What Do The Notes On Your Account Really Say?

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:

“Is It Legal To Record My Customer Service Calls?”

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)

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  1. hills says:

    I’m pretty sure the notes on most of my accounts (especially aetna!) say that I’m a stubborn b*tch who won’t take no for an answer….

    • boomersix says:

      @hillsrovey: Testify!

    • YourTechSupport says:

      @hillsrovey: “Stubborn Bitch. Just go take a coffee break. Srsly.”

      • milk says:

        @kingofmars: The last time I used online chat with Sprint, they automatically emailed me a log of our conversation the moment it ended. I thought that was pretty cool. (Never used chat with another company, so I don’t know if that’s SOP.)

    • dave23 says:

      @hillsrovey:
      Elaine: I was looking at my chart [at the doctor's office], and it said that I was difficult. Why would they write that?
      Jerry: They’ve gotten to know you.

      • SirNotAppearing says:

        @dave23: As an auditor, I review charts from time to time. While different doctors use different language, you can usually figure it out when all the patients have a “pleasant disposition” and one patient is referred to as “charming.”

    • bobcatred says:

      @hillsrovey: when I used to work tech support, there were rules about what we could and could not write, since the notes could be subpoenaed in a lawsuit. Most of the “difficult” calls would end up with something like. “Customer was not satisfied with the recommended action” or, if the customer started cursing or calling us names or something like that “Customer was verbally abusive.” The more thorough notetakers would quote the customers.

      I’m sure that there is the occasional phone agent dumb enough to write something like “stubborn bitch,” but I’d be willing to bet most of your notes are a lot less interesting than that.

    • Mike_Hawk says:

      @hillsrovey: I don’t want to know what Aetna has said about me, I ran out of patience with them long ago. Worst insurance I have ever had the misfortune of being stuck with.

  2. hellinmyeyes says:

    When I worked for a call center, we were told to record things as detailed as possible and try to leave out the “mean” stuff unless a customer was being overly ridiculous/obscene (“customer called my mom ‘a flaming bag’ of shit”, etc.) because, one day, that customer would call and ask for the Notes, and we’d be forced to fax or e-mail them to him. A couple times, a customer did call in and say “I’m not sure that I’m getting what I was told I would… Would you e-mail me all the Notes from your database so I can see what’s going on with your rep?” and half-and-half it resulted in the customer getting a rep fired or a customer realizing that he himself is a total dumbass. Or that he calls WAY too much and wastes our time.

    I’m not sure what most companies’ policies state as far as Notes, but ours was to keep them as detailed as possible because one day the customer will ask. I wonder how this varies.

    • hellinmyeyes says:

      @hellinmyeyes: I should add that I do like the idea of some sort of sign-off at the end of conversations to make both the customer and the rep accountable for what was said, but I doubt anything like that would come to fruition.

      Also, I should add that at the company I worked for, they were in the process of creating an online portal so that customers could view their own notes and certain, limited account details to add accountability to the process. I left a number of years ago, and I highly doubt this ever occurred.

    • djmichaelangelo says:

      @hellinmyeyes:

      Did you work for a government agency or a private company? If it’s the latter, people have to realize that normal corporations have no legal obligation to share the “notes” of their conversations with anyone, unless they’re supboenaed (sp?) or forced to in court. Now, if it’s a city/county/state/federal/etc database, you could do a FOIA request to demand the “notes” they have on you. But if I call my cable company and ask them to fax or email me all the notes/comments they have on my account, they can tell me to get bent and be well within their legal rights to do so *lol* The only way private companies should be expected to turn over these “notes” is if there’s a lawsuit and they have to be entered as evidence – any other circumstances, and they’d be considered proprietary company inforation. Anyway, that’s just how I understand it after 6 years of being a paralegal and making FOIA requests from various groups and government entities – somebody please correct me if I’m wrong!

      • hellinmyeyes says:

        @djmichaelangelo: Nah, it was an advertising LLC.

      • samurailynn says:

        @djmichaelangelo: When I worked in collections we were told to keep our notes short but accurate, and completely clean because if there is ever a lawsuit those notes will be read in court. And you don’t really want to go before a judge and read “this customer is a pain in the…”

        • dragonfire81 says:

          @samurailynn: When I worked at the Sprint Call Center, I had a tough time with notes for several reasons for several reasons:

          - Notes were considered the infallible and unquestionable truth. Whatever was in the notes was accepted as fact. I once had a lady call in saying her contract had been extended WITHOUT HER CONSENT, but the notes said she’d agreed to an extension, my Supervisor said this was proof enough the extension was valid and nothing she could say would change his mind. I saw other notes like this too that were apparently flat out lies put in the records by unscrupulous CSRs. I had to violate policy a couple of times and go against what the notes said because I thought it was the right thing to do.

