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Service observation is not automatic; it requires a human supervisor. However, it is often used in conjunction with computer-based systems that collect information about the duration of the telephone call or the types of transactions the employee performs during the call. New technology has made service observation completely silent, so neither the employee nor the customer may know a supervisor is on the line.
Monitoring the content of messages raises a related set of issues. Some employers say that service observation (listening to or recording the content of employees’ telephone conversations with customers) helps assure quality and correctness of information and protects all parties in case of dispute.
However, service observation also impacts the privacy of the customer, and workers and labor organizations have argued that it contributes to stress of the employee, and creates an atmosphere of distrust. Service observation is legal when part of a formally established program of evaluation.
In the Federal Government, employees must be informed that such a program is in effect, but do not need to be informed precisely when a supervisor is listening.