Unions and The benefits of Call Recording

Unions and The benefits of Call Recording 

(Click here if you want to read the Danish translation)

By Niels Kjellerup, Editor and Senior Partner Resource International, Ashgrove May 28th 2001.

Background : The past 12 months  have seen Labour Unions in most Western Countries declare war on the new technology of digital recording of Calls in Call Centres.( I have reports of protests and national action taken in Australia, Great Brittain, Germany, Denmark and Sweden). Here is an example from the Australian CPSU.

The advent of Digital Recording and sophisticated retrieval software goes hand in hand with the implementation of any CRM strategy. As more and more business activities are conducted via Call Centres by phone or internet it becomes imperative for organisations to be able to document 'the advice given' or the 'sale concluded' over the telephone.

In Australia today the Federal, State and Local governments are interacting with the public via Call Centres. Just Imagine that someone calls the Australian Tax Office for advice and later claims the advice was incorrect or unclear and sues the ATO for misleading information. The ATO unless the calls are recorded and retrievable could be liable for severe damages. In the UK  the Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group is substituting written contracts with verbal contracts - and obviously needs to record and store the agreements as part of documentation.. 

Clearly the millions of new jobs created in the Call Centres over the past 5 years is changing the way we all go to market. From the Customer perspective the preferred time saving way will be via call centres and the internet.

Reality check : No matter, how strong the opposition from Unions, Call recording, storage and documentation is rapidly becoming part of every day transactional life in call centres.

The Unions Case : The bad management practices in many call centres resulting in high staff turnover and low morale does give good grounds for concern how Call Centre management will use recording of Calls to further mismanage staff,  in the April issue of FAST COMPANY Magasine the main story was " The biggest lie in Business ' The Customer is in charge'" ( read story here ). The high staff turnover indicates, that there are many Galley Slave Call Centres and Toxic Call Centres out there.

However the issue at hand is NOT about recording, it is clearly about how Call Recording is used in Call Centres.

Defining good practices for use of Call Recording :

Over the past 24 months we have helped several clients implement Call Monitoring & Evaluation programs to the benefit of the staff, the call centre management team and the overall performance of the call centre. Its a step by step process where both Call Centre Management, Team leaders, Supervisor, Trainers and Reps take part :

  1. Define Monitoring and Call Evaluation Guidelines - such guidelines include a respect for the privacy of the individual working in the call centre, details how monitoring is used, how call evaluations are scored, on what criteria, ensures reps have an appeal possibility against unfair evaluations, possibility of selecting other calls to be scored. The Guidelines sets the tone for the implementation of this new Call Recording tool. The Guidelines are under constant review as the learning curve increases and needs for refinements are identified.

  2. Training of Managers and supervisors to ensure uniformity and integrity of the Call Evaluation process.

  3. Coaching and Training program linked to Call Evaluation - the ongoing coaching and training becomes more relevant and effective when based on real Calls and real live situations. For both reps and managers this has great advantages in the form of improved Call Outcome, Customer Experience and improved communication and relationship skills.

  4. Staff Assessments are based on real quality production of Call  Outcomes & Customer Experiences, rather than the flawed measurements of Number of Calls and Length of Calls. This help give staff pride in what they do and ability to share their achievements.

This are 4 basic steps to ensure that Call recording becomes a tool for productivity improvements, staff improvement and a vital linkup to the organisations CRM strategy.

The Major benefits of Call Recording in a Call Centre are (©Copyright 1999 Resource International, All right reserved.): 

·         Focus on Call outcome & quality of Customer Experience

Allows management to asses CSR/TSR’s on skill in handling customer inquiry or sale rather than focussing on quantitative measures such as number of calls and length of call

·         Reduces uncertainties in Call Evaluation and Performance Appraisals

Ensures the integrity of assessment process and allows reps to ask for other calls to be selected if they are unhappy with the evaluation.- improved internal dispute facilitation.

·         Ensures Call Evaluations adhere to uniform agreed upon standards.

Takes subjectiveness of these crucial assessment and allows for better training of Supervisors performing this task.

