The rise of call recording

Call recording technologies are being used in a multitude of ways. Comms Business assesses the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Traditionally, call recording has provided the last resort to resolve a dispute or enforce a verbal agreement, according to Dr John Yardley, CEO at Threads Software. “When call recording was expensive, the sectors adopting it tended to be the ones that could afford it. Lawyers, corporate call centres, police, for example. Partly as a result, the procedures for recovering recordings have not been easy.”

He noted how, as cost has dropped, firms that conduct business via the telephone have realised that the value can extend much further than just avoiding litigation. “For example, in obviating the need to make accurate notes and the ability to share calls with colleagues without distorting the message. This has opened up call recording to SMEs in many sectors – sales, marketing, technical support, consultancy, education – in fact any sectors with non-trivial transactions involving specialist staff.”

New challenges

Almost three years on from the introduction of GDPR regulations, new challenges around voice recording compliance have emerged as a result of increased hybrid working across all types and size of business, explained Tony Martino, CEO of Tollring (pictured below).

He added, “The current environment, with more home workers, threatens an organisation’s ability to deliver recording compliance in many ways. A business not only needs to manage policies and facilitate compliance, but also enforce regulations and communicate requirements to customers and colleagues across changeable working conditions. If staff are not able to follow processes properly – perhaps because their technology is inadequate, or they’re working in a new or distracting environment and simply forget – it will result in non-conformity.

“For effective and manageable compliance, tools must deliver automation and a strong self-service element. Compliance managers need the flexibility to configure and manage both voice recording and playback policies, alongside the ability to identify areas of non-compliance, understand if anything has fallen through the gaps and know how to deal with exceptions. To be truly effective, policies need to match a business’ regulatory requirements and company policy, with staff educated and informed in how to adhere to those policies.”

Misunderstood

Yardley feels the laws and the application of GDPR around call recording are almost “universally misunderstood”. He said, “If a call is being recorded for no other use than within the organisation making the recording, it is not necessary to advise the other party that the call is being recorded. It is no different from making notes. The reason so many firms inform third-parties that their calls are recorded is to allow them to later use the content of the call in evidence against them. Contrary to popular belief, agreeing to allow a call to be recorded reduces rights – particularly when there is no other way of communicating. Call recording warnings have become rather like web cookie warnings – allowing users to reject them, simply confuses the user and can act as a barrier to business.”

Scott Threlfall, head of product at GCI feels the regulatory compliance landscape is an ever changing one. “Whilst the recent GDPR regulations left us on an even keel and our PCI-compliant applications for taking payments alongside our call recording solutions have enabled us to completely secure the interaction, I fully expect that with the immergence and rise of AI and chatbots, that further compliance will be required as we move forward.

“This is why it’s imperative to have a solution provider or partner who manages the ever-changing compliance terrain and updates their policies and software on a regular basis to reflect changing trends and requirements. The adoption of AI-based solutions, mixed with advances in RPA tools, and advanced GRC software will remain ascending trends within compliance practices for 2021. This is due to the tangible business benefits they provide, including compliance automation, greater efficiencies, and an integrated approach to compliance management.”

Microsoft momentum

Threlfall also believes that if call recording is being used by a business it needs to be compliant regardless of size. “In general terms, depending on the software partner you choose, they will have compliance automation in place for any size of business no matter if it’s a small customer service team or a 2,500 strong contact centre.”

Tollring’s Martino highlighted that, despite the quantity of data processed varying tremendously between an SMB and a larger enterprise, the regulations are the same across all businesses. “A larger company is likely to have a call centre, take payments over the phone, manage a large database and have their own company policies around data security, retention and storage, but they ultimately face the same challenges as a smaller business, just on a different scale.

“However, Microsoft Teams breaks all the rules and is fast becoming an essential business tool irrespective of company size. Traditionally voice recording applications have been designed for one end of the market or the other. Teams, however, is suitable for any busines – commoditising voice recording rather than it being a separate proposition only for those that have specific needs to review calls for disputes, quality, training or regulatory purposes.

“It has shown the value of recording voice as a call, a meeting, a Team-specific meeting and soon a transcription, to every Microsoft user in any business, which will transform the future of voice recording, making it a service for the masses.”

Cloud-based systems

There can be no denying the impact of the cloud. But Ben Merrills, CEO of Zapappi thinks that no matter how good a cloud solution is, there will always be “edge cases” where an on-premise system may be the preferred option.

He added, “SaaS has demonstrated that cloud-based solutions are capable of providing the scale in terms of functionality, compliance and storage. Cloud-based systems can be a compelling entry point for SMEs and enterprise alike. Most business requirements to manage and handle their recording data can be met by cloud or multi-tenant solutions. That’s been made possible by cloud storage technology, where it’s possible to maintain a single cloud platform, with specific data sovereignty requirements layered on top.

“Organisations who decide cloud is the way forward will also see benefits in terms of cost and functionality, which is harder to achieve with on-premise solutions.”

Dave Reynolds, managing director of Xelion UK (pictured left) believes there is a universal move to the cloud for all applications and storage, so there is “very little point” in having on-premise call recording solutions and storage. “It’s severely limiting, inflexible and also carries risks for business continuity and disaster recovery. Hosted solutions are also always up to date, with the latest version of the solution, whereas on-premise solutions require constant updating.”

