The Customer Service Survey

We Can Record You, but You Can't Record Us

by Peter Leppik on Wed, 2013-04-03 15:32

Via Techdirt today, a mildly amusing recording of a customer taunting a Time Warner Cable CSR by saying he's recording the call.

In the recording the customer begins by telling the CSR that he's recording. The CSR, no doubt following TWC's written policies, says he doesn't consent to the recording. The customer asks how that can be given that TWC is itself recording the call.

Unfortunately the CSR is caught in the middle--as everyone (except maybe TWC's lawyers) understands, the policy is absurd. But the CSR isn't allowed to deviate, and can't think of a rational reason why the customer shouldn't record the call, and there you go.

What this really points out, though, is the sheer nuttiness of these "We will record you, but not give permission for you to record us" policies. Anecdotally, I know that many large companies have these policies. My guess is that the underlying reason, more than anything else, is a vague discomfort with the general idea of being recorded without permission (dressed up in language about "respecting the CSR's privacy" and/or "protecting us from liability").

But let's consider just how many different kinds of crazy this policy is:

  1. It treats the customer as implicitly untrustworthy, and not deserving of the same rights the company claims for itself.
  2. Withholding consent probably has no legal effect. Most states permit people to record phone calls without the consent of the other party; and even in states which require consent of both parties, the company has arguably consented to recording by collecting its own recording.
  3. It makes it seem that the company has something to hide.
  4. The only real downside to allowing the customer to record the call is that the company's incompetence (or even misconduct) might be exposed. See #3 above.
  5. It implicitly assumes that companies have a greater right to privacy than consumers. Most people assume the opposite should be true.

So what should a CSR do when a customer says the call is being recorded?

How about this: "Very good, and thanks for letting me know. How can I help you today?"

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