After several people used recorded phone calls to out customer service reps for bad behavior, it turns out using a microphone during your call might improve your chances of a decent customer experience. The trouble is, how do you do it?
You might think of the obvious option right off the bat: an app. The trouble is, a lot of apps that record cost money and are glitchy. Instead, we've pioneered a strategy for recording your calls that's simple, quiet and cheap.
(Here, we'd like to point out that laws around recording vary by state, so it's probably a good idea to check on the rules for wherever you live. We'd also advise getting the service rep's consent before you record, since you don't know where they're located.)
But when you're ready to record, here's what you do:
1) Plug headphones into your phone.
We're assuming you already have a phone and headphones. The best headphones for this are out-of-ear headphones not connected by a headband, like these:
In-ear headphones like earbuds work, but the sound won't be as clear as you'll get with something like we have above. A pair like this should cost about $10 -- a worthy investment if you really want to record an important call. Headphones that are connected by a headband, like Beats, will make recording tougher. (You'll see why.) It doesn't matter if the headphones have a microphone, though a microphone makes the whole setup easier.
2) Put only one of those headphones in your ear. Like talking on a normal phone!
3) Put the other headphone next to something that can record.
Any of the following should do:
On the iPhone, use the Voice Memos app. The mic on iPhones is located at the bottom.
Open Quicktime and select "New Audio Recording." On a MacBook, the mic is located at the upper left corner above the keyboard.
If you're the type who likes to record your musings, you may have one of these. Be sure to put the headphone near the actual microphone.
An old-fashioned tape recorder.
You might have to make a trip to grandma's basement to find an actual tape recorder, but if you get your hands on one, it should get the job done just as well as newfangled technology can.
4) Make sure that device is recording when you place your call.
It's also best to turn up your phone's volume as loud as possible so the mic has more to pick up.
5) Record away!
Talk clearly as you would during an important phone call. You'll be able to follow the conversation through the headphone in your ear while the mic records it through the other headphone.
We tried out this system using a dictaphone, a Mac and then an iPhone, and called a different cable company for each try. All the recordings came out clear. TimeWarner and Comcast didn't have a problem with recording when we asked, but the Verizon rep said she'd be "forced to release the call" -- aka hang up on us -- if we kept recording. Then, she did just that.
Of course, there are other ways to record your phone calls, but you're probably going to end up sacrificing your time, money or privacy. If you still don't mind, here's a list of alternatives, from biggest pain in the ass to least.
Go all CIA style on it and bug your own house phone:
There are a number of how-to's on this out there, but they include buying stuff like an induction coil microphone or installing an RJ-11 “Y” adapter. We're not on this level, but maybe you are. Respect!
Download an app that lets you do it from your smartphone.
This is a decent strategy, but in addition to being glitchy, a lot of these apps make you buy them after a free trial.
Make the call using your computer.
If you call using Skype, there are a number of call recording apps you can download that are simple to use. Google Voice also features a built-in recording option. But again, you'll either end up paying money or suffer the inconvenience of being tied to your computer.
This is the same strategy as the headphones one above, but without headphones. It works OK, but it's harder to hear the person on the other end.