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This Call May Be Monitored ... 443

Iphtashu Fitz writes "We've all heard it. The recorded message when you call technical support or your bank or credit card company: 'This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes.' But has it ever occurred to you that people actually DO listen in? Approximately 2 percent of these calls are listened to either live or after the fact, and it may come as a surprise that Big Brother even listens to what you may say while you are on hold. The people who monitor these calls routinely hear arguments between spouses or parents and children, people yelling at pets, and all sorts of other domestic disputes."
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This Call May Be Monitored ...

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  • by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:03PM (#11324946) Homepage
    Just pretend talking to your friend while on hold, discussing the option to switch to another competitor "if this call doesn't solve my problems", that might get you something.
    • Or play Meg Ryan faking an orgasm from "When Harry Met Sally".
    • Lovely theory. Doesn't fly, though, at least for some companies. I'm a former phone tech for an ISP named after a desert bird -- the techs never knew whether any given call was being monitored and definitely never knew what the monitor crew overheard outside the tech's customer interaction. Ugh. I still have nightmares about that job.
    • I turned it to my advantage.

      Some time ago I ordered a phone/DSL service whilst in a college dorm. For the entire first month, the service didn't work at all. The phone company had no idea why and I had no idea why. After a while I figured out that the college had accidentally destroyed the lines while doing construction work on the building. I called the phone company and explained the situation to them and they told me they'd kill the service and revoke my bills.

      Months later I get a bill for $100 interes
    • Just pretend talking to your friend while on hold, discussing the option to switch to another competitor "if this call doesn't solve my problems", that might get you something.

      As someone who has worked in several call centers I can honestly tell you that the QA departments who monitor calls could really care less. I used to get threatened all the time with that statement while on the phone - just made me want to hang up quicker. The reason why is my co-workers and I were paid 9$/hr (and I'm not kidding in
  • Crap (Score:2, Funny)

    by GweiLeong ( 846704 )
    So the FBI and CIA know my mother's pissed that I haven't given her any grandkids yet? There goes my presidential hopes.
  • Sheesh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glaqua ( 572332 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:04PM (#11324972)
    What part of "This call may be monitored" did you not understand?
  • by Lindsay Lohan ( 847467 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:05PM (#11324981) Homepage Journal
    Approximately 2 percent of these calls are listened to either live or after the fact, and it may come as a surprise that Big Brother even listens to what you may say while you are on hold
    Listeners are primarily interested in monitoring the agent and his/her adherence to support protocol--not the caller per-se, as some sort of eavesdropping effort. IMO, that doesn't equate to "Big Brother"... however I'll keep my finger near the mute button :)

    You'd think that if 2% of the calls are monitored for quality control purposes... then QC would actually improve in the long run. In my experience, phone support/service is generally about the same (or less) quality as it was many years ago.
    • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <> on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:12PM (#11325126) Journal
      however I'll keep my finger near the mute button
      Have you tested yuor mute button - a LOT of phones, if you listen carefully, you can still hear someone who's pressed their MUTE button - it doesn't completely cut off the sound.
    • What they want to know is: how much crappy service is the average customer willing to put up with before thinking seriously about switching.

      Then they aim to provide just above that level.. so they want to know: "What is the least amount of money we can spend to please the largest number of customers just enough to keep thme as customers"
    • You'd think that if 2% of the calls are monitored for quality control purposes... then QC would actually improve in the long run. In my experience, phone support/service is generally about the same (or less) quality as it was many years ago.

      No, no, no. You misunderstand.

      They are monitoring the call to gauge the quality of their *customers*. The more annoying their customers appear to be, the more likely it is that your call is mysteriously dropped when they "transfer" you to another department.
    • You'd think that if 2% of the calls are monitored for quality control purposes... then QC would actually improve in the long run. In my experience, phone support/service is generally about the same (or less) quality as it was many years ago.

