Now that VoIP has a proven record of accomplishment for serving business, companies big and small are implementing these solutions for a variety of reasons. As the saying goes, money talks - when there is a significant amount of money saved when optimizing a process, this tends to resonate with decision makers. A cut-and-dry saving is one such way Internet based communication is helping companies however, the feature set of these systems adds value in ways not immediately apparent.
With any good VoIP system, a variety of tools are included that greatly broaden communication capabilities. One of the more commonly overlooked features is call recording. Though many already utilize this feature, it seems like a novelty for others. Despite this perception, this feature is truly a powerful tool that has application for virtually every kind of business.
The fact is, regardless of your industry, call recording can prove to be very beneficial for a variety of reasons. With that said, it is important to understand a bit about the feature and assess other supplementary applications that work with it in order to make the most of this feature.
What is Call Recording and Why Use it?
On the surface, call recording is exactly is as it sounds; depending on individual setups, incoming and outgoing calls are recorded to some kind of system. These recordings are then available to review at a later time, either by supervisors/managers, or certain groups within a company (marketing, sales, training, legal etc.).
Having this feature available can be crucial to certain endeavors. In most (but not all) situations, data collected is later considered during decision making processes that affect operations, ideally improving productivity. Data aggregated from recordings works into training material, provides analytics during reviews and assists in special scenarios.
Benefits and Common Scenarios
If you have ever spoken with a customer service representative, you have probably heard a short message before connecting with the associate that indicates the proceeding call “may be recorded” and “may be used for training purposes.” Businesses using these recorded calls are not simply re-playing them for new hires and promoted associates based on a “good or bad” evaluation – data extrapolated is heavily analyzed. Doing the same will improve your business.
Different calling scenarios occur for each industry. We will look at a few common scenarios encountered by most businesses:
Customer service evaluation
This is the core of most business and in some cases, the frontline that engages the customer. Courtesy and empathy are must have skills for this position and it is imperative a company ensures that associates convey this prowess to clientele. No one likes working with rude people or companies disinterested in serving customers’ best interests.
A pen and paper are handy (as are iPads) but sometimes notes just do not make as much sense later in time. During lengthy conversations such as interviews or project planning endeavors, notes are handy but actually reviewing certain points of a conversation ensures details do not go overlooked.
Sometimes deals can go sour or conflict occurs between your business and another entity. Having a record of a conversation in such circumstances can help eliminate assumptions and finger pointing when seeking a solution for a problem. In legal matters, this helps arbitrators by enabling greater accuracy when making a decision.
Different providers utilize various controls and procedures for call retention. Currently, there are two main methods for recording calls. Some providers or technologies will install a system onsite (or at your company’s data center) while others will back up call data to a hosted storage device.
Because VoIP providers have such a broad range of technologies utilized, selecting the correct provider is pertinent for this reason. Keep in mind, if you are considering a solution that utilizes an onsite IP PBX, the data from the recordings may require provisioning adequate real estate for the files generated by call records. In some cases, companies that require onsite equipment may offer the option to back up this data to a cloud system.
With many hosted systems, your provider allots a certain amount of storage for call records. The amount can vary greatly and will often depend on the number of calls recorded. Flexibility from a VoIP service provider is necessary, as the footprint of this information will change over time. The advantage of using a hosted provider is that no additional hardware is required as everything is stored in the cloud.
Some will opt to build custom, onsite solutions to tailor a VoIP solution to specific business needs. This is not practical for all because a high level of expertise is required to create such a system. Despite the allure of cloud computing, it is often less expensive in the long term to invest in collocated business systems.
One of the most popular platforms for IP PBX systems is Asterisk because of the many features included in the platform. Call recording is one of the features that can be programmed into Asterisk based systems without much trouble for most experienced engineers.
Some providers may grant access to the API of the system offered which often exist on top of an Asterisk platform. If your company employs tech savvy people, such solutions may be ideal for making your communication system work harder for you.
Recording your Calls
The size and nature of your business will determine how often to use this feature. In most cases, it is not practical or necessary to record every call. Determining a schedule for using this feature, like when randomly monitoring representatives, is one of many ways that a company makes use of this feature.
Other times, it is most beneficial to select certain job functions to monitor. For example, it may not be necessary to record a first tier help desk associate at all times. Higher tiers generally solve problems that are more abstract and benefit greatly if given the opportunity to retain and document such information.
