Who Should Have Access to Call Center Recordings?

August 05, 2014

When a call center records a conversation with a customer, who has the right to ask to listen to that conversation? It’s a simple question with a complicated answer based purely on the number of parties involved. For example, a call center employee in India could be talking with a customer in Canada on behalf of a company headquartered in the United Kingdom.

The global nature of the call center industry coupled with differing laws and regulations related to phone communications means call center managers should clarify their company’s policies on recording phones calls and listening to those recordings. This step can help call centers develop a clear procedure for both their own employees and their clients.

The issue of call recordings recently was explored in an article for the IOL, a South African newspaper group. The lack of clarity about providing access to call recordings became clearer as a reporter investigated a consumer complaint about a cellphone contract.

In this case, the South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA) does not specify that a company is legally obligated to give the consumer access to a call recording. However, other parts of the law make imply that customers should be allowed to accessed voice recordings of consumer agreements, which was the case in this particular incident.

“Even though the CPA is silent on making available to consumers copies of recorded consumer agreements, it is the view of the commission that the rule (Section 50) relating to written contracts must equally apply to contracts entered into telephonically,” said Ebrahim Mohamed, National Consumer Commissioner (NCC), in an interview with IOL. “It is the view of the NCC that any other interpretation would amount to an absurdity and not (be) in keeping with the spirit of the CPA.”

That issue was eventually resolved in favor of the customer. However, the case exposes another issue for the call center industry in addition to regulatory compliance and legal obligations. Frustrated customers trying to access recordings of phone calls with call center employees can quickly create escalate customer service problems, and sometimes negative media or social media attention, for all parties involved.

The recent Comcast customer service debacle is an extreme example of that problem. Although it was the customer who recorded the phone call directly in that case, the incident reflected poorly on Comcast during a time when the communications company certainly doesn’t need more negative press.

Call centers must balance the need to train employees, document consumer agreements and ensure the policies of their clients are being addressed appropriately. It’s a tricky balancing act, but necessary in this increasingly global industry.

Edited by Adam Brandt

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