Logging Recordings: The Right Answer?

By Stewart Settles and Teresa Fudge

The practice of recording telephone communication is a growing trend in today’s business environment. In some industries, logging recorders are as commonplace as fax machines and copiers.

What is a logging recorder? A logging recorder is a device sometimes referred to as a communications or voice recorder that records verbal communication over the telephone in various applications over an extended period of time. It files the information by time and date for retrieval and playback at the users’ discretion. In other words, a logging recorder is to speech as a computer is to data.

Logging recorders have been around for decades. Some of the earliest applications include our military. During World War II all forms of communication between ships, aircraft and various military installations were recorded. Even submarines were fitted with a reel-to-reel recorder designed specially for this space-sensitive application. One of these unique recorders is in active duty today in Harold Carbo’s message center in Houma, Louisiana.

With the advancement of radio communication in the aviation industry, the logging recorder found itself on aircraft and in airports around the world. The “Black Box” found in aircraft today is yet another example of a specially designed logging recorder.

In the last few years telemessaging services around the country have recognized the importance of voice recording. He said this, she said that, all a part of the day to day issues that are inherent in the message center industry. Remember, verbal communication is the very nucleus of your service. So what about storing the speech? After all, once words are spoken, they are gone forever.

According to many leaders in the industry, and I think most of you would agree, the number one customer complaint is rude operator behavior. If the truth were known, the customer is not always right. However, services that have installed a voice recorder will tell you that once recording begins, the rude behavior miraculously ends. Go figure?

Over the years, I have heard many interesting stories from message center owners around the country relating to the subject of voice recording. Here’s one that will make you think.

Late one evening in Beaumont, Texas, Monroe Telephone Answering Service received a call from a woman whose husband needed his doctor’s immediate assistance. The service then contacted the doctor at his home to relay the message. The next morning, Larry and Deborah Cooper, owners of the service, were contacted by the doctor’s office. The patient had passed away overnight. They were accusing the service of negligence because the doctor claimed he had not been contacted. Once again their trusty reel-to reel logging recorder saved the day, as it revealed that not only was the doctor properly notified, but his patient’s phone number had been repeated to him four times.

Many message centers pull double duty by monitoring alarm systems. These monitoring houses are known as central stations.

Tom Morris, owner of All Guard Security in Memphis, Tennessee reflects on many an occasion that his logging recorder bailed him out of a potentially sticky situation.

“Occasionally, alarms are set off in the late evening or early morning hours. After determining that it is not a false alarm, the police are notified. We then contact the individual designated on the account to go evaluate the situation. On many occasions the owner or supervisor of the company will call us the following morning complaining that notification of the triggered alarm was not made the night before. From time to time the individuals on call-back lists will deny being contacted. They probably roll over and go back to sleep. We then supply the company with the name of the person contacted and a copy of the recorded conversation. End of story. I don’t see how a central station can operate without a recorder.”

Raymond Baggarly, owner of Answering Metro Atlanta, says that he has saved many accounts because his service records. “The ability to play back the conversation as it occurred allows us to police and diffuse conflicts between our operators and our clients. The logging recorder is a valuable tool for training operators.”

Ellen Fagan, owner of Fagan Answering Service in Victoria, Texas got a “splash of cold water” w hen she nearly lost an account generating $1,000 monthly because of a dispute. Had this conversation been recorded, this issue would have been resolved immediately. Ellen purchased her logging recorder the following day.

I am often asked about the legality of voice recording. Recording telephone conversations is legal in every state; however, at the time of publication, the states of CA, DE, FL, IL, MD, MA, MI, PA and WA, have a two-party notification law. Most states require single-party notification, meaning that only your operators need to be aware of the recording. In a two-party notification state, there are procedures of notification that can be implemented without irritating or intimidating your operators and callers.

When shopping for a logging recorder, several questions need to be answered. What channel capacity do I need? What functions are right for my service? What features do I not need?

The answers to these questions will bring you to another major consideration: w ill a digital or an analog recording system best serve my needs? Both analog and digital recorders will produce the same end result. Although, the digital systems are far more flexible, require minimal time to operate, and perform the search and playback function without interrupting recording.

To the best of my knowledge the only multi-channel analog recorder currently produced is the Teac CR-310 and CR-320. These VHS recorders retail between $8,500 and $10,000 new. A new digital logger will start in the range of $7,000 for an eight-channel and graduate upwards depending on channel capacity and features. Most, if not all, digital recorders can be upgraded in the field. This allows you to expand the channel capacity, typically in four or eight channel increments, by purchasing a channel card from your dealer.

Most message centers record the operator stations and not the incoming lines. For example, a service has eight operator stations and 15 incoming lines. If the stations are recorded, then an eight channel recorder will accommodate this application. If the lines were recorded the channel capacity of the recorder would need to be at least 15, adding anywhere from $3,000 to as much as $5,000 to your initial cost. Also, performing a search for a specific call is much simpler when the stations are recorded. You can assign your operators to a channel with this method, making locating a call far easier.

It is my opinion that a service with anywhere from two to as much as even five operator stations, need not invest in a digital system, but perhaps locate a pre-owned analog, smaller channel capacity VHS setup. These recorders are typically very reliable, especially the Teac CR series, and are very marketable when the decision is made to upgrade to a digital recorder. Your initial investment will be far less and this setup is the most common in message centers today. If you can afford to make the leap financially into a digital system, then consider a small channel capacity recorder and expand it as your service grows.

Digital logging recorders are available in many configurations, some with features that typically are not necessary in the telemessaging industry. Make sure you familiarize yourself with each function of the system you are considering purchasing. Most standard features on digital recorders today will accommodate your services needs, however be aware that some digital recorders come packed with features that you will never ever utilize and will drive up the cost of the recorder.

There are many reputable dealers and manufactures that advertise in this publication. Any one of these should be able to help you determine the right recorder for your service. So are logging recorders the right answer? You make the call.

[From Connection Magazine – May 1999]

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