Learning Uruguay

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Telecomuting for technicians

Posted by urufish on September 21, 2007


This is a short little post tonight about an interesting little twist that we’re implementing in the next 2 weeks..   Adds another dimension to those of us in the technical world, working thousands of miles away from the sites we support….

One of my responsibilities is making sure the devices that report back to our facilities in Canada and the USA work 100% of the time.  These devices are similar to those swipe machines used with your credit or ATM cards.  Imagine how many swipes there are every day in the USA?  Mind boggling.  We dont do swipe machines.  But it’s similar.  A couple of hundred thousand of them chattering away 24/7 and they’re supposed to accurately transmit the information without fail. 

So what happens when they dont do that?  When they dont work.  Well, when I worked in the core processing facility, I could flick a switch and scope (when you do it enough, you can just listen.. but it sounds better–like Fubarrio’s multi-zero’s money transfer post) it and go, well this is the problem.  But that’s not possible when you’re telecommuting.  So we’ve decided to record all those calls, just like voice calls, and when I need to find out why something didn’t work, I transfer the recording of the call down here and scope it locally. 

The point is that if you break out the components of many jobs, even tech support that required physical presence to see or listen to something, you can probably build solutions to each of them that works with a remote employee.  Remoting extensions, remote access to computer systems (Citrix, TS), VoIP are ‘blue sky’ fixes that cover the major elements of working remotely.. but I am a firm believer that most (if not all), jobs can eventually be done from a remote office or even home. 

Once Uruguay gets real broadband… like we have back home, a lot more possibilities will open up for us telecommuters down here. 


10 Responses to “Telecomuting for technicians”

  1. Ant said

    Tell me about it… Again… a topic very close to my heart…

  2. JP said

    “Once Uruguay gets real broadband”

    That’ll be a miracle!!!!!

  3. Ant said



  4. urufish said

    I’m taking a stab at your comment Ant. You’re either asking me if the URL above is the correct one for the logo or you’re asking about the relevance of it….
    If door #1, you’re right… That is VPI, Voice Print International. That used to be their name when I first hooked up with them, but now they’ve gone international. Initials solves the language problems. That’s not why I called our company API when it was formed (hahahaha).. other reasons 🙂

    We’re in the life safety business… have a lot of contacts in the 911 sector. VPI was their preference. We followed their advice.

    It’s a neat little product. For instance, when a call is finished, whether it’s taken at head office or somewhere else on the planet by one of our staff, even me sitting here in Montevideo, the call is tagged to the customer’s database back in Toronto. If I want to confirm something that was purportedly said in a conversation any time in the future, I go to the account, go to voice records page, click on the date/time entry for that call and voila, there it is.

    This is a very important facility to have for some companies. I had friends in the gas business in Canada and the UK. When deregulation came along, they setup companies to resell gas to customers. They would telemarket people. They took orders over the phone. The incumbent gas companies got creamed in the process. So they fought back. Customers often said they had no idea they had switched. No problem. Go to the customer’s record, click the initial sales call and voila, there’s the ‘verbal contract’.

    Living here in Montevideo, I have to chuckle when I think of something like that. Here we’re in a place where the possibility of a contract being null/void exists because someone writes and initials something on a contract. Would be very interesting to see how the courts here would deal with a recorded contract.

  5. Ant said

    You have answered my question(s). Thank you. You had the logo on the blog, but there was no direct reference to it any where. This piqued my interest…

    I would also assume that it actually serves the purpose of a warning in advance when you call a customer service help desk. The message “Your call will be monitored for quality assurance and training purposes”. This would make abuse (from either side, the customer or the support staff) less likely.
    I knew such solutions existed, but I did not know of any providers. Their website provides some background.

  6. urufish said

    Because I’ve been using voice logging, (call recording) for the past 20 years, I’ve built up quite a knowledge base that includes some (to me anyway) really interesting things..
    For instance, if the message says your call will be ‘monitored’, it could be argued that you aren’t being warned it is being recorded. Years ago, and to some extent today, some companies live monitor calls to their service desks by supervisors who are either looking at a particular employee or simply spend an hour or two per day, in random QC.

    If the announcement states the above or says your call may be recorded for quality assurance and/or training purposes, that’s it. The recording cant be used for any other purpose.. I’ll give you an example.

    You call a company to order something. You hear the above recording. The order taker takes your order and tells you there’s no money back guarantee. You agree. You change your mind. The company states that you ordered it fully knowing there was no money back guarantee. You say you either a) never ordered it or b) no one told you there was no money back guarantee.