          - I had a penchant for writing – *gasp!* concise but detailed notes explaining a situation as best I could in as short a time as I could. Apparently this was not good enough, they said it was driving by AHT (average length of my CS calls) and to start writing shorter notes. Nevermind one of the major reasons my AHT was running high is because the notes from previous calls were so shoddily written I had to back to the start on almost every issue.

          - The official rule on the notes from out Sprint policy reference was: “Account notes are considered confidential and proprietary information of Sprint and are NEVER to be given or read to customers.”

          - On top of that, I was told by multiple supervisors to NEVER read back notes from previous calls when I was on with a customer. I was allowed to give a “general idea” of what the notes said, but could not read them verbatim.

          I know this is only one company and one call center, but these stupid rules and near complete faith in what the notes said (when oftentimes they were inaccurate if not flat out false) was extremely aggravating. Not shocking I consider this to be, stress wise, the worst job I’ve ever had.

          One last thing I have to say. At least with Sprint, account notes were filled with abbreviations and jargon that only someone that has either worked with Sprint or been in the wireless business would understand. Just because you’d get a copy of your notes doesn’t mean you’d be able to make heads or tails of them.

          • RandaPanda says:

            @dragonfire81: Damn…for a minute I thought I was reading my own recollection from working at AT&T.

            Yeah, the abbreviations were awesome *rolls eyes*. I loved things like this:

            Cst clld in, ask bout int wrls chrg. Advd cst of rate of $1.39 per min. Cst did not seem to undstd chgs. if cst clls bck, do not rfnd chgs, as cst has been advd if all chgs.

            I would sit there for, no joke, 30 seconds or so just trying to decipher the notes. I got fed up with it and only used abbreviations when my notes got too long for the space allotted.

    • Robert M Getch says:

      @hellinmyeyes: I work for a major bank and we are told not to take notes unless absolutely necessary, the only exemption is in the Fraud department because we have our own note system.

      It is more common for customers to yell about us not keeping notes then have someone complain that our notes are wrong. Or should I say “CST UPST NO RMKS”.

    • captainfrizo says:

      @hellinmyeyes: When I worked tech support at Comcast they told us the same thing: the customer can request any notes on their account at any time and we have to provide them. As a result they stressed we didn’t make any judgmental comments on notes. If a customer was clearly pissed we were told to note them as “concerned” over the issue because that phrase can cover a ton of emotions.

      Unless someone was really aggressive or threatening I rarely bother to note anyone as concerned as everyone has a bad day, their service isn’t working, and they just went through 30 automated prompts to get to me. I wouldn’t be too happy at that point either. Other than that, I was noting what the issue was and how I helped fix it or referred elsewhere as needed if the issue wasn’t anything we handle (i.e. a computer not turning on at all).

    • the_wiggle says:

      @hellinmyeyes: actually, that very reason is why we’ve always been told to keep the notes as brief as possible, preferably vowel-less. unless of course “the system” is so obvious that no note is needed.

  3. Anthony Rinaldi says:

    “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.” – I suppose this applies when those notes would be helpful to the customer as well. “Well Mr. Johnson I see where we offered a 10% credit, but since you can’t see the notes we can’t offer that now”.

  4. ThinkerTDM says:

    Excellent advice. I think it would be ok to record the phone call if you hear that recorded voice say that the conversation may be recorded “for quality assurance”. No need to further inform them that you will be recording it.

    • PriceIsWrong says:

      @ThinkerTDM:

      What’s nice about that wording is that it implies consent to record, as well as informing you that they might be recording the call.

    • Ratty says:

      @ThinkerTDM: BOTH parties need to declare intent to one another. It doesn’t give you the right to record and have it legally stand up.

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        @Ratty: Not in all states. On the podcast Legal Lad’s Quick and Dirty Tips they talked about this but the site is blocked at work so I can’t link to the specifics. The gist is that it depends on the laws of the state you are in as to whether both parties or only one need to acknowledge a call is being recorded and give consent.

      • Anonymous says:

        @greggen: @greggen: @Ratty: @Ratty: I’m also not entirely sure the dual consent states require consent in a customer service complaint case. There’s not the same expectation of privacy between the call center agent and customer that evesdropping statutes anticipate. Most recording will be used between the business and customer (so it doesn’t matter whether they can be admitted to court). On top of that, can you imagine the bad PR a company would get for pursuing evesdropping charges against a customer who taped their customer service complaints??