      The problem is high turnover in call centers. The people who stay do continue to get better (or at least not worse) or they are eventually sacked. Unfortunately, every time a new person starts answering the phone, you're pretty much starting all over again where the tr

  • by crypty ( 768045 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:05PM (#11324983) Homepage
    I always loved telling people they were on hold and listening to them for a while... People seem to lose all sense of reality when you tell them they are on hold.. Some of the names you get called are quite.... entertaining.
  • by sgtron ( 35704 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:06PM (#11325000)
    This call may be monitored or recorded? Ok thanks, I'll just hit record now then.. thank you for your permission.
  • My Rights Online? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by goldspider ( 445116 ) <> on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:06PM (#11325022) Homepage
    I don't get it.

    My rights: I'm told that the call may be monitored. I can hang up if I object. No 'rights' are being violated.

    Online: You mean "on the phone", right?

    Seriously, where's the BIG BROTHER story here? Slow news day?
  • I pretty much assumed that was the case, so I usually make a point of complaining verbally about the wait, the music and te service during the hold period. :)

    I think that it should be illegal for the other party to record the call without your explicit consent... after all, even though they mention that the call may be monitored, often it's a few minutes of hold time before you can actually tell the human responder that you don't want to be eavesdropped on.

    Tricky dilemna:

    Forego the service, or lose yo

    • You tell them you dont want to be recorded by hanging up. Then again, that does suck if your calling for support or something.
    • What's the dilemna?

      You have no right to cell phone service, or cable TV, or computer tech support, or whatever. It's agreement - tit for tat.

      For the things that are truly considered rights: interaction with government, phone service, etc you can always conduct business like they did fifty years ago. By mail.
  • Sure, if they want to listen in on my cursing while waiting for their tech support than sure I have no problem with that. Maybe, just maybe, they might do something about it.

    Although probably not.
  • listening in (Score:2, Informative)

    by PTBarnum ( 233319 )
    I don't know about Iphtashu Fitz, but when I hear a message saying "this call may be monitored", I generally assume it is there for a reason, i.e. this call may be monitored. Are there really people who are suprised that some of their calls are in fact monitored?

    This is fairly universal among call centers, because call center managers never trust their employees to do the right thing without first-hand supervision.

    To be fair, I was suprised about the on-hold part. What is the point of listening to th
  • Privacy concerns? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <[owen] [at] []> on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:09PM (#11325075) Homepage Journal
    It's common for places to state "this call may be monitored for training and feedback," but I imagine most people (like myself) assume this means you're recorded only when talking to a live person.

    Generally when I'm on hold, I'm either bitching about the f'ing annoying voicemail system that won't properly connect me, or about the idiot who has put me on hold for the fifth time while "helping" me. Great, I must have a lot of black marks on my "record" with Cingular, because I curse like a sailor when I'm on hold...

  • It's true (Score:4, Interesting)

    by paranode ( 671698 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:10PM (#11325087)
    I interviewed for a phone support job a few years ago when I was a college student. Before I even talked to the interviewer, they took me to the floor and hooked me up to listen with a support rep. This was a bank, I won't say which one. I listened to account numbers, socials, you name it. I wasn't even an employee. I didn't end up getting the job, either (though I was sort of glad after hearing the irate customers for ten minutes).

    And yeah, they can hear you on hold, so do be careful.

  • by VE3ECM ( 818278 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:11PM (#11325100)
    "Recently, Pike stumbled onto a call where a young male customer was flirting with a female service agent at a cell phone company. After some giggles and banter, the woman relented and gave her personal phone number to the customer. Pike quickly alerted the cell phone company to the phone date."

    Dammit... that was my first date this millenium, too. No wonder she told me off when I called!

  • Is it legal to tape the call [yourself] while they put you on hold?

    I mean what license do you have to those classic 1983s hits?

    • Is it legal to tape the call [yourself] while they put you on hold?

      You should try it, some time. Seriously, no sarcasm intended...

