Every week, I enjoy William Safire's column, On Language, from the New York Times. This week, he discusses the term "quality assurance-purposes", as it is used in the little "on hold" messages to tell you your call will be recorded.
Qualassurepurp - New York Times:
"Your perusal of this column ''may be monitored for quality-assurance purposes.''
That's from the recorded announcement we hear over the phone more often than any other. The frequency of the transmission of those bland-sounding words is greater than the ever-maddening ''please hold'' or the plaintive message from college, ''Send money.'' Who coined this oleaginous and misleading monitoring message, and when?
According to Brad Cleveland, boss of Incoming Calls Management Institute, ''The first use of for quality-assurance purposes was likely AT&T ('Ma Bell') in the early 1980's.'' He adds, ''There are 75,000 to 100,000 call centers in the U.S., handling around 32 billion calls annually, so these announcements are getting a lot of air time.''
Eran Gorev, president of NICE Systems, which claims to be the leading supplier of computer systems for call monitoring, agrees that what he calls ''quality recording'' began about 20 years ago. He says it was a response to the needs of business ''to be responsive with customer service,'' but he's frank about an underlying purpose: ''From a legal standpoint, if you accept the disclaimer by staying on the line, you are forfeiting your privacy rights. The recorded conversation then becomes the property of the service provider.''
But just what is a quality-assurance purpose? That omnipresent phrase has a happy, upbeat ring, as if the recorded disclaimer is protecting the caller from snarling employees or static on the line. Who could object to an assurance of quality? In reality, I think it means ''We're spying on our workers so we can have legal grounds to fire them if they make any wild promises'' or ''We're recording your call to use your words against you in court if you dare to sue us, claiming you said 'buy' instead of 'sell.' ''..."
In Canada, under PIPEDA, you actually have to be more specific than that. One of the hallmarks of this law is that you have to clearly indentify the purposes for which information is being collected. Many companies in Canada are how reciting "this call may be monitored and recorded for record-keeping, training and quality-assurance purposes."