  5. kingofmars says:

    I hadn’t thought about using google voice. That couldve saved me a lot of trouble with t-mobile, wells Fargo, etc.
    Another option is to use the customer chat service that some companies provide. A simple cut and paste and you have a record of what was said. Of course this works with email as well. Not everythig can be resolved this way, but it is an option.

    • Paul Hibbard says:

      @kingofmars: TWC’s tech chat won’t let you copy and paste. And the wont email it to you if they say something that could get them in trouble. Thats why I get screen shots of the convo. TWC sucks but I have gotten so many free months of service out of them because of my records and such. I just wish I could get a job as a TWC “tech analyst”. the don’t know crap and do nothing to help but tell you what number to call, then disconnect you when you prove them wrong about something. But hey I’ve had them for 6 months and only paid for about 2 and a half months worth.

  6. Jason Rouse says:

    I always find it frustrating when I have to call back to a call center or get transferred to another department and have to start over at square one with what my “issue” is. I don’t understand why reps can’t take better notes to make things easier on the consumer.

    • dulcinea47 says:

      @Jason Rouse: Oh, I know why. It’s because they’re either stupid, or don’t give a crap, or both. That’s what you get for ten bucks an hour.

      When I worked for a call center, lots of times people either didn’t bother to make the notes they were supposed to make, or whatever they wrote was inaccurate or insufficient. So even if you’re lucky and get someone who really wants to help you the next time you call, they don’t have the relevant information.

    • David Brodbeck says:

      @Jason Rouse: I also hate it when an automated system asks me to put in my account number/service code/etc., and then when I finally get to the CSR, they ask me for it again. What was the point of having me put it in to begin with if that information didn’t go into the system? Comcast and Dell are both terrible that way.

      • jhurley03 says:

        @David Brodbeck: The rep asks for it again for security purposes. When you correctly enter your number through the automated system it pulls up your account, but the rep has to confirm that you are actually the account holder.

  7. Andrea Viera says:

    I worked in customer service for a large timeshare company where we recorded notes when dealing with customers over the phone or in person.

    We had certain guidelines when writing the notes, because although a majority of the customers never even knew they had notes written about them, should a legal case arise then the notes can be used as evidence in court. Therefore, we were not allowed to show opinions in the notes, no matter how stupid the customer was. We were required to use “irate” instead of “rude”, and would get written up if we expressed any signs of opinions or getting offended in notes, because each note had our username and timestamp permanently affixed.

    Fark you “irate” timeshare owners!

    • Anonymous says:

      @Andrea Viera: This is particularly interesting because the words “rude” and “irate” have two totally different meanings. I can be rude without being irate and vise versa. Tricky.

    • trujunglist says:

      @Andrea Viera:

      Admissible as evidence in court? Yeeeeahhh, I don’t think so. I could just write a bunch of crap down on a computer and say it’s true as well, doesn’t necessarily make it so.

      • Andrea Viera says:

        @trujunglist: We had used the notes in addition to recorded calls and supervisors as witnesses. If something major happened when we were speaking to someone face-to-face, we were required to report it to the supervisors asap so they were aware of the situation and were required to write notes saying that they witnessed the incident and their version of the story. The system was set up so that once the notes were submitted, there was no way for them to be edited or deleted. So in combination with the recorded calls and supervisor witnesses, it was often used in court as solid evidence.

        If we were found to be writing false notes, we would immediately be fired with no defending ourselves.

        Since we were the highest paid entry-level department of the company ($11/hr while still in high school, I was making $14/hr when I was 18), it was SO not worth it to write false notes.

  8. surgio says:

    NOte sare used mostly to communicate what was told to the customer , so the customer cant call back and say they were told 1 thing when they in fact werent. That being said, you get more flies with honey. Im a CRS and when you call me, if you are polite on the ohone and I think you are honest I will do my best to give you whatever you need, even if its not my companies fault. However, If you swear and try to bully your way into getting what you want, I gaurantee Ill do my best to make sure you dont get it, even if it is our fault.

    • opsomath says:

      @surgio: See, this is the trouble with interfacing with a company through a CSR…if they don’t like you, they feel like they have the right to try to screw you over, even if “it is their fault.” That’s just wrong. If I’m owed a refund or something, I am owed it even if I am a mean, rude person.

      • Robert M Getch says:

        @opsomath: As a CSR I will help rude persons or happy ones, but I will go the extra mile for the happy person, I will look and find “loop holes” where I could refund a fee or two, and save people $100’s. If your going to be rude be sure I’ll give you the bare minimum and you are going to need to make a perfect case to prove that we did something wrong.