      As soon as a human gets on the line, say the exact same message they use right back. "I may record this call for quality control purposes".

      Usually they don't seem to care, but some really tweak. Hillarious, actually.

      As the most drastic yet, I've had a "monitor" on their side cut in suddenly and say something along the lines of "no, you may not, this call has ended, go
  • HA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by megarich ( 773968 )
    Well my question is if these people say hear arguments, death threats and what not and now someone gets murdered, should they be held liable because they knew something could happen but didn't act upon it?

    Of course they won't be but all I'm saying if you are gonna eavesdrop, you should take ALL responsibilities that come along with it....
    • Or what if, like, you were telling them how your wife has disappeared and then they hear this whispering on the line?

      Nah, sounds like the plot of a bad movie...
  • I'm curious if they've ever listened to me utter, "bunch of assholes..." while I was waiting for help?
  • "For quality assurance, your call may be monitored, quantified, duly mocked among coworkers, used in training courses as an example of a psycho user, or outright ignored."
  • I wish! (Score:3, Funny)

    by underpar ( 792569 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:13PM (#11325141) Homepage
    This takes me back to the bad old days while working in a phone center for Cross Country Bank. On my last day I told everyone not to sign up for the Visa because the company sucked and the customer service number was long distance.

    I really wanted someone to be listening to that, but I didn't get a response form the mysterious back room. I just hope they heard it on tape.

  • What amazes me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krbvroc1 ( 725200 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:13PM (#11325146)
    What I don't understand is not that *shock* a call is being monitored after I hear a recording saying that it is being monitored. No, what I don't understand is how these recordings have not seemed to improve quality / customer service. I keep getting the same tech droid giving wrong answers as before. Typically I'm thinking to myself, if someone is monitoring this call for quality, please speak up and help!
  • by avalys ( 221114 ) *
    On more than few occasions then, they must've heard me muttering things under my breath while on hold:

    "grr...what's wrong with this stupid company..."
    "stupid asshats, I'm never buying their widgets again"
    *click* *boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooop*
  • I make it a point to curse the company, the big shots, their kinfolks, pets and homelands, all the children they may ever have and their children, etc...

    I never call anywhere just to say "Hi! I'm so pleased with your product/service that I just wanted to call and say thanks!", when I call anywhere about something, I"m pissed and I make sure they are bloody well aware of it..

    Like anything will change. But it does feel good to let them know how I feel about their crappy, offshored/outsourced product/serv
    • Re:While on hold (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JimBobJoe ( 2758 )
      I make it a point to curse the company, the big shots, their kinfolks, pets and homelands, all the children they may ever have and their children, etc...

      Which often achieves little. The vast majority of the time we CSRs have no way of actually recording down complaints or even suggestions. (If you care enough, write a snail mail letter to the head of the company.)

      Can you get your way by getting angry with the CSR? Sometimes, especially if they are new. Overall, however, I would say that you catch more fl
  • and it may come as a surprise that Big Brother even listens to what you may say while you are on hold.

    I've always hoped that they listen while I am on hold. That way they get to hear my frustration of being on hold and calling their machines stupid and a bunch of other names. They also hear that I want to talk with a crazy person and not a machine. Bring on listening to while I am on hold, I don't care.
  • I had to do this (Score:3, Informative)

    by British ( 51765 ) <> on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:14PM (#11325169) Homepage Journal
    Being an unofficial supervisor in my tech support job, I did my share of monitoring calls. It's pretty uneventful. You're just checking out if your tech support rep guy is doing his/her job right. You fill out a form in regards to the call, and send it to his/her manager.

