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Software // Enterprise Applications
04:40 PM
Darrell Dunn
Darrell Dunn

Who's Watching Now?

Automated tools will monitor employee use of E-mail, phones, and the Net, and a lot of companies are happy to use them

Just the Mention of employee monitoring raises concerns about Big Brother and privacy, as well as issues of trust, loyalty, and respect. But monitoring of employee use of E-mail, the Internet, and telephones in the workplace has become more common than gatherings at the office water cooler.

Ten years ago, employee monitoring meant the supervisor would walk the floor, watching the activities of workers. Today, businesses increasingly are using automated tools to ensure workers are completing tasks, not wasting resources, and complying with a growing list of government regulations.

A report by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse says there's little employees can do to limit monitoring by their employers. Bosses have the right to listen to workers' phone calls in most instances, obtain records of those calls, use software to see what's being displayed on computers screens, check what information is stored on hard disks, and track and record E-mail.

Some companies have little choice but to monitor employees. Presidio Financial Partners provides investment consulting services, controlling about $3 billion in assets for 150 clients. It falls under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Association of Securities Dealers and must provide regulators with access to E-mail and other correspondence between the company and its clients, as well as maintain an archive of the information.

"We have to have this information at our disposal," says Jeff Zlot, managing director for Presidio. "But our clients are high-profile individuals, and the last thing we need is information getting into the wrong hands."

Presidio began using Fortiva Supervision software from Fortiva last May to monitor, track, and archive the E-mail of its consultants and was pleased that Fortiva keeps archived material encrypted, Zlot says. Fortiva Supervision is used to track E-mail between Presidio salespeople and clients, specifically looking for keywords that could pose problems. "We can show the regulators that we set up guidelines and that we are enforcing those guidelines from a sales supervision standpoint," Zlot says.

Watch your language

Phrases that will be flagged by the software include such things as guaranteed return or guaranteed performance, or any time the word complaint is used. If the keywords are spotted, supervisors must review the E-mail. As many as 50 E-mails a day get queued for review. "This forces the sales supervisors to look and approve the work the employees are doing," Zlot says.

Other companies monitor to ensure that workers are doing what they're suppose to. Mark Rafferty, director of sales for Quinlan Publishing, which puts out compliance law newsletters and educational products, is in charge of an in-house telephone sales force of 15 to 25 people, depending on the season and products available.

While much of the staff's compensation is tied to commissions on newsletter subscriptions and related products, Rafferty found that keeping tabs on how employees used their time was difficult. "Everyone on the floor, when I walk by, appears to be on the phone," he says. "But if you don't have some kind of system that is tracking those calls, ... they may not be as accountable for their time as they should be."

Since Quinlan installed the Proteus Enterprise telephone-management system from CTI Group, Rafferty says he's seen a 30% to 40% improvement in sales efficiency from his telephone sales force. The Web-based program provides Rafferty with real-time analysis of all calls, measuring the number, length of time spent on each call, and the phone number called.

"It made a big difference in how we manage our reps and how they manage themselves," Rafferty says. "You can have the best sales pitch and the best product in the world, but if you're not talking to enough people, nothing happens."

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