The ability to record calls "on-demand", using the keypad to start and stop the process, is very useful as this allows associates to document certain situations as needed. Say a customer has an ongoing complaint; perhaps a product is consistently having the same problem. In some situations, well-articulated feedback from a customer can be of great value to the company (or even with a vendor) to correct a problem gone unseen. A customer may not be able to gain audience with the likes of an engineer or QA personnel, but these job roles could benefit in certain situations if they could directly hear feedback.
With many systems, the opportunity to augment your recording system with select technologies makes some systems stand out compared to other providers. Many providers offer a base service so it is important to learn if additional tools are available to gain the most from your system. Some of the following few are great value adds for most systems:
The ability to transcribe a call has apparent values but also boasts some overlooked features. For starters, a text document consumes less storage space than an audio file, which alleviates the burden on a storage system. Call transcriptions make it easier to search for pertinent information. For example, if associates are required to use certain phrases or keywords during a conversation, it is usually simple to build a script to search text files for this information.
All providers have different manners of storing data. Sometimes it will be necessary to retain certain conversations for an extended length of time or possibly indefinitely. The ability to compress files and move to long term storage has application for many scenarios so it is important to gain a clear understanding of the length of time records retain on a system and additional solutions for keeping conversations after this term.
Many providers offer a mobile application to utilize with a personal smartphone. Recording calls from a mobile platform is especially useful for those who are constantly on the move. Different providers have different methods of enabling this – some must activate the feature via a management console for selected extensions and others allow the users to choose when to activate it.
Call Monitoring versus Call Recording
With so many features being available through VoIP technology it can be a little confusing with the often unconventional naming of features by different service providers. The call monitoring feature is often confused with its recording counterpart, but they are different in functionality even though they both provide a great customer service evaluation tool.
There are typically three parts to a call monitoring service; the ability for another company representative to listen into a call, the ability for that person to talk directly to the other company representative conducting the call (without the customer hearing), and the ability to enter into the conversation for all parties to hear (similar to a 3-way call). If this is the feature you are interested in then make sure you verify its availability with a provider before you make your selection.
Hosted Service Provider Comparisons
We have compiled a small list of providers who offer this feature as part of their service. Providers vary greatly for the manner in which this feature operates. As such, it is important to discuss the nature of how this feature can be used with any given provider. Remember: various value add-ons are available to supplement this feature so make sure to learn as many specifics as possible.
Vonage for Business
With Vonage Business Solutions, an administrator can use their Admin Portal to enable automatic recording by individual extensions or by selected groups or queues. This feature costs a flat rate of $49.99 a month that includes up to 500 hours of recording for any amount of users and further enables recording of extensions used by the Vonage mobile application. Unlike many others providers, the recordings never expire. Another option is their "on-demand" service for $4.99 per month per extension, which allows the extension user to start and stop recording on-demand by the press of a button on the phone keypad. This basic service includes 15 hours of recording time.
An admin can turn on this feature for any extension in a business that will save incoming and outgoing calls as well as intra-office calls, if desired. Audio files save for a period of 90 days and are available for download in this time, if needed. This feature is included with their Premium or Enterprise plans, but not with their Standard plan.
Nextiva offers a low cost business phone service to companies of any size, starting at $19.95 per month per user. Their $29.95 a month per line Office Enterprise plan offers this feature as part of its full feature set. Files save to the hosted system for a period of 60 days and may be downloaded during this period.
8x8 offer a full suite of calling and UC solutions. Call recording is offered as an optional component of the Virtual Office solution. Roughly 35 hours is included (1 GB) with the service and can be upgraded for an additional fee. Recording is also possible with the mobile application for any extension at the push of a button.
Recording is available in two different service options. At $9.99 a month, the Always-On plan records every call for selected business lines and the On-Demand plan at $5.99 a month allows users to choose which calls are recorded (by using the keypad to start/stop the recording). Both plans back up recordings to the cloud which the user can access via a web portal and download files if they choose. Recordings are saved for 30 days and there are no limitations on the number of recordings.
** Most providers include an upper limit on minutes for their unlimited plans as part of a reasonable usage policy in their T&Cs.
This feature has been quietly growing in use as many VoIP service providers offer it as either included in their service or as an add-on for a small monthly fee. Companies large and small can now easily benefit from this feature, with options to record on-demand or to record based on preset parameters. The simplicity of the hosted VoIP model allows this feature to be utilized easily by businesses with no IT group. For these reasons, more and more businesses are looking to utilize the call recording feature.