    Heck, I once got a super-irate customer yelling & screaming at me, and told a coworker(who had supervisor priveledges too), and he asked me "What's your extension?", and I gave it to him so he could listen in on the fun. When you work tech support, you have to make the job fun.
  • Aren't there enough people that have worked in call centers at one time or another that this is just common knowledge? I spent 9 months doing tech support. If you called, there was a tiny chance your call would get monitored. Where I was, it meant you were likely to get the best possible service, too; our supervisors warned us (especially those they liked) that they would be doing monitoring in the near future. It usually happened on a quarterly basis and would consist of a couple hours of their listening
  • Then they routinely hear me saying "Just tranfser me to a fucking human!" while I'm going through the voice-automated phonetree.

    They've gotten ridiculous.

  • by charliefrog77 ( 729949 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:15PM (#11325190) Homepage
    I kept a young, hopeful MCI rep tied up for forty five minutes during a routine "would you like to try our internet service" call. Playing the role of a slightly mentally retarded teenager, I actually had the guy explaining to me that I could check my email when the computer wasn't connected, and that their install CD would work in my blueberry IMAC even though there were four other discs jammed in it already. The person monitoring the call broke in and asked the young man to "please terminate the call." He called me back when he realized what was going on and gave me a royal cussing, also informing me that he'd switched my long distance service to MCI's most expensive plan. I stayed in character the whole time, actually putting the phone down to go take a leak and returning to his angry yammering. When I returned, I explained to him (in my best "retard voice") that I'd set a pick lock on the line and he was full of crap. I got a call back the next day from the manager (who had broken into the previous call) and he explained that the kid had been disciplined. Whatever that meant. He probably got a few paid vacation days and an MCI tote bag.
  • Occasionally it is explicitly stated in the message, most often not, but you can usually, at the start of the conversation state that you don't want your call either monitored or recorded. It is surprising how often the person at the other end will agree and do something about it (I regularly make a request to not be monitored or recorded in such situations). If they refuse... well, just demand to talk to someone who will allow your call to not be monitored.

    As to whether they actually do stop any recordi
    • They are legally bound to warn you that you may be monitored or recorded however


      This varies state-by-state. Some states are One-Party Notify, some states are Two-Party Notify.

      Generally, the legal limitation is on the party doing the recording, not explicitly either the calling or called party. No, I don't know if this is a limit based on where the company is incorporated, or where the phone support personnel are located. 3rd party and Offshore phone support probably make this all kinds of complicate

  • I used to work at a brokerage firm and one of the more senior assistants told us the time when she was calling someone within the organization about issues she was having with an account. She was placed on hold and while that took place she was talking to the assistant across the aisle from her, basically saying how much of an idiot the person on the phone was and other related matters.

    After a time the person came back on line and provided the information that was needed and then told her that she had hea
  • ...and it really was for quality assurance purposes. When I trained be a customer service rep for CoreStates bank, they would have you tap into various reps phone calls and listen-in to learn how the job gets done. Sometimes you would even physically sit next to that rep and listen-in, unbeknownst to the customer. The supervisors would also listen in to random calls to make sure everyone is being friendly, helpful, etc.

    Call monitoring is a quality control function of the customer service department of t
  • listening in. (Score:2, Interesting)

    I work at a support center (one where there is no punch menu system other than "if you wish to leave a voice mail" [and get ignored[) and this is very important for us as if a customer flies off the handle we can record it...and then threaten to cut the customer off internet until he behaves nice.

    Other than that, mostly it is employee review, etc.
  • All the posts I see are comdeming the public for not knowing that your hold time is being recorded. But honestly, why would you EVER think that it would be? When they say "this call may be monitored for quality control assurance" or whatever -- wouldn't that apply only to what the operator says? It seems to me like it means that.

    Also, remember that most people think of hold as the hold that you have on your phone at home -- you can't listen to someone while they are on hold, they are just sitting there
  • by eric76 ( 679787 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:21PM (#11325328)
    I knew one president of a company who noticed one day that every desk in the office had a recorder to record the telephone calls.

    So he went to a local store and bought a bunch of casette tapes, took them back to the office, and put a tape in each recorder.

    After that, about once a month, he'd go through the office to pick up the old tapes and put in fresh tapes.

