HOWTO: Record Customer Service Calls

Recently we’ve gotten a flurry of emails asking how to record customer service calls (Vincent Ferrari says he’s receiving a slew, too).

You can use Skype along with an audio recording program like Hotrecorder, Audacity or Garageband (Mac) or Audio Hijack (OSX). Make the call with Skype and hit record. Upload the mp3 file to a hosting service like Putfile, or just email it to us.

You can also use your landline with a device like the Mini Recorder Control from Radio Shack. Plug it into the phone, and into the microphone slot on your computer. Record… upload…

We recommend the Skype method, though, as it tends to produce better audio. — BEN POPKEN

UPDATE: You can also use GrandCentral (free), which, in addition to creating one master number for all your phones, lets you record calls just by pressing 4.

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  1. Sam Glover says:

    All good advice. However, if you are going to record, MAKE SURE IT IS LEGAL IN YOUR STATE.

    Also, I have a nuts-and-bolts guide to recording on old-fashioned phones (and cell phone…. The program I used is calld PolderBits (polderbits.com), a simple sound recorder and editor that works really well for recording calls.

    It’s always good to make sure you are ready to record. You never know when you’ll need to.

  2. Chris H says:

    Recording a phone call without the affirmative consent of the other party is illegal in half a dozen states. And if the other party is in a “two party consent state,” including California, Maryland, and Penn, the law applies to you, even if you are in a one-party state. Here is an authoritative guide to the issue: http://www.rcfp.org/taping/

  3. Ben Popken says:

    Or else the company will sue you for exposing their bad business practices? Sounds like an excellent PR move. Every time we post a story like this people chime in questioning the legality, and I often see a link to the RFCP guide. It’s information is sound but I would like to see a definitive legal perspective on how these apply to consumers recording their own business transactions and sharing with friends. As far as I can tell, the laws are to prevent third-party wiretapping or govern whether a recording is admissible in court of law, neither of which are relevant here.

  4. So, if the party your calling informs you that the call is being recorded, you are free to record as well right?

    It’s all semantics though. It’s only illegal to record a conversation if you get caught. ;-)

  5. Slusy says:

    Having done a number of Skype recordings for my podcasts, I can tell you that just using Audacity for the recording doesn’t work well; the levels on the other end are much lower than on your end, so it’s nearly impossible to hear (and the other end is the important end in a situation like this). HotRecorder is good as long as the conversation doesn’t go on for too long; after about a half an hour or so, the two ends of the conversation get out of sync and then you essentially lose everything after that.

    I’ve had good success with PowerGramo (http://www.powergramo.com); not only is it fairly easy to use, but the basic version is free and covers 90% of what you would ever need to do. And the paid version is only $20, same as HotRecorder. Plus, it automatically starts recording as soon as you place a call, and ends when you hang up, so you can decide later whether you need to save the recording or not, as opposed to kicking yourself later because you didn’t hit record in time.

    Supposedly, the new beta version of Skype (3.0) has a trial version of Pamela built in that allows you to record up to 15 minutes as well, and you can upgrade to the paid version for unlimited recording. So that’s another option; I just heard a podcast that used it, and the results sounded pretty good as well.

  6. rekoil says:

    I’ve heard apocryphal stories that many phone CSRs are instructed to refuse consent if the caller asks for permission to record the call. Has anyone experienced this firsthand?

  7. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I’d have to agree with Ben here. As far as I can tell, the laws were set up to protect consumers from unauthorized telephone recordings. But it’s a little vague when it’s the other way around. I’m pretty sure the recordings can’t be used in a court battle, but it should be ok to post on the internet for educational purposes.

    Oddly enough, I found a website that sells phone recording software and they provide a general explanation of the legal issues, with some references to state penal codes.

    http://www.callcorder.com/phone-recording-law-america.htm

  8. Mike_ says:

    Ah, the perennial “Is that legal?” thread.

    IANAL, but I would think that if you hear “Your call may be monitored or recorded” before you talk to the CSR, their consent is implied. I’ll have to go back and read the 100 other threads where this has been discussed ad nauseam to see if an attorney may have chimed in at some point.

  9. Michael says:

    I’m with crayonshinobi. If there’s a notice when you call in, “This call may be monitored and/or recorded for quality assurance purposes”, then you have every right to record the call since both parties are aware that recording is taking place. Informed consent has already been given.

    In addition, going with a semantic argument, “may be” is the same as giving permission.

