrieved,” wrote the blogger. “Cathy put me on hold for a few minutes while she appeared to listen to the recorded call, and then came back to me to insist that everything was above board.”
When pressed further, the company backtracked and refunded the money, claiming that the call had been in another language (Zulu) and that “Cathy” hadn’t really been able to understand it. The individual agent who had made the call and placed the debit charge was blamed, and the company claimed that person had been dismissed. When asked how the company got the worker’s personal details, the company blamed rogue agents who “come in with their own data.”
This raises a number of interesting questions, but one of the most pertinent is, “Do consumers have a right to demand to listen to calls recorded by contact centers? Unfortunately, according to the Consumerists’ Ben Popken, those calls really aren’t for you.
“We did some checking with various lawyers and regulatory bodies and found that there’s only two instances in which you can get a company to fork up a copy of a customer service call,” wrote Popken. “If you’re a victim of identity theft, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you can get a copy of a call the fraudster made in which they conducted a transaction using your information. This is provided that the call was recorded and a copy of the recording was saved. The other situation would be as part of discovery in a lawsuit, but neither scenario means you can just call up and get them to fork it over.”
Alas, the companies really do mean that the calls are being recorded for internal purposes. There’s nothing to prevent them from sharing a recording with you if you ask – and chances are good they won’t share the recording if it turns out they are at fault, unless they are company with a great deal of integrity – but there’s nothing to compel them to do so, either.
Of course, depending on which state you’re in, you may have a right to record your own calls with companies, particularly if you inform agents in advance that you are doing so. These recordings may not hold up in court, but they can certainly help settle disputes. Just be certain you’re operating within state and federal call recording laws.
Edited by Alisen Downey