    He would then put the tapes he collected in a box in his car trunk. While driving around Houston, he'd listen to the tapes to see how his employees were dealing with the customers.

    His wife actually ran the office. He acted more as an idea man and met personally with the customers whenever necessary.

    One day his wife borrowed his car. She picked up the tape off the seat and put it in the tape player.

    It was her telephone calls.

    She thought her husband was spying on her and filed for divorce. As part of the divorce settlement, she received $1,000,000 paid in equal monthly installments over 5 years.

    His lawyer screwed up royally. He didn't include a stipulation that she couldn't use the money to compete against his company.

    So she used the money to start up a company that competed directly against him.

    Without her running his office and without him delegating the authority very well to an employee to run the office, her company pushed his into bankruptcy in five years. At the time they filed bankruptcy, he had only one remaining payment of the $1,000,000 left to make.
  • by wash23 ( 735420 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:21PM (#11325330)
    I hope someone was listening the time I administered the Turing test to a female synthetic-voice / voice-recognition self-help system, in the form of an attempt to solicit phone sex... (Telus customer assistance robot: 1-800-400-2598)
  • I used to work for a company (now out of business) that built some of the first touch-tone-directed ordering systems. One of them was a system that Michigan liquor retailers used to reorder stock from the Liquor Control Commission (the state regulating body).

    We had listen-only handsets we could plug into the modular sockets on the front of any of a row of several dozen cards and listen to calls in progress. We did this while debugging systems in the field so we could see if the system was working, what s
  • some people are forced go to work because big brother makes them pay for their accomodation, food, and power.

    fuck off.
  • Financial calls (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rewt66 ( 738525 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:26PM (#11325413)
    When I call some financial institutions (Fidelity at least, maybe others), they say "this call will be recorded". It's not big brother, it's big bucks. If I tell them to transfer some money, and then later say, "Hey, where did my money go", they have the recording to say, "Don't get smart with us, we did it because you told us to."

    On the other hand, if it really isn't my voice, then the recording protects me.

    Am I supposed to have a problem with this? I don't...

  • This is yet another reason to use the "mute" button while on hold.
  • by chrisG23 ( 812077 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:28PM (#11325444)
    As a former phone customer service person, and phone tech support person, Id like to let everyone know to STFU when you are placed on hold. If you don't hear hold music, (and sometimes even if you do) the phone tech has put you on mute while while he/she curses the series of life events that led him/her to have to *try* to help you (and/or just researches the issue). The phone tech can hear what you are saying, and one thing we are not fond of is people talking thrash about the tech support. This may lead to you not being helped out.

    A general rule of thumb is that the nicer and more reasonable you are on the phone, the better the quality of support you will receive, and the faster you will be off the phone with your problem solved. Its fucked, but thats reality. Also, most call logging systems have a section for "Technician comments", which can be anything from "customer follows directions well" to "customer is an asshole". This can influence greatly the way you are treated by future technicians. Sometimes I've escalated calls for a callback (in 1-2 days for one company I worked at) just because I won't deal with a rude fuck. At one company, this was unoffical policy.
    • by CmdrGravy ( 645153 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @05:37PM (#11326518) Homepage
      If I hadn't already posted I would have modded up that up because it's absolutley correct.

      I have worked in various kinds of tech support for 6 years and it's just simple human nature; if people are nice to you - polite and helpful you are much more likely to be the same with them.

      Whenever anyone in the office got a call from a particulary abusive, annoying or arrogant customer they would make sure everyone got the name so regular callers did get very definite widespread reputations.

      People who were constantly annoying got a pretty awful service from us since no one saw any reason to help those people whilst people who were polite and helpful would have everyone going out of their way to be helpful to them - they could even have the odd tantrum but we'd understand because usually they would apologise afterwards - unlike the assholes.