        • opsomath says:

          @Robert M Getch: Fair enough…it’s one thing to not go out of your way to help someone who’s being an ass. It’s another wholly to deliberately defraud one.

    • SteelersAreGo says:

      @surgio: You’re not a judge, you’re not a jury. Your job is not to levy justice unto those who call your company. If you can’t do your job as a professional, find another.

    • Reginald2 says:

      @surgio: I have been on both sides of the phone. Customer service is super stressful. Occasionally, you have to do what you know is wrong for the sake of policy. Sometimes you have to admit defeat in front of supervisors to do what seems right. It is always easier to go with the company. Somehow, it is always easier when others are doing it; it is easier when someone you don’t know makes a decision and “corporate” or “the customer” made the call.

  9. razremytuxbuddy says:

    Questioning this practice is long overdue. Several times I’ve asked for a copy of the ‘notes’ to be sent to me, and of course have been refused every time.

    Once at a wireless store I walked around behind the sales rep and started reading over her shoulder as she reviewed and typed notes on her computer.

    Another time I walked into the cell phone store with a mini-recorder in my hand, in plain sight. It wasn’t even set to record, but it had the desired effect. I was treated fairly on that particular visit.

  10. Danny Babin says:

    I work for a major ISP in Canada and notes are nothing to be afraid of. 90% of them are about changes made to your account and business stuff. When your a prick we simply note that you are a difficult customer. My company has a policy that if a customer wants to see his account we can give the information requested.

  11. slickdealer says:

    This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine tried to get access to her medical file at her doctor. She kept getting busted trying to read it and kept switching doctors but her file kept magically following her around.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @slickdealer: “Difficult!?”

      • floraposte says:

        @Shadowman615: In real life the medical code seems to be the absence of “pleasant.” If you’re just “a man” or “a woman,” rather than “a pleasant man” or “a pleasant woman,” you’re officially a jackass.

        Though I do know of somebody who was “a delightful woman” in her medical records. That’s a bit much.

  12. Mike Ingold says:

    Sort-of on-topic: I’m an authorized user on my fiance’s Hollywood Video card. One day I was renting a video, the girl at the desk laughs and says, “did you know on the account information you’re listed as ‘a booty call’?” Suffice it to say that I was not amused.

  13. I_am_Awesome says:

    “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.”

    That’s just stupid. The most frequent problem we hear about when someone deals with multiple CSRs is that a CSR told them something and didn’t record it in the notes. How is it going to benefit you to refuse to use the notes that don’t contain what you think they should contain? The notes on your account are not intended to be a comprehensive list of everything that is said, so they can’t say that if it wasn’t in the notes it wasn’t said.

    You’ve given no good reason for refusing to accept the use of these notes. You’ll be inconveniencing yourself by having to start fresh with every new CSR, and to what end?

    Recording your conversations legally is the only worthwhile suggestion here. I think it’d be interesting to hear how these miscommunications occur.

    • YourTechSupport says:

      @I_am_Awesome: Also, don’t /TELL/ the techs that you’re recording the conversation or plan to start. It doesn’t help anything. One time I told a customer to go ahead and start and i’ll review his case history of pass harrassment calls. I even gave him Ben’s email address to no avail.

    • greggen says:

      @I_am_Awesome: If something is NOT in the notes that does not prove the previous CSR did not say it. Do not allow companies to offer this ‘evidence’ as proof that you were not promised this or that.

      I spent 45 minutes a couple months ago trying to verify my issue was in the DitrcTV notes. Had a rep read back what they wrote, called back and asked another rep to read what the previous CSR wrote… Was trying to document problems with their service tech. Was unsuccessful. ..

  14. Anonymous says:

    THE BEST EVER is when you pull up someones acct and it’s filled with YOUR NOTES OF PAIN AND SUFFERING.

    That’s when it’s best to fall on the phone and mistakenly disconnect the call.

  15. YourTechSupport says:

    At an old company we had a hidden field on each account labled Tag Code. It would have colors similar to the old terror alert system. Green = Reasonable. Red = Send to Retention Automatically.

    • floraposte says:

      @YourTechSupport: Heh. I knew a library where they would code relevant claims of patron-lost books with LLPOF–“Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

      • Garbanzo says:

        @floraposte: I worked at a temp agency where we would write “IP” on someone’s file to stand for “impossible person”. It was awarded for infractions such as not showing up for a job because they “didn’t feel like getting up early”or sexually harassing a coworker. Once someone got labelled IP they would never, ever get another job placement through our agency.