    The company sues you, relying on the recording to prove their assertions. Hopefully, you have an intelligent lawyer who plays the disclaimer to the court: ‘this call may be recorded for quality assurance/training purposes. He says this disclaimer does not include the use of the recording for purposes other than those two, and neither of them permit the tape to be used in court. Remember that in many states and provinces, (recording of conversations is a state matter), BOTH parties must be aware that the call is being recorded. That’s the criminal side. But from a litigation side, the purposes of that recording must be made clear or the other person hasn’t given consent. Use of a recording without consent isn’t going to fly. The judge throws out the recording telling the company that if they want to use recordings for that purpose, they have to advise the customer in advance.

    If you’re going to record a call, speaking from my years of experience, your warning say as little as possible and includes as much as possible. For instance, you could try ‘this call is being recorded for security purposes’. You dont want to say this call is being protected for ‘your’ security’.. Since the company’s main reason for recording that call is for their own protection.

  7. urufish said

    oops. forgot to answer your question Ant… In our organization (and most), the warning recording comes from either an addon product to the PBX or from the Voicemail system. Initially, we had this addon product play it’s introduction message first… I believe when we moved to our new, integrated VM system, we load the warning in there…

    Products like VPI sit outside the PBX, and for security purposes, usually have nothing to do with it. In a larger organization likes ours, where everything incoming is on PRI’s, (23 synthesized voicelines per PRI), the VPI sits passively on the PRI, simply monitoring what’s going on.

    That is how we record conversations in Uruguay, Chile and all across Canada and the USA. The calls start on the PRI’s in Toronto and get distributed over IP to the rest of the world. But all the conversations still flow through that ‘gateway’.. the PRI’s in Toronto.

    More sophisticated products also record the extensions themselves. This allows companies to monitor calls between staff in addition to the outside world.

    Did you know that many police in the US prefer to talk to each other and make other business calls over their cell phones (usually provided by the PD). Those calls aren’t recorded by the PD 🙂

  8. Ant said

    Hmm… I did not know that about the USPDs.
    I have never heard the message “This call may be recorded for security reasons.” What you say makes sense from the legal angle, but the only kinds of messages I have encountered back home or while making calls to the US have dealt with QA / training.

    If the company started recording calls between extensions… wouldn’t that lead to too much data, especially if it were a large company? For example, a company with 50,000 employees working around the clock… That would mean millions (50K * 120 min per person per day?) of minutes of recorded conversations. That would be over a TB of data per day (compressed at 32 kbps)…

  9. urufish said

    If you ever get the opportunity, call a brokerage that takes xactions by voice authorization… or a security alarm company.. I’m sure some of them still state qc and training. That’s because there hasn’t been an industry reported super claim yet. These things take time to come to trial. I remember the one on training because it was a major bank involved but the award was small.. like 25K. Hardly made the news, but I read stuff like that. Of course that bank, and its competitors changed their message.. but it didn’t make it beyond them.

    You’d be surprised what companies will do. I know of a few that are recording over 6000 channels at one time… about 4500 of those are extensions. Some bosses are totally paranoid about what’s being talked about within the organization. I know of an incident where a person was fired for making racist comments about a muslim co-worker to a coworker on another floor.

    If you think that’s invasive, try on this one. All of our operations staff are not only voice recorded, they’re also video recorded. All verbal and visual activity is 24/7 recorded in our ops centre. Every corner of the room, daylight or nightlights, (infrared).

    All staff know this… It’s for their protection as well as ours. They sign an agreement.

    Well, one morning I came in and I was told I should look at last night’s tape.
    There were 3 people working nights, 8pm to 8am.

    Around 11pm, one of them gets up and disconnects a monitor (there are monitors that are hung so ops staff can watch the driveways, streets, roof, etc of the building). He pulls out a Sony Playstation, plugs it into the monitor and for the next hour or so, the 2 guys (there are 2 guys and a girl on this shift), are playing, jumping up and down, while the girl is doing the work of the 2 guys.

    They all go back to work for a while.. About 2am.. they switch on a movie.. I guess they brought a VCR or DVD player with them. One of them snoozes off, head back, legs sprawled out, facing away from his keyboard.

    Now here comes the good part. One of them walks over to the girl and they both slide down under the desk out of view. About 25 minutes later, they appear and both take off for an hour.. out to the parking lot probably, (I didn’t bother following them through the building). During this entire time, the other guy is working like mad, doing the work of these 2. Around 6:30, they all, as if on queue, clean everything up. Hook the monitor backup. Sit at their desks, hunched over the keyboards, typing like crazy. Around 6:45, in walks the shift manager. They all wave.. He waves back.

    That evening, my manager stays and calls them into his office one by one. He says nothing, just plays the tape. First the Playstation tape and then the racier one. I hear he never asked them how they could be so stupid.. I figure it’s human nature. After so many weeks or months of being on camera, people forget all about it.

    Did we fire them?

  10. Ant said

    🙂 X 10

    No comment.

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