James Slaney, COO, Dubber, explained that inherent scalability and economic benefits are crucial factors here. “As with the previous movement and benefits of general storage to the cloud, a dedicated recording and compliance solution delivered as a cloud service is clearly the future and will provide ongoing business benefits.

“On premise solutions will still have a place in some businesses – most often to answer specific application needs – which is why we offer them. Ultimately it is critical that businesses have a view that all voice data lives in the cloud which is why we developed the Dubber Voice Intelligence Cloud.”

Covid-19 has acted as a catalyst for the move to cloud-based systems. This irreversible trend will continue long beyond the pandemic. That’s the view of Derek Townsend, solutions consulting director at Content Guru (pictured right). “Cloud providers should be aware that many organisations who have traditionally used on-premise solutions may be reluctant to move everything to the cloud all at once. As such, organisations should ensure their solution has the flexibility to integrate with an organisation’s existing technology systems, and enables them to move parts of the business to the cloud on a timescale that suits them.”

For Craig Farley, head of consulting at IPI, the flexibility of cloud systems has meant the past year has seen a huge number of contact centres moving to the cloud, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. “Cloud contact centres are quicker to go live, are easier to scale up and down, require less maintenance and provide access to compute power that allows real time insight, analytics and intelligence that isn’t possible with on-premise solutions without significant infrastructure. In addition, because it comes as a subscription service that can be accessed from anywhere, advanced cloud technology becomes within reach of any contact centre, regardless of size or dependencies on IT.”

Don’t get caught out

The Financial Conduct Authority recently ruled that financial services organisations must now record all communications while working from home.

Darren Beck, managing director at CallCabinet, advised that reliable mobile call recording capabilities are integral to ensure companies do not fall foul of stricter emphasis on enforcement. “We know companies had to work quickly to implement remote workforces last year, and understandably that haste will have led to some firms deploying technology that didn’t meet internal compliance practices, or rules enforced by the FCA. The FCA recognised the difficulties organisations were facing, so took a looser approach to enforcement. This is something we and many others supported in the interests of fairness.

“This latest announcement from the FCA comes as no surprise. This change in the working environment is the most disruptive period of upheaval most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Early on it was a case of needs must, with many understandably forced to flex the compliance rules in an emergency. Now though, there can be no more excuses: firms must do everything in their power to avoid regulatory breaches.”

What comes next?

Tom Rimmer, senior executive at Speechmatics highlighted how ASR, or automatic speech recognition technology, has come a long way in the last decade in processing audio from call recordings into text. But he pointed out a notorious issue stems from accuracy levels in having ASR engines recognise accents or dialects.

“To train a machine to recognise voice data, researchers need to collect thousands of audio samples. This then forms the basis for an algorithm to learn how a human speaks. An ASR engine, however, can only recognise what it’s been trained to hear. The problem is that these systems are typically only fed data from a standard language source, that has limited understanding of different sounding voices.

“Historically, ASR providers would create multiple accent specific language packs for a specific region or speaker profile to try and mitigate this problem. However, the concept of having one language pack per accent or region is outdated in our increasingly connected world. It’s also expensive, [as well as being] not efficient or scalable. This makes the standardised language pack approach ineffective for real-world use cases and applications such as contact centres.

“The diversity of accents and dialects makes accurate any-context speech recognition a significant challenge. Going forward, the industry needs to turn to providers that offer global language packs.”

Adam Wilson, regional channel manager for EMEA at Vonage, said AI and machine learning have been at the forefront of innovation within this space, and we can expect to see new applications aimed at providing an enhanced customer experience in 2021. “Call sentiment analysis has been a particular area of focus, especially during the lockdowns where reduced in-person contact has resulted in an increase in phone calls. This technology allows AI to interpret the sentiment and tone of a call and to ensure it’s escalated via the correct resolution pathway.”

For Townsend at Content Guru, this year will see an increase in the use of real-time analytics to ensure agents are provided with accurate and appropriate information based on the contents of an interaction. “This will work across all channels including voice, enabling agents to deliver a more personalised service and improving both agent and customer experience.”

IPI’s Farley thinks increasing intelligence, automation, and prediction in analytics tools will be the focus in contact centre innovation. “Based on big data analysis and predictive AI models, these tools will be able to provide real-time assistance to contact centre agents on their desktop – from wherever they’re working – seamlessly offering knowledge, reminders to notify customers of important messages, offers and compliance statements, as well as guidance on what to say or do next to get the best outcome.”

No big brother scenario

Call recording has in the past been considered invasive and a concern for privacy. That’s the view of Chris Thomas, founder of Litenet. But he said in reality it adds a great deal of protection for both the consumer and the business. “Far from being a Big Brother scenario, call recording can ensure business standards and regulatory requirements are being met,” he argued.

“Call recording is not just for large businesses operating call centres. Most cloud-based PBX systems have a call recording capability, with varying levels of functionality depending on the provider and licensing model. For small businesses this is ideal, since it avoids any issues of data privacy by letting the service provider take care of the physical security of the recordings. Likewise, the economies of scale of using a cloud system make it affordable because [you] don’t have to invest in expensive on-premises equipment [or] consider the ongoing running costs and maintenance of that equipment.”

This rich, enterprise-grade functionality is now an option for masses of UK businesses, and the channel can help them navigate the options.

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