  16. RandomMutterings says:

    For those that wish to record their calls (and save money on calls) you could look into a software-PBX solution such as Asterisk — provided you have a broadband internet connection. There are free versions such as PBX-in-a-Flash (nerdvittles.com) and Trixbox. These are cheaper than other services (e.g., Vonage) and provide all the same services.

    I now record ALL calls (made or received) and have a friendly web access portal to them. I don’t worry about where the recordings are stored, because they are stored on my PC. Oh, and my “phone service” (including multiple local numbers and toll-free calls, voicemail, callerID, etc.) costs me about $5 (yes, $5) month, plus a few dollars of calls at around $0.02/minute. International calls cost about the same, except to mobile numbers.

  17. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    It would be nice if a company like DELL used notes.

    Oh, how often I’ve called with an issue with my computer or warranty, to go through the whole story with one rep, who turns out to be the “operator” and transfers me (after verifying all my account information, so they did pull up my record) to the “correct department” who could help me…

    Only to start telling the issue again, and being told I need to be transferred to another department…

    Start the story of my issue from square one, only to find out I’ve been forwarded to the “operator” again, who will have to transfer me, and does so…

    Then to tell my story again, to find out I’ve been transferred to the same place that couldn’t help me, and being transferred to the right department….

    To tell my story again, from scratch, only to find out that I’m with the “Operator” again, and they will have to transfer me.

    DO you see where I’m going here?

    Oh how nice it would be if they used notes.

    When I call Dell, the first thing they play on the phone is “WELCOME TO DELL”

    What I hear is “WELCOME TO HELL”

    • SynMonger says:

      @Dooley: Uh huh… I used to get this constantly when I did phone tech support for Dell. We had a list of account codes we could support, if after pulling yours up you weren’t on the list, you got transferred. Most common cause for this? Not putting in your express service code so the phone system can route your call.

      Second most common cause for this? Dell’s crappy routing system.

  18. krispykrink says:

    I record all important calls to any CSR. Since I live in CA and must have consent from the other end, as long as they infer that they are recording or monitoring, that is consent for me to record. It’s paid off in the past when I had a clusterfrak with BoA. I played back the recording and got results PDQ. I’m probably listed in their notes as NSA or something.

    • Kaellorian says:

      @krispykrink: I wouldn’t count on their admission of possibly recording a call as acquiescence to your recording of it. For general dispute purposes it may be ok, but most states require explicit consent for it to be disseminated – especially in a judicial proceeding.

      • econobiker says:

        @Kaellorian: I liked the notify wording used by Difdi at the last posting in the linked ’07 article about recording calls:
        “I live in Washington State and the way I do it, is the first thing I say, before even giving my name, is something like “Since I live in a 2-party consent state, and I don’t want anyone to fall victim to felony wiretap charges, I give my consent that this call may be recorded.” IANAL, but I do believe that would meet the test for two-party notification, since their recorded message says they may be recording, and I’ve just notified them that the call may be recorded (though using a somewhat different definition of the word ‘may’). “

    • Ratty says:

      @krispykrink: No, it is not consent for you to record them. You need to tell them and get their consent.

  19. YourTechSupport says:

    “Customer called demanding we give them free month’s service because they downloaded Party Animal Poker using our connection and are now buried in pop-ups. Customer was calling over Vonage at the time. Customer’s network link was, in fact, compromised for approximately 90 seconds, call lost.”

  20. bonzombiekitty says:

    When I worked tech support, we had a notes section that a “customer” (it was internal corporate support) could see if they checked on their ticket on our website. We also had a private notes section that the customer could not see. We used the latter to say things like “customer has an an incredibly hard time understanding even simple concepts, so talk slowly to him”.

    Of course, this was for internal corporate tech support for a large pharma company, not a company open up to the public. Also, the customer had no say over what was in the notes.

    • humphrmi says:

      @bonzombiekitty: And of course the company was located in the Caymans, so subpoenas issued by US judges didn’t apply? Oh man I’d LOVE to be the lawyer reading some of those “private” notes in front of a judge and jury.

  21. YourTechSupport says:

    Also a handy tip “ID10T” or “Idaho Delta Ten Tango” as we’d infer to our field units. Is, in fact, a diagnostic troubleshooting code that concisely indicates the nature of a problem. If you see this on record you obtain, the problem is usally, in fact, on your end.

  22. wildhare says:

    Any time I am talking with a CSR I sometimes ask them if they are even checking the notes and they pretend they have no idea what I am talking about.

  23. North Antara says:

    My notes with Chase from October explain in detail what I needed to do to fix a recent tax issue.