      Just remember it costs you nothing to be polite to people and you will always be able to find out a lot more about what is happening with your query if you are polite than if you spend your time cursing the person you are talking to, their company and life in general.
  • I know someone who has a job listening to recorded telemarkers calls for a large telemarketing firm.

    The reason? The young guys making the calls like to cheat the system.

    They usually get bonusses based on 'sales'..

    marketer: would you like to sign up for this free credit card?
    person: for the last time, NO!

    .. marketer presses 'yes' button on the PC to give himself the $12 bonus for that sale

    so.. they pick random succesful calls and listen to them after the fact to make sure their employees aren't
  • Sure, you should expect that your conversation with the person at the other end will be heard by some total stranger (in addition to the total stranger you're talking with). But it's not entirely clear that sound from your end goes anywhere while you're on hold. People tend to assume that, since there are no operators available to take your call there aren't any other people around listening to you. So they turn on the speaker phone and go about their business while they wait. Really, phones ought to have a
  • Actually, when I'm on the phone with a bank or financial institution, and I hear, "This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes", I wonder if they'll record the conversation to ensure any instructions I give them were actually said by me, and I gave verbal authorization for the transaction to take place. It would be like a "voice signature". Does anybody in the industry know if that's the case?
  • Statistical sampling of our calls has shown us that our customers would most like us to: "Get off there, damnit, stop eating that NO! BAD DOG GET OUT OF THE - GODDAMNIT"
  • by jcostantino ( 585892 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @04:58PM (#11325910) Homepage
    I worked for a company many years ago and we had a job at a large local company. The (jackass) guy who was responsible for the work was talking to the owner of the company and saying some really shitty things about the customer ("I've got them eating out of my hand" and other things) while making an OUTGOING call. Needless to say, the owner of the company was FURIOUS and booted the guy off the premises and told my boss to never let him come back out to the job site. We almost lost the job because some cocky jerkoff was shooting his mouth off about the customer.

    That action led to this particular guy's firing. He was a typical arrogant MCSE who's shit was ice cream and nobody could tell him anything he didn't already know - unless it was wrong and he would certainly let them know without hesitation.

  • by ShipiboConibo ( 808524 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @05:48PM (#11326674) Homepage
    About five years ago when I got my Dell laptop, I noticed that if I blew in to the phone it seemed that my hold time was greatly shortened. Blowing in the phone seemed to overdrive the audio into anoying distortion. I came to the conclusion that either a) someone is hearing this, or b) they have some sort of system that tries to gage how upset a person is by autio levels on hold (possibly more complex even, as I tried cursing at teh hold music several times with mixed results).
    This wasn't a once or twice thing, I probably called tech support 100 times while my laptop was under warranty for 4 years. I was very rough on it and finagled a warranty repair for everything I did to it. I ended up with almost 10K in repairs on a $3500 laptop, and at one point got a whole new laptop for a fried mobo with cracked plastic :-)

    All these techniques stopped working when dell switched to Indian support near the end of my warranty. Last thing I called in for was more cracked plastic... the nice, yet clueless Indian man suggested I check my hard drive for errors and possibly have it replaced... That said, no more Dells for me!
  • by Ridgelift ( 228977 ) on Tuesday January 11, 2005 @06:10PM (#11327024)
    I worked for a large call center that did support calls for both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (different support contracts, same building). As part of our training, we heard several phone calls that were recorded from previous agents to teach lessons on how to handle extreme situations. It was chilling to listen to domestic disputes.

    There's also the practice of "jacking in", where an agent allows a trainee or a supervisor to hook a headset into the agents phone and listen in to the call. During my stay with the company, it was very routine for agents to be on a call, press mute, and talk about the customer without them being able to listen.

    Call centers are a tough, tough job. They have a high turn-around because of the stress. If you get angry with a support agent, chances are they will hit the record button on the phone so they can keep a record of your call should there be a need to follow up a complaint.

    Bottom line: be polite, be patient. Support techs are just people. If you're rude, then chances are you'll be laughed at or mocked behind your back.

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