Copyright David Lawson - Property Week 2004
Hollywood legend Sam Goldwyn, once reminded a star to whom he had promised a part that ‘a verbal contract is not worth the paper it is written on.’ As so often, he was half-right. Verbal agreements are the bane of any business. They are enforceable in law if you can sway the court that your recollection is better than the other side. Given that most deals – or property descriptions – take place on the phone, call recording should solve that problem.
But who knows when a conversation will need saving? And when it does, chances are the little rubber sucker holding the recorder will drop off the handset or someone will happily tape over the call a week later. Dedicating recording equipment is becoming an essential gizmo, and there is a vast range available to suite any number of users. I have just spent three months saving every call with two thumbnail-sized boxes and a single wire.
Not much kit for £200, you might think, but something of a bargain if just one of the 400-plus conversations ended in a libel case. Each is sitting on the PC hard drive ready to be replayed. And because the information is encrypted and date-stamped, it would be acceptable in court.
The equipment could have been even smaller, according to Jo-Anne Howard, sales and marketing manager for manufacturer ReTell. One of the little boxes was necessary to run from the phone wall plug straight to the PC. That is because I use a digital wireless handset. Many users simply need one box and wire between the phone handset and base unit. And a lighter workload would require only a ‘lite’ version of the ReTell system, cutting the cost by half. The difference is that sound files are not compressed, but this version still provides 30hrs of recording for each gigabyte of hard disk compared with 800hrs under the more expensive system.
Recording has flourished with the advent of call centres but Howard says most ReTell users are small firms and home workers. And their most popular choice attaches the phone to a dedicated tape recorder. The more sophisticated method of running direct to a PC hard disk via the sound card is neater, however, and is often a first step to more ambitious plans for recording from several – perhaps dozens – of phones into a special server hidden away in some cupboard. Calls can be archived onto tape or CD for checking years later.
One potential pothole to avoid is that Ofcom insists callers know they are being recorded. But this can be included as a statement in advertisements, letter heads, websites or email rather than a message. ReTell’s web site www.retellrecorders.co.uk explains the legal picture and walks through which version of its vast range of equipment is most suitable according to the type of work involved. There is even one for mobile phones, involving an earpiece linked to a small tape recorder.
The 957 Pro system I tested revealed a few quirks that might irritate anyone with no technical background. Calls sometimes went unrecorded or dropped before I tweaked soundcard and line settings. But a friendly support team sorted that out quickly. I have recordings of the conversations to prove it.
Orange has taken a step up from its popular smartphones to the kind of all-in-one pocket PC many users are now demanding. The SPVM 1000 certainly concentrates on the ‘all’, cramming in a tri-band phone, high-resolution camera, touch-sensitive colour screen, email, wireless and both PC docking and Bluetooth connections. Utilities include web browser, handwriting recognition and applications to view Acrobat files. You can create Powerpoint presentations on a PC, transfer to the M1000 and then use on the road with an overhead projector.
If it looks remarkably like the O2 XDAII launched earlier this year, that is understandable, as it comes from the same Chinese manufacturer. The difference, as with most mobile kit, lies in the deal a business can strike with any mobile service and the suitability of the software. Orange makes a point that it is the first to combine Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC Phone with a mobile, which can be important for users seeking continuity with what is running back in the office. Other ‘corporate solutions’ can link into sales and services applications at home. Neat, compact and already in great demand, although available only for corporate customers at the time of writing.