    Of course, the rep decided not to actually tell me any of this, and now it’s costing me several hundred dollar per month. Asking people to read your notes to you on a follow up call is sometimes very useful.

  24. wildhare says:

    Also for recording calls, if you use just a regular land line, there is a handy suction cup device that you can plug into your computer or a tape recorder (as a mic) and it picks up the electromagnetic audio of the incoming speaker. Very handy.

  25. wildhare says:

    [www.radioshack.com]

    p.s. sorry for multiple posts.

  26. HawkWolf says:

    as a customer service rep for a small company, we keep notes and have never had to give them to anyone (or been asked to.) They usually just have notes about exchanges or refunds or a standing credit for the future. Problem customers get an entry, which is usually, “major pain in the butt.” Sometimes, it is, “The user started screaming profanity at me.” If one of those users wanted the notes, I assume telling them that they scream profanity would just make them scream some more profanity.

  27. Jeff McRae says:

    I used to work at one of the super-hated credit card companies. 99.9% of account notes are boring and useless, auto-notes put in by the system. There is no nefarious customer gossip going on underneath your nose.

    Recording calls is useless too. I would never believe a customer who tried to push an audio recording of a promise they felt a company didn’t keep. With all of the audio editing software these days…

  28. Ninjanice says:

    Actually, most cell phones (not just smartphones) have a record feature on them. It’s usualy enabled by pressing and holding down the voice dial button or speakerphone button on most models. It records your conversatins while the phone is in use and voice memos when it isn’t on a call. Some regular phones have a decent amount of memory on them, so you can record for quite a long time. Just check you phone first to be sure you’ll have enough memory available to record the call. And I have actually told CSRs that the call is being recorded for quality assurance.

  29. ma3145tt says:

    I’m sure after my last call to AimCo about renewing my lease at a $200 increase when the market rate has dropped $110 will cause a big red flag on my account.

  30. chrisjames says:

    This article is wrong. Every customer service call I’ve ever made has been accompanied by detailed notes, and I know for a fact that they carry over from one call to the next. In fact, I can see the notes right now if I want. There they are, on a pad on my desk.

    Account notes mean little on either end. Nothing that transpired before means anything. It’s all just a record of verbal agreements, which means that as long as one side is keeping notes, it’s viable (when viable). You could “sign off” on any company-held notes, and the managers would still deny them: “We can’t see those notes once they’re in the system,” “We had a server crash that erased only customer notes, and probably only your notes”–see it’s easy. So keep your own.

    The verbal agreements aren’t always enforceable, and recordings are, of course, better than just taking your word, but taking your own notes is far more useful than letting someone on the other end maybe scribble that you’re an asshole on a sticky note with your name and SSN. Don’t forget, even to get access to their notes, you have to escalate pretty high up, at which point they’re more willing to listen to your side of the story anyway. Plus, a lawyer–if this is one of those rare times that your issue is likely to need legal action–a lawyer is going to want a written account of what happened, and your notes are always as good as your word.

    Bottom line: keep your own notes.

    (I did like the article, really)

    • floraposte says:

      @chrisjames: I think this is good advice. I’ve been noting who I’ve talked to and the time, as well as the gist of the conversation, but it’s easy enough to document steps, offers, etc. as well. I’m going to try this approach.

  31. Ben_Q2 says:

    I tell people “I’m Wetwired” they have no idea what it means and they go on. I have used my stuff a number of times. In every case I told them along with their boss they did not say anything about not doing it. In truth no one really knows what I’m talking about and if they do they think its ScfFi and they think I am making it up.

    • floraposte says:

      @Ben_Q2: I don’t know what it means either–or at least, it sounds like you’re not meaning the term as I’d use it. What do you mean?

      (I suspect it doesn’t count as consent to a recording if they don’t know what you mean, though.)

      • Ben_Q2 says:

        @floraposte:

        IE: if your talking to me in person or over the phone. You are being tape audio and video. If you are talking to me over the phone, auto only. If you have signs up that tell/said “NO” then do not let me in (I can walk into courts but the courtrooms)and do not talk to me.

        I’m a person nightmare in real life. Yes it does count as consent. Most people have a idea what the word mean. If you do not know what a word is or the meaning you should ask. I tell people but they all think I’m nuts.

        • George Stankow says:

          @Ben_Q2: “Yes it does count as consent.” No, it doesn’t. Not any more than if you mumbled.

          “Most people have a idea what the word mean.” No, they don’t.

          “If you do not know what a word is or the meaning you should ask.” Do you know the difference between the word “should” and the words “are legally required to”? I’ll tell you — one of them means “are legally required to,” and the other means “should.”

