Are companies recording you when they put you on hold?

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Most of us are all too familiar with being put on hold while talking to a customer service representative about a complaint or other business matter. What you may not be so familiar with, though, is the fact that many companies are recording you — even when you’re on hold.

If you’ve got people in the room with you, the company may well be eavesdropping on what you assume is a private conversation. Here’s what you need to know about whether your call is being recorded.

Do call centers record you when you’re on hold?

The on-hold portion of a call may be recorded and — in some cases — could used against you in legal proceedings. “[W]hether or not it could be used lawfully or whether the mere recording of that information is lawful, is an open question,” Steve Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer at Ballard Sparr, told WFTS in Tampa Bay.

One big hint that the company is likely recording you while on hold is when an automated voice tells you, “This call may be recorded for training purposes.” Of course, most businesses use the calls to monitor their employees and the way they handle customers, but you should be aware that anything you say while on hold could be accessed.

Recording a phone call without telling at least one of the parties is a federal crime which falls under the U.S. wiretapping statute. It’s called one-party consent. It means that companies in many jurisdictions are obligated by law to inform you that they may record your conversation.

A number of states require two-party consent.

4 tips on how to get good customer service (whether you’re on hold or not)

  • Be friendly: Be careful not to insult the customer service rep, who may decide to hold it against you.
  • Don’t commit fraud: If you’re talking to an insurance company, the last thing you should be saying to someone in the room is how you’re going to defraud the insurer.
  • Be a partner: Instead of making the call all about you, use terms like “we” and “us” to show that you view the customer service rep as an ally.
  • Ask for a manager: If you feel that your call center rep isn’t being helpful, ask (politely) to speak with a manager. In many cases, supervisors have the authority to grant concessions that agents don’t.

If you’re like many of us, you’d like to avoid speaking to machines if at all possible. Here’s how to speak with a real person at some of Apple, Google and other big tech companies.

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