Hold Please
April 14, 2008 1:24 PM   Subscribe

My wife's curiosity was piqued by a recent episode of Monk where the bad guys were caught because they were overheard discussing the crime by a quality control person while on hold on a call to make airline reservations. Does this actually happen? Are there quality control people that listen in on entire phone calls even when you are on-hold? I know that they warn you that the call may be recorded for quality control but for some reason I only ever took that to mean that it was the part where you were actually talking. I would assume that even if they do this it is a very low percentage of the calls due to the cost.
posted by GrumpyMonkey to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
I worked IT for a small utility company, and the software that we used to record phone calls didn't record when they put on hold. Our system was setup so that it basically recorded what the call center employee heard on their phone. So when they put a customer on hold the employee wouldn't hear anything.
posted by pete0r at 1:37 PM on April 14, 2008

*when they put a customer on hold
posted by pete0r at 1:37 PM on April 14, 2008

Back when I was a telemarketer (my profuse apologies to one and all, I hated doing it if that is any consolation) my boss had the capability of listening in on our calls. I believe the only time he did was for finding evidence for firing someone.

In my next job as a ISP helpdesk manager, I apparently could do this, however I did not.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2008

Number 6 on this list from the consumerist says:

Also a note here is the customer [rep] is supposed to put you on hold and not simply mute their phone. This was a common tactic used by agents to dodge the hold timer. If you're speaking to an agent and they put you on hold and you hear silence and no music, They likely have you on mute and not hold, and additionally they can hear everything your saying at that time, when you're on hold they cannot hear you.

I've always been suspicious of this...
posted by odi.et.amo at 1:39 PM on April 14, 2008

Most call center phones have a "hold" button and a "mute" button. The hold button is exactly that -- it puts the caller in limbo, usually so they can then be transferred to a different department or agent. The "mute" button just turns off the agent's microphone.

Many call centers collect second-by-second performance metrics of how their agents spend their time. One of the big bad no-nos is "hold time" -- that's considered "dead time" and as an agent you want to minimize it. So instead of placing callers on hold while researching their call, agents will simply mute their phone, because that won't look like "hold time" on their performance sheet.

So, yeah, I've worked in call centers and muted my phone and listened with glee to callers screaming at their kids, belching, farting, etc.

Just because you can't hear them doesn't mean they can't hear you.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:40 PM on April 14, 2008

Well, it's already been answered, but...

In the call center I worked in, if we had a person on hold, it didn't record anything said while on hold, but if we just muted the phone, it would still record what the caller said.
posted by Zarya at 1:47 PM on April 14, 2008

Actually, way back in the day I worked at OnStar and actually got into trouble one day for things I said to coworkers while the person was on hold. Apparently the QA people recorded the entire phone call and since I wasn't muted I was busted. So it sounds like it just depends on the call center!
posted by trinkatot at 1:51 PM on April 14, 2008

I don't know of a system that records during hold, if only to save storage space, so my experience in the enterprise environment has been the same as pete0r's. Quality agents then go back and listen to the recording (of both the call and the on-screen actions taken by the customer service rep) to improve business process.

Good place to start some additional research might be Nortel.
posted by jtarchi at 2:11 PM on April 14, 2008

The call center that I administer records the agent side of the call, and does not record during hold time(unless the agent is calling someone else while the customer is holding). However, I remember during the training when we first got this system, the trainer told us that this system can be configured to record either the agent side of the call, or the customer. If it's set up to record the customer, you would hear anything the customer said while on hold. I don't think that's widely used, though.
posted by owtytrof at 2:24 PM on April 14, 2008

The call center I work in does still record you when you are on hold. Looking at all the above answers, I guess this makes us somewhat unusual. But it can happen.
posted by Aznable at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2008

If you are at all worried about whether you are on hold or mute, or whether they can hear you or not, get into the habit of muting them when you are on hold. Most, if not all, newer phones have the ability to mute -- use it.
posted by enobeet at 2:48 PM on April 14, 2008

At my company we recently recievd training on a new 800# service that we could use to get client information. We were told that they record everything, even while you are on hold. The trainer said that it was pretty amusing, the things people say when they are on hold.
posted by JennyJupiter at 4:04 PM on April 14, 2008

It might vary by the state the call center is located in. Some states require only one party to consent to a call being recorded, while some require both parties to consent. I certainly wouldn't have expected, before reading this, to be recorded while on hold, and I don't think I'm the only one. If call centers are generally aware of that, it might be that ones in states that require two party consent don't record while on hold, so they aren't assuming you consent. That's giving them a lot of ethical credit though. Maybe the laws in some states specifically address the issue of recording while on hold even? Not to mention, that when you are on hold, the person who put you on hold might not be considered a party to the call momentarily anyway, so if they're recording everything you say, and you don't consent, that would be an issue. Sorry if I'm hard to follow. I had never thought about this before, and I'm a bit concerned now...
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:53 PM on April 14, 2008

Years ago, when I was a technical support representative at Earthlink, we always used mute instead of hold. I don't remember our phones actually having a hold button; maybe they did and we just weren't allowed to use them. The idea was that customers often said things when they thought we weren't listening that turned out to be useful -- I'd ask the guy to hold, and as soon as I hit the mute button he'd say to his wife, "I don't know, it hasn't worked since I bought that new modem." Sometimes what they said was more along the lines of, "This kid doesn't know what he's doing," which meant it might be time to transfer the customer to a higher level of support.
posted by Acetylene at 9:11 PM on April 14, 2008

« Older Going west for fun trip   |   Geezer SAT score conversion... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.