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NYT: Your Rants Will Be Monitored

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leveymg Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 09:16 AM
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NYT: Your Rants Will Be Monitored

NYT - January 11, 2005
Your Call (and Rants on Hold) Will Be Monitored

MELVILLE, N.Y. - It is the opening line on so many phone conversations these days: This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes.

The taped message is so common that many callers might assume that no one is ever listening, let alone taking notes. But they would be wrong.

Monitoring is intended to track the performance of call center operators, but the professional snoops are inadvertently monitoring callers, too. Most callers do not realize that they may be taped even while they are on hold.

It is at these times that monitors hear husbands arguing with their wives, mothers yelling at their children, and dog owners throwing fits at disobedient pets, all when they think no one is listening. Most times, the only way a customer can avoid being recorded is to hang up.


Tapping into calls from his cubicle in Melville, N.Y., Stuart Pike is one of an army of listeners employed by these companies. He has an unrestricted view of how corporate America deals with the public - and how the public talks back.

The business of assessing the behavior of operators has taken on a new urgency in recent years. With so many companies selling similar products at similar prices, competent and professional customer service agents are more and more the difference between a sale and a lost opportunity, a burnished brand and a tarnished one.

That reality has turned third-party call monitoring into a fast-growing industry watching over the nation's six million call center operators as well as hundreds of thousands offshore. And people like Mr. Pike, who listens to about 150 calls a week, have become the equivalent of factory foremen policing America's service economy.

Recently, Mr. Pike stumbled onto a call where a young male customer was flirting with a female service agent at a cellphone company. After some giggles and banter, the woman relented and gave her personal phone number to the customer. Mr. Pike quickly alerted the cellphone company to the phone date.


State wiretapping laws generally do not provide protection against recording of call center conversations (the taped message at the start of the call is in most cases considered an adequate privacy warning).

Fears of identity theft have not slowed the monitoring business. In fact, under tighter scrutiny by regulators, most financial institutions are now taping all their calls.

The growth of monitoring has also been fueled by the advent of Internet phone technology, which has substantially cut the cost of long-distance calls and made call monitoring as easy as clicking a mouse. Sophisticated software that automatically records conversations has increased the number of calls monitors can assess.

As more call centers move offshore, companies are starting to outsource the monitoring, too. From any corner of the globe, call monitors with just a computer and an Internet connection can oversee workers virtually anywhere. For instance, Mr. Pike on Long Island listens to service agents in India who may be talking to customers in Indiana. Monitors in Britain are likely to listen to customers in New York talking to German operators in Frankfurt.


Sometimes, refereeing means reporting off-color calls - known in call center parlance as a "hot line" - like the flirtation that Mr. Pike overheard. Plenty of other calls also raise red flags, including customers and operators who shout, swear, talk politics or threaten bodily harm. Anyone hanging up - either an operator or an angry customer - sends out warnings, too.


Perhaps inevitably, monitoring is also moving offshore. HyperQuality, which is based in Seattle, has 100 call monitors in New Delhi who eavesdrop on call center workers around the United States. Those raters, oceans away, are trying to make sense of hot lines and hotheads, too.

Anyone wonder what they do with those political rants? Also, while we're on the subject, to anyone at DHS who might be monitoring this - your job's going to India soon.

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Moderator DU Moderator Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-11-05 09:17 AM
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1. duplicate topic, please discuss here
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