          “Consent” doesn’t include you nodding absently at some guy throwing a random combination of words at you when you have no reasonable expectation that he has just said that he is recording you. If you’re holding up a camera or a microphone, then there may be a reasonable interpretation that your jargony collection of syllables should be further explained. Not so much if you’re stepping up to the counter at Starbucks.

          Imagine if you were arrested and the officer gave you your Miranda warning in Albanian. Think you’ll be able to have your confession overturned? Bet your ass you will. Consent includes understanding.

          • Ben_Q2 says:

            @George Stankow:

            Been doing this for years (till 10 years ago only audio, and no word).

            I really do not care if someone knows what the word means or not. I do it to stop people from talking to me. To many times I have been burn by just saying “Hello”.

            Sure people do not like it, but do you think its fair that they can tape you and you cannot tape them?

            Last week I had a problem with something I order. They where not going to fix what they did wrong till I start the tape of the phone call.

  32. quail says:

    When dealing with important calls like warranty claims, discussions with lawyers, billing disputes, and the like I’d always take my own paper notes. (A trick taught me by a lawyer by the way.) I’d detail as much as possible, read back any numbers I was given to be assured what I wrote was correct. And I always was sure to be polite to whomever I spoke with.

    Only a few times did a company not hold up their end of some bargain hammered out over the phone. In those instances, my notes were what allowed me to persuade a supervisor to correct things in my favor. (These notes and the proof of it being your habit in these circumstances is admissible in court.)

  33. David Brodbeck says:

    Speakeasy, my ISP, lets me see the notes on my trouble tickets and even add my own.

    They have the best tech support I’ve ever dealt with. They’re knowledgeable, they don’t assume I’m an idiot, and their first-line phone support people are empowered to actually run tests and fix problems.

  34. Anonymous says:

    At the company i work for we were told to be polite in the notes because the customer can request them at any time and we have to provide them by fax or mail. None of the notes are ever deleted, we have notes for every customer going back to when they started their services, even the customers or accounts that are no longer active.

  35. Megan Squier says:

    I used to work fraud prevention for a credit card bank and although I was usually on the side of the customer I did occasionally hide PITA in the comments on accounts.

    Those were the cases where someone claimed fraud when they CLEARLY STATED that they loaned their credit card to a family member or friend and then decided to say that the person made fraudulent charges to the account. They’d go all nuts on me when I denied the claim.

    Sorry, if you let cousin Larry borrow your credit card its not fraud because you clearly let him use it. Unless you want to file a criminal complaint against him, we can’t do anything. Take it to Judge Judy if you want your money back!

    It also serves them right for not getting a better story. If you’re going to go that far, you might as well tell a whole lie.

    Fraud is for charges you have no knowledge of, like if your card is lost or stolen. Not because your idiot son went crazy with your credit card after you told him he could only buy school books with it. Its assumed that the customer is aware of the risk when handing the card to a family member :):)

  36. skloon says:

    I always like taking notes and trying to make the point clear yet non offensive, I saw one note on a client that indicated she was ‘nuttier than a fruitcake’ I prefer to quote examples such as ” Client indicates Alex Trebec broke into her house and stole her shoes, requests home equity loan to replace, denied due to lack of security- as she is a renter” it gets the point across without being nasty, plus a good chuckle or two.

  37. ExCCRep says:

    Something that most people do need to be aware of, at least in dealing with credit card companies, is that if a rep thinks there is any chance you are recording the calls, they will disconnect you, after asking you to stop.

    That was a very hard and fast rule at both CC companies I worked at.

  38. momma_andrea says:

    Don’t depend on the Notes section to record anything for you. Keep your own detailed notes including dates and names of people you talked to. In my case, I got a great deal on a U-Haul storage unit combined with a truck. (Thanks Memorial Road location in OKC!) This deal was jotted in the Notes section. I called and talked to Mike, the manager, to ask a question about my pick up and time and he saw the notes apparently. Only my deal was too good to be true and when I went in to pick up the truck (with my stuff all packed and closing the next day) suddenly the notes on my account were deleted. Oops… So Mike called Teresa who made my reservation and began the call by saying, “I have a customer here who said you told her…and I know you would never do that because that is too good of a deal, right?” I wound up pitching a fit and getting a slightly better deal than full price, but I still didn’t get the promised deal.

  39. corinthos says:

    I never left unprofessional stuff in notes because we were told if there was a subpeona then they would be public. I don’t usually put anything other than the customer issue in the notes unless they are trying to do something potentionally fraudulent or there seems to be a trend of them getting credits every month.

