As part of the Ingenious Britain campaign, we’ve written an editorial showcasing the state of the call recording industry, and how we expect the market to develop in the future. The article was published in a recent edition of Sunday Telegraph (15th June 2014).

It is surprising how often the solution to one problem goes on to be applied in different and unforeseen circumstances. The technology used to record telephone conversations is an example of such an evolutionary process.

“Back in the 1980s, people were wary of the technology,” says Helen Neal, Retell’s CEO, “as it was viewed as a means of spying on staff but things have moved on a long way since then.”

 

“People were initially wary of the technology but things have moved on a long way”

 

The recording of telephone conversations is now a common business practice. At a basic level it provides a record of who said what to whom. It can help resolve disputes without recourse to the courts and in the event of litigation recordings can be used in evidence.

 

 

Vital tool

The technology has become a vital tool for staff training. “It allows staff to post self- assessments of their calls – highlighting learning opportunities,” says Neal. It also enables supervisors to see what’s happening on a given terminal as they listen to a call – so they can identify and then rectify glitches.

 

“The technology can bring fundamental improvements”

 

Financial regulators realised they could use the technology to expose insider trading and misselling, among other things. They have required investment brokers and fund managers to record their calls and hence banks and other financial institutions are big users of the technology: “Although,” Neal points out, “some customers are using the technology in areas that aren’t covered by regulations because they see the benefits of assuring staff adhere to codes of conduct.”

 

 

For business improvement

The market isn’t growing simply as a result of increased regulation; it is growing because firms see how they can use the technology to improve business processes. Taxi companies organise shift patterns based on their dropped calls. Staff out in the field listen to recordings of conversations so that they understand customers’ needs before meeting them. Logistics companies use the technology to track vehicle locations as well as replaying original instructions in order to minimise errors. Contact centres use data to compare the performance of teams and individuals and then identify what is and isn’t working so they can share lessons. “The technology can bring fundamental improvements”, says Neal. She cites the example of a business that once operated a paper-based system that took two weeks to convert a telesale into a confirmed customer and now records agreements in real time. “The change helped them grow much faster than would have been possible using their old systems – they’ve grown from a firm employing 20 people to one that employs 500,” she says. She also notes the technology’s ability to identify staff misconduct: “One company used our system to anlayse out- going calls by extension number and discovered one of the team was simply calling the same number all the time – the speaking clock – the individual left as soon as he was confronted with the evidence.”

 

For the future

When asked about developments for the future Neal says, “In some ways we are waiting for the communications infrastructure to catch up with what the technology can do. It will come at some point.” Given the way the technology and its application have evolved to date, it’s hard to predict what might happen next; but that’s the way of innovation – you have to keep up.

 

 

Retell’s tale

Back in the 1980s Richard Herman, chairman and owner of communications technology company Retell, worked in the hospitality industry. He wanted to record telephone-bookings so that there was an accurate record of customers’ requirements. He was told the technology didn’t exist; undaunted, he created the device he needed and in 1986 Retell was born. The company has succeeded by staying true to its innovative origins. Of its 34 staff 15 work in research and development, devising new products and services to meet customer needs in a diverse range of sectors including banking and finance, legal services, market research, telesales, logistics, social landlords, health services, and emergency services, such as the police. The technology works for fixed-line, mobile and VoIP services; and can be adapted to incorporate features, including key word searches, firewalls and full system closedown during out-of office- hours (to prevent misuse by hackers), and customised performance analysis, down to individual extension numbers.

Retell’s core products, including circuit boards, are manufactured and assembled within the UK. CEO Helen Neal says, “Some people find it odd that we manufacture in the UK and export finished products to overseas markets such as China but it makes sense for us to develop home-based expertise and capability.”

When asked about the future, Neal sounds confident. “We have over 12-months of innovations in the pipeline and there are a lot of opportunities for us still to develop,” she says.