“Your call may be recorded to ensure quality customer service.”
Pretty much every call to a customer service help desk starts with this greeting, so commonplace these days that it nearly fades into the dial tone. But is your call in fact being recorded, and is that really ensuring quality customer service? According to call center managers, yes and yes.
“Our number one intent with recording the calls is talent development of our frontline agents,” says Darlene Sanchez, quality assurance manager at Inktel, a Florida-based provider of outsourced business solutions including call centers. “We want to give our agents feedback.”
Inktel records 100 percent of its calls to provide their clients, which range from Fortune 1000 corporations to non-profits and government agencies, open access to the conversations their agents have with customers. However, Inktel primarily uses the recordings for agent training – for example, call center employees listen to their own calls to do self-evaluations. Small groups of agents also regularly listen to each others’ calls to provide feedback on performance improvement, which Sanchez says is often more effective than having a manager monitor calls. She also has new hires listen to preselected calls before they ever hit the phone front lines.
“New hires listen to calls so they have a very clear understanding of what the call process is,” says Sanchez, noting that the training includes listening to what she terms “Wow” calls – examples of outstanding customer service – as well as those that provide some room for improvement.
In-house call center managers agree that reviewing recorded calls is done mostly for call center agent training, though it can provide other benefits as well. Robert Boris, Call Center Manager for Other World Computing near Chicago, says that they record all calls, and managers may review about 100 randomly selected interactions from the 3,000 to 5,000 calls they get per week. “What we’re looking for is opportunities to do better, become more effective, and increase our overall customer satisfaction,” Boris says, noting that when agents are trained to efficiently answer customer inquiries and thoroughly address product questions, the number of returns go down, providing savings to the company and thus the consumer.
Beyond agent training, what else is done with those recordings? Some industries, like financial services, are bound by regulatory requirements to record customer calls. And sometimes, recordings are used to address client disputes regarding something an agent may have told a customer – though Boris says that while he may listen to a recording to understand what a customer was told, “We’re always going to put the customer first; we don’t want to argue with them.” Sanchez says that her clients may chose to review select recordings, such as those that end with a successful sale, to gauge how well their marketing strategies are working. “Do they like the offers,” she asks, “And are they responding to the offers?”
Additionally, companies can actually do key-word analysis on the entire body of recordings to gather useful information. San Francisco- based software company Utopy provides speech analytics tools to call centers. “We take the recorded call data and analyze it for key words and phrases,” says Garrett Dodge, Utopy’s Marketing Manager. “Our analytics are very similar to the kind of analytics a webmaster uses to optimize a website. By turning the unstructured speech data into structured text and category data, call centers can identify the reasons customers are calling, evaluate agent performance, identify product issues, analyze the response to marketing campaigns, ensure compliance to legal regulations and much more.” One success story the company points to is at E-Loan, where the technology is used to identify what factors contribute to successful sales conversions, including agent skills and the sales process itself.
Clearly, recording the calls can provide a company with useful information. But what about on the customer side? In the U.S., some states require that both parties consent to recording, so to be safe, most companies provide a recording notification just prior to a customer connecting to an agent to ensure that the customer doesn’t miss hearing it while going through a phone tree. Does anyone ever opt-out when they hear that “this call may be recorded?”
“It’s very, very rare,” says Sanchez, who can only recall a few instances in over a decade, most of which had do with outbound sales calls that required the exchange of personal information like credit card numbers or tax ID numbers. (In those cases, the agent was able to stop the recording.) Boris agrees, noting that the single time he’s faced a denial in his current tenure, the customer relented after being informed of the purpose of the recording.