  40. lele says:

    we use spoofcard at my business. its very cheap and easy to use.

    i record phone calls to and from lawyers and there are only a few states that require you to notify the caller that the call is being recorded. usually as long as one party knows the call is being recorded, the call is legal.

  41. amccoll says:

    At the cable company I work at, we use the notes in two ways. One is to document how we fixed the connectivity or phone issue, and also how the customer acted if they were difficult. If the customer listened to the instructions and didn’t pitch a fit over every little thing we said the notes are very, very boring. However, if the customer says “Any female who gets in my way will be smite by the hand of God” (true story, got that call last week) that generally gets jotted down so future reps know they’re dealing with a nut.

  42. johnsakalauskas says:

    I was a vendor’s customer and years later as an employee I had access to that vendor’s ticketing system. It was fascinating to read notes added by the CSRs years earlier. Everything I read was pleasant and professional. Remembering the issues and circumstances for the calls, it gave me a much better appreciation later of how to listen to customer’s issues and how transcribe them accurately for my colleagues.

  43. Sherwood Vaillancourt says:

    You’d be surprised what some of the ‘notes’ say. When I was at the now defunct MBNA you could type anything the customer said so long as it was in quotes.

    You’d see a lot of ellipses and pieces of rants, just to give the next rep a heads up on what a @#$%^& you may have been.

  44. Frank Murphy says:

    Is there a way to opt of getting your call reported?

  45. Bs Baldwin says:

    I show customers when I put notes on an account concerning actions that they want to be taken on their account, (eg: ask for password, call customer when checks are presented to be cashed, spouse does not have access to account, etc). When we put notes on an account we don’t put everything on there like the profanity used at us or anything that slanders the customer because it can requested at a later time. Putting customer is mean or dumb is not enough, putting a paragraph of the situation cya.

  46. Darkpumpkin says:

    During my time off from college, I briefly worked at an outsourced call center. We were reps for an electric company in Texas. We were required to document on the account if the customer was hostile, used foul language or was generally uncooperative. If the customer threatened the technician (as in, “If he doesn’t come reconnect me by 5 pm, then I will sic my dog on him and greet him with a shotgun.” ~ verbatim quote right there) we were required to immediately track down a supervisor who would pipe in to the call. We were then supposed to try to get the customer to repeat what he/she said.

    Me: “I am sorry sir, what was that you said?” Nine times out of ten, an irate customer had no qualms repeating it. The call would then be recorded and documented and the supervisor would warn the techs and alert the police.

    There were several customers whose accounts had warnings to techs about severely hostile customers as well as dogs. Sometimes, at least two techs would have to go to the home. Most of the time, it was left up to the discretion of the tech and if he didn’t feel safe, he didn’t have to reconnect them at all. And the customers who called up irate wanting their power restored, well I promise you techs made sure they were always the last ones who were reconnected.

  47. KenJason says:

    As a rep for a drug store chain, the call center I work at provides phone support for the stores. We provide a website that the store can use to look up their current and past trouble tickets, including all the documentation from the troubleshooter. Abbreviations are a no-no, and we are reminded constantly that the stores can read our documentation.

    While they aren’t customers in the traditional sense (since they are really coworkers in the same company) we try to treat them as such.

  48. Thunderdome says:

    I work in a call center for a non profit and there’s a way that we can “accidentally” add notes that the customer can see if they log into their account. We’re not suppose to put the “notes” in that particular field, but people do it, then customers log in and see, “likes to be called Bob” on their profile.

    On an unrelated note, my sis works for a bank. I over-drafted a few times there and then called in and bitched someout out. She told me to stop calling because the notes were out of control and it was making her look back. Basically the notes said not to ever waive an over-draft charge, and that I was a dick.

  49. organizedhome says:

    Here’s a little lagniappe I discovered when hearing loss meant I had to move to a captioned phone: when companies KNOW that a written record is being made, I seem to get much better results.

    The way my phone works, a captioner listens on the line and types only my caller’s responses–and a written record is generated that I can access from my phone or from a computer.

    Being a fair sort, I will disclose this whenever I have a truly gnarly issue with a company. Something along the lines of, “I just need you to know that I’m hard-of-hearing and using a captioned telephone. This means there may be a short delay answering your questions, as I need to wait for the captioner to catch up to what you’ve said.”

    What I’ve noticed is that customer service calls have gotten MUCH more satisfactory. I get help, get it faster, and get it more pleasantly than in the past.

    Something about KNOWING that there is another person listening–and transcribing the conversation–seems to level the playing field. Most notably, my recent contacts with the dreaded Dish Network have reached new levels of helpfulness and speed since moving to captioning.

    Now to get this capability for everyone …