Etiquette about audio recording meetings with customers using Evernote
January 31, 2014 3:01 PM   Subscribe

How would you feel about having a meeting recorded, where you're discussing your business and the problems you'd like to solve? How would you feel being asked if I could record the meeting?

I'm just about to start a sales job with a software company where I'll be meeting with customers (businesses) before they buy, to discuss their current business problems and go over how our software helps solve those problems.

It would seem like a fantastic idea to record those meetings using Evernote, because I can then use the audio recording as the basis of an Evernote notebook with details of all interactions with the customer from that point on, and refer back to it in everything I do. Plus, I'd share the recording of the meeting with the customer, because that would enable them to hold me to what I've told them about the software. Obviously everything would be kept completely confidential, as in I wouldn't go around sharing one customer's recording with other customers.

Anyway, I'm not sure what reaction I'll get when I suggest this. I don't want to start the meeting off on the wrong foot before we've even started talking properly. How would the people of Metafilter feel about having a meeting of this nature recorded, or even about being asked?
posted by infinitejones to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would be very inclined to say no. If you pushed it I would get angry.
posted by LarryC at 3:08 PM on January 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

Thanks @kalessin. Your point about the potential for getting sued is the point I'd make to the customer - if we record this, we record what I'm saying too, and I'm not going to want to put myself in a position where you could easily sue me for mis-representing anything.
posted by infinitejones at 3:08 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks @LarryC. Of course I'm not going to push anything. I've been working in sales for 15 years, but having only recently discovered the wonders of Evernote and started this new job, it's only just occurred to me that doing this is an option.

Out of interest, why would you be inclined to say no? What's your concern about it?

(Not trying to change your mind or tell you you're wrong, but the reason I asked the question is that my instinct was that people would probably say no. I'm just not sure why.)
posted by infinitejones at 3:15 PM on January 31, 2014

@MoonOrb Thanks. That all makes perfect sense, and I suspect is the reason that @LarryC would say no as well.
posted by infinitejones at 3:16 PM on January 31, 2014

[infinitejones, it's not necessary to reply to each commenter; you've asked the question, now you can just read the answers and choose ones that seem useful to you. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:20 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bad idea all around. Would never do it. Get a sales engineer or a helper if you can't capture what you need in your own notes during a meeting.

It would also make me question why you were doing it, your competency in listening to me, who's actually doing the work, etc..
posted by bottlebrushtree at 3:28 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

No. My answer is no. If it's a phone conversation, learn to outline the client requirements in a doc as you go.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:29 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your point about the potential for getting sued is the point I'd make to the customer - if we record this, we record what I'm saying too, and I'm not going to want to put myself in a position where you could easily sue me for mis-representing anything.

Ah, but you have the recording and the customer doesn't.

I wouldn't agree to it either.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 3:29 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine your employer being okay with it, so no.
posted by evoque at 3:50 PM on January 31, 2014

The recording does sound like it would be a useful thing to have, and I understand the impulse to create a paper trail wherever possible to avoid misunderstandings caused by one party later "misremembering" what they said they needed or would deliver. The thing about an audio recording though, is that you are really obviously doing it in order to have a record of who said what so you can play gotcha later, and that creates a contentious atmosphere and a suspicious, unhappy client.

The way to have a constructive meeting with a paper trail is to take specific notes during the discussion of what was asked for and what was promised by each party, then clean that up and send it to everybody in a brief email so that they can actually skim through it and catch any discrepancies right away. Now if the client says 2 months down the road that you promised X at your meeting, you can have them refer back to the email detailing the list of things you promised and apologetically note that it isn't on there, so why didn't they ask about it back then when you solicited their input? Compare this to an hour long 20MB half-intelligible audio recording that nobody is going to bother reviewing until things have gone well and truly off the rails and the finger-pointing has begun in earnest, at which point you dredging up your surveillance tape and saying "but I've got you dead to rights agreeing it would be acceptable if the widgets weren't blue!" is just going to look like petulance.
posted by contraption at 3:52 PM on January 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ab-so-lute-ly not. This is an awful, awful, awful thing for you even to propose to a client. If I were the prospective client, I would feel like you were setting me up in a really weird way to secure the sale. Like, you'd take the recording and then prepare a proposal or package, and if the prospect didn't want to move forward you'd say "bbbut I met your requirements! It's all on tape! What more could you want?" People are really touchy about being recorded even if they can't put their finger on why. They suspect it's going to be used against them -- somehow -- a concern that I think would be heightened in a business deal. Plus, it's weird enough that it would make you seem like an amateur even if you're not.