·        Protects reps from arbitrary evaluations

The recordings provide documentation of rep Call Outcome results and ensures each individual is assessed on performance, not opinion. Removes personal judgement

·         Allows Coaching based on real Calls & becomes a key tool to improve rep communication and relationship skills

For the first time its possible to use live calls for training & coaching purposes based on the common reality of the Call Outcomes and the Customers Experience.  

·         Permits reps to Flag a call and ask for help

Probably the single most important feature is allowing the rep to ask for a supervisor to urgently review a call and discuss details of how the call OUTCOME could have been improved. This handles stress and worry on the spot and doesn’t ruin the reps entire workday

·         Documents disputed Calls where customer accuses reps of inappropriate behaviour

This protection of the staff is significant and helps downplay conflict situations

·         Reduces Galley slave atmosphere of Call Centre

Call documentation and measuring reps on merit of Call Outcome for the first time allows rep to focus on Customer Experience and Quality of call handling

·         Eliminates Supervisor & Team leader live monitoring time

Allows supervisor and team leaders to spend more time with their staff coaching, skills training and team building by being freed from listening to live-calls

·        Allows for training and improvement by example

Collections of calls with exceptional outcome and customer experience can be used by others in training and learning

·       Taking time out of Call search and analysis

By reducing time spent by managers and supervisors identifying Call patterns & Incoming call trends, more time can be spent focussed on Coaching and improving quality of Calls. Recent pilot studies indicates line managers spend 20-25% of their time analysing calls. Improved manager productivity can equate to more time spent with the team on the phones.  

·        Talking time out of Conflict resolution

The ability to identify problem calls at a glance with the new graphical representation Recording software permits managers to identify patterns and flawed processes more quickly and implement remedial action for the benefit and well being of the reps on the front line. This cut cost of complaint handling and improves the Customer Experience as well.

·     Taking time out of handling Customer Queries

Identifying new Customer FAQs shortens the internal process of updating Internet pages by making the call information information to Marketing & Webmasters, thus ensuring the low cost of Customer Internet self-service flows thru in the form of lower call volumes reducing pressure on Service reps. 

·    Enhanced understanding & pride of people working in the Call Centre

By giving feedback of customer reaction the rest of organisation, such as marketing, sales, accounts and management, can listen to selected calls and experience the emotional impact of what the customers are saying. This will improve the understanding of the Added Value created in the Call Centre, reduce staff turnover & customer churn.

The Major Benefits of Call Recording copyrighted Resource International. ©Copyright 2001 Resource International, All right reserved. 



The current trend in Digital recording away from devices to spy on peoples conversations towards sophisticated software, aimed at improving Call Quality and Customer Experience and deliver accurate digital records of transactions, will do much to alleviate the suspicions and fears associated with recording. Ability to capture, not only voice, but screen activity, will yield great benefits to the concept of Customer Experience Management. The key to painless introduction of this new technology is: The setting of Guidelines of Use. 

I'm sure, as we gain further experience with Call Recording, many more benefits will surface. The danger is the current trend of turning Call Centres into Call Factories ( measured on 'how short a call can be cut' and 'how many of these can be produced in a day'), where Customers are betrayed on a daily basis, and Call Outcomes and Customer Experiences are ignored. Such organisations will run out of customers to abuse and its call centres will ultimately be closed down and the jobs lost.

Final Note : A recent article in The Economist (14 April 2001) examines The Dell Business Model of selling directly to Customers with a just-in-time inventory model, and asks the questions why no-one else has been able to duplicate this model successfully? The article fails to identify the key success factor of the Dell Model - PROVIDE CUSTOMER SERVICE & BACKUP BEYOND THE CUSTOMERS WILDEST EXPECTATIONS ! ( as documented by the JD Powers Customer Satisfaction surveys carried out for the Computer Industry). Without this component the Dell-Model fails, and as Corporate America, in its cost cutting wisdom, always views customer service as a cost and not as revenue creator in their flawed business models, the betrayal of the Customer continues ( Fast Company April 2001). Ending with a quote from Jack Welch of GE fame : We at GE only have two sources of Competitive Advantage : 1) The ability to learn more about our customers faster than the competition & 2) The ability to turn that learning into action faster than the competition".


Back to Top of the Page, Call Center Improvement Series or Managers Files or  Home Page