Pretty much every problematic customer service story these days includes some reference to the Notes—that unseen record of what you’ve been told, and by inference what you’ve agreed to, on previous calls. The funny thing is, you never get to see them.
The Notes on your account are meaningless to you. In theory, they should provide some institutional memory of your calls, so any CSR can pick up where you and the company last left off. In practice, they’ve taken on the status of sacred text, with call center managers positioning themselves as the high priests and priestesses—after all, only they can see these Notes, and relay the information back to you. The Notes are Law. The Notes are Truth.
Except no, no they’re not. You have no say over the Notes. You can’t even see them to confirm that the correct information was recorded. There’s only one real record of your previous calls, and that’s any audio recording that may have been made. Wait, let’s clarify that: any audio recording that you may have made of the call, since the company will almost certainly not bother to retrieve or share their recordings with you in a future dispute.
On many smartphones, you can install applications that let you record calls. The iPhone has some options if you jailbreak your phone. There are services you can use as well, like RecordMyCalls.com, which I personally don’t like because it requires a subscription as well as per-minute rates, or Google Voice. If you didn’t get a Google Voice membership back when it was GrandCentral, add your email address here to eventually receive an invitation. Refer to the post below to determine how to legally record any customer service calls in your state:
The Notes issue could be resolved if companies would make the notes visible to customers, and give them a way to sign off on them at the end of a call. Yes, it would require additional work on the company’s part to set up a visible “notes” section—but if you can log in and see your latest bill, or receive messages from the company from within your account view, then they’ve already proven they know how to share data with you.
Until that happens, the next time a CSR refers to the Notes, we suggest you politely remind them that you can’t see those notes, you didn’t sign off on them, and you have no idea if the previous CSR actually entered what he said he would. It’s time to let companies know that as long as these fabled Notes are off-limits to customers, they’re off limits in the conversation as well.
(Photo: Eustaquio Santimano)