Dealings with sales people are arm's length by definition. There is really no reason why a prospect should agree, and lots of reasons why ther shouldn't.
posted by jayder at 3:57 PM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing how incredibly squicky this would make me, as a client, feel. Even if I were to think it was OK, I'd still have to clear it with the legal department of my company, which in addition to adding cost, time and complexity to our business relationship, is undoubtedly going to result in them saying no.

Finally, how would you ever 100% guarantee this in a cloud based service---> "Obviously everything would be kept completely confidential" and do you really want to assume that liability?
posted by jamaro at 4:03 PM on January 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are many times I wished I had done this when I was doing IT consulting.

But really, when my clients didn't follow my advice they would end up paying for me to fix the messes I warned them not to get into anyway, so having a recording to go back to wouldn't have really done more than annoy them. Which isn't exactly what you want.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:29 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would have to clear it through legal, and I can guarantee you they would say no. You may swear and swear and swear that you won't play it for anyone else, that you would keep it confidential, that we have nothing to worry about, but we won't believe you.

And once that seed of doubt has been sown, it'll be a lot harder for you to overcome any other doubts we may have had about your product.

It's the same reason you have meetings in conference rooms and on the phone instead of in the town square or the middle of cubeland. It's the illusion of privacy. And sure, it's an illusion - there's nothing keeping you from typing up the notes and posting them everywhere on the web - but that illusion is still important to people.
posted by RogueTech at 4:37 PM on January 31, 2014

No. Not only no, but if a vendor suggested that to me I would probably take my business elsewhere.

Consider that in addition to how technically well you can fulfill their needs, a big part of their desire to do business with you is if they like you. The intangibles of that include being able to have a friendly, casual chat, including a laugh here and there. Nobody is comfortable being taped as if for a deposition.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:29 PM on January 31, 2014

It would seem like a fantastic idea to record those meetings using Evernote,

And another thought ... in addition to it squicking out the prospective customers, I would also be concerned with how your new employer would perceive your judgment and professionalism if you were proposing this without running it past them.
posted by jayder at 7:12 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I occasionally work as a freelance journalist and often ask if I can record people during interviews to make sure that I'm quoting them exactly. This is not an unusual thing for a reporter/journalist to do, and it's something that is advantageous to the interviewee, but I can still tell that people are sometimes uncomfortable. About 1/3 of the people decline outright. I think you'll get an even more negative response because your request is so unusual for the setting and because there's no clear advantage for the client.

The thing about reassuring clients by saying that these recordings are beneficial for them because they could use them to sue you if you misrepresent anything is very strange. If I were them I would be sort of baffled as to why you're bringing that up and wondering why you think that could possibly ever be a problem.

Plus having to record meetings in order to remember the details of their business sort of makes it seem like you don't care enough to remember or that you have so many clients that you can't keep track of them all.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 8:27 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for nope. I can see it working in certain jobs like journalists as Colonel_Chappy mentions, stockbrokers sometimes, 911/law enforcement, etc... Basically situations where it is important to nail down critical details in the moment, because there's no going back later if there's a dispute.

Sales doesn't normally work that way. Instead of recording your meetings, I'd get in the habit of writing up the pertinent details of your meetings and confirming them via email with the customer later.
posted by zachlipton at 9:03 PM on January 31, 2014

The thing about reassuring clients by saying that these recordings are beneficial for them because they could use them to sue you if you misrepresent anything is very strange.

Yes. Please don't say this.

That would be a bizarre thing for a sales person to say.
posted by jayder at 10:54 PM on January 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a coach and trainer, and get asked all the time if people can record me. I always say no. I do not need something I've said in jest or just simply in isolation, replayed, edited, or cut in anyway and broadcast out of context.

When people ask, I simply say no. If they press on, I say no again. No explanation, no feeling bad. I've never been pressed further.
posted by shazzam! at 3:08 AM on February 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to REALLY wish I could record client conversations and meetings simply because I was scared of missing something important or getting something wrong, so I started doing what contraption suggests - following up meetings and important conversations (even the ones that I didn't initiate or lead) with an email saying "here are the important points, questions, and next steps as I understand them, please correct me if I've gotten something wrong".

People are appreciative, and I can also take the opportunity to... gently guide things in the direction I want them to go. For example if it wasn't very clear who would be taking care of X, or if I don't think the method to achieve Y will work, I can say "I think John know the most about X, so I'll send him the whatever to complete by the end of this week" and "I know we discussed tool 1 for Y but I've attached details of tool 2 which is cheaper and easier to use - please have a look and let me know what you think".

John is usually happy to do what he's asked if he's given the information and tools he needs, and unless someone has a vested interest in their own solution, they're usually happy to let someone else (like me) make decisions on methods if I seem like I know what I'm talking about.

Shorthand (which I am currently learning) can be helpful, too.
posted by cilantro at 4:36 AM on February 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

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