    “Cameras may be brought in to this museum.”
    “Johnny, you may have another bowl of ice cream.”
    “This call may be monitored and recorded.”

  10. straddy says:

    Another great service to consider, one that Lifehacker did a review of , is GrandCentral. You can record any phone call, by pressing one button on your phone. You can turn it on and off by pressing the same button, regardless of if they call you or you call them.
    Best part, it’s freaking FREE!
    http://grandcentral.com

  11. nothingistrue says:

    my cellphone (2-yr old sonyericsson t616) has call recording built in, and I actually used it for just this purpose a few months ago. After being asked if it was OK to record a call, I just said, “…I would like your permission to record this call as well.” The agent was a little flustered at first, but said it would be OK. It was actually kinda cool to turn the tables for once. Recording worked fine, and luckily I never had to use it as the issue I was dealing with was resolved in my favor.

  12. JennieHowell says:

    I listened to the verizon call. Great job!! I don’t care if it’s legal or not record yourself and post it all you want. If they sue you for the post I’ll pitch in toward your fine and so will everyone else interested in not being screwed. I am posting the recording on my blog and encouraging all who link me to do the same (which is only about 7 people but they link many more) I also used your verizon link to send them an email congratulating them on the influx of stupid people who will apply to work in their customer service department.

  13. mathfeel says:

    I would really love to see more clarification on the legal issue. Skype is my choice right now. I am trying out grandcentral.com right now. Looking good, but I was able to record incoming call only, not outgoing (by using the call feature on the website). It is not likely that customer service is going to call me on their own.

  14. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Or for those of us with land-lines (you know, the old things with a big huge keypad and a wire that goes into the wall), here’s an adapter that goes between the base and handset.

    Recording device not included.

    http://www.newtechindustries.com/newtech/telephone_recordi

  15. jstaut says:

    Trying to records calls on your own would be one way to improve ones customer service experiences. However, I thought I should tell you all about a new and free service that I’ve recently come across which provides the same functionality but provides greater utility since all calls are authenticated and are legally compliant. Furthermore, this service promotes collective consumer action which in the long run is a more effective way of improving customer service than the going it alone model.

    The service is called 321-CALL-LOG and it allows users to automatically record, authenticate, and notarize telephone and email conversations they have with customer service representatives. Purpose of the service is to empower consumers when dealing with CS centers by offering a set of feature intended to make companies accountable for their poor customer service. In order to be legally compliant the service announces to the agent every 3 minutes that the call is being recorded. When a call has been completed users are able to retrieve and email their calls to customer services reps through the website. In this way 321-CALL-LOG gives consumers a systematic way to make customer service reps accountable for what they say or promised to consumers.

    I have been using the service and have become a fan. These guys are just getting started but I can see that they are on track to provide a truly great CS service.

    Checkout the site at:
    http://www.321calllog.com

    Currently the service is on invitation only bases but BETA account are very accessible.

  16. SkypeUK says:

    For the British readers out there, I’ve stuck up some guidelines for recording calls in the UK on the Skype UK blog.

  17. famboozled says:

    For whatever it is worth, when you call or they call the jurat in the beginning either live or recorded stating that this call may be recorded for quality control purposes covers you.

    You do not need to tell them if they have already told you. The question is a matter of expectation of privacy. There is no expectation of privacy when calling a company vs. an tindividual whom you have no personal relationship with.

    When calling your ex-wife and trying to get her to lie is one thing but memorializing a conversation with a company on tape. If they told you you do not need to tell them.

    Also, the you only need to know the laws in your state. If they are calling or doing business in your state, the location of the call center is not relevant.

    In closing, even illegal recordings can be used in court but not in a case-in-chief. If the other side lies then then the recordings can be used to impeach the witness a liar making dacalrations against thier civil/criminal interests. Remember, there was a cigar smoking president who had an aide who talked to an intern who……

  18. castlewalls says:

    Thanks FAMBOOZLED,

    I kind of had the same line of thinking, if the place of business that you call tells you that they will be recording the conversation then we both know that the conversation is being recorded. So I think it should not matter if I also record the conversation, especially when it comes to my money. When the person I was talking to told me that I could not have a copy of our conversation I told him that I kind of figured that would be the response and that is why I also recorded the conversation. He told me that he did not give me permission to record his voice, but I reminded him of the message at the very beginning of the call into that center. This call will be recorded for training purposes. He promptly hung up the phone and told me that he could not do anything for me, but I did the information I wanted which basically boiled down to they can do whatever they want because they are the bank.