Call logging: A matter of record

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For an accountant, an accurate record of what is said over the telephone can make the difference between career success and disaster. In the first part of this feature, Steve Roth asked AccountingWEB members about how they do things. In the second part of the feature, Simon Hurst looks at some of the technological solutions.

The majority of accountants take written notes of telephone conversations. Ideally the note should be made contemporaneously. However, there can often be a substantial lag between a telephone conversation and putting notes on file. Furthermore, in the heat of conversation, it is not always obvious what is relevant ' and what might become relevant further on in the accountant-client relationship. For that reason some accountants are looking at technology to he...

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20th Feb 2006 09:49

why transcribe?
Why transcribe from voice recording into text?

My guess is that you could get 10 minutes worth of conversation onto each page of A4 text. So 10 minutes to listen to the tape, but only 30 seconds to scan through the A4 text.

Agreed, though, that it's a long way off. I tried booking a cinema seat over the weekend. Odeon have voice recognition, and it asked me what town I'm in. I had to say Hemel Hempstead very slowly a couple of times before it worked.

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15th Feb 2006 20:24

Skype + recording
If you use Skype or another IM system, you could use HotRecorder which is incredibly cheap - free if you don't mind ads and a proprietary file format. If you pay ($20?) then you get an inbuilt MP3 conversion tool.

If you're on the Mac platform, it's a bit more complicated but still cheap.

You could use iTunes as a way of filing MP3 files.

We use it for podcasting - which is no more than a conversation distributed over the Internet. This week your tech editor John came on to discuss the self assessment thing. You can find it here: 15 Minute RoundUp

The MYOB solution is a lockin - and while I see the value for larger practices, for the vast majority of smaller firms, it's a big tax to pay.

On the issue of MP3 to text, Dragon NaturallySpeaking was designed specifically with that in mind. But anything requiring T2S means training. The software is getting better but I find this is a hurdle too great for people to overcome - and I agree with that sentiment. But at a more fundamental level, why would you transcribe unless you need to? ICAEW guidelines don't force transcription as far as I can tell.

There's plenty of alterntatives at: Telehpone Recorders Direct

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10th Feb 2006 22:01

Telephone conversation and litigation
The negative aspect of this thread can be seen as the continuing need to cover the accountant's posterior. The more positive view would be to ensure a complete picture of the development of the service to the client.

Coming from a large firm background, I have always noted telcons although as I progress in years and telephone calls seem to get longer and tax becomes more complex the difficulty is in finding the piece of paper and then deciphering the rapid scribble.

The avoidance of paper mountains can occur through using the Notes within Microsoft Outlook or being brave enough to open a clean sheet wihin Microsoft Word and tapping away at the salient points during the telephone call. It is always wise to summarise the call at the end of the call in a polite way just in case there are matters to be acted on and , more importantly, who should action them - you or the client.The actionable items could be entered on your document workflow.

A large Budget could run to recording all calls but then you would need to state that fact at the start of all calls " ... for training and...purposes " I suppose. The problem with telephone calls is that there is such a thing as a verbal contract and that serious urgent advice can be given over the phone which may later be relied on.

Saving your Outlook notes and/or Word document to a client folder seems eminently sensible, I have a separate folder for emails and faxes as well for good measure, but that's another story... and if you wanted to search for any keyword in those impressive notes you could do far worse than use Copernic Desktop Search to archive and search all of your desktop and data.

If you want to get really hitech you could always save the document in pdf format, then using the amazing Adobe Acrobat program have the document electronically read out to you over speakers.

The unspoken part of all this current subject is probably however how to ensure that all data and knowledge is kept for the purposes of our duties under the various POCA and Money Laundering regulations.

I notice that H.M.Revenue & Customs do keep meticulous records of conversations especially when it comes to VAt control visits and so on.

Just for now though ..where did I put that note ?

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15th Feb 2006 10:56

Voice-Recognition Software
David - Given that voice-recognition software has to be trained to understand each user, I would have thought it was still a bit of a way off yet.

However, when it can, I'm buying it.

Does anyone have any idea how it would cope with a conversation between a voice it knows, and one it doesn't; would the unfamiliar side be gobbledy gook or just have one or two few errors?

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13th Feb 2006 10:47

June Bradshaw
None of my comments were tongue-in-cheek. Why did you think they were?

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14th Feb 2006 10:48

June Bradshaw
Hi June - The question was phrased like this "no-one heard of....Skype?".

I did not know whether it meant "Has anyone heard of Skype?", "Has no-one heard of Skype?" or something else. That is why I expressed uncertainty as to what it meant.

I can't say I share your interpretation of my expression of uncertainty, but I apologise for causing you to feel patronised.

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13th Feb 2006 17:48

Viztopia Practice Management CTI module
What does it cost, and is any additional hardware required?

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10th Feb 2006 14:45

Sage CRM Mid-Market Edition
We are a fairly young company, having formed in late 2002 and we started recording our client contact history on an Excel spread sheet. It was not long (within the first year) that this spread sheet had become unmanageable, with 1,000’s of lines and 100’s of columns.

It was then that we made the decision to invest in a CRM solution and having looked and tried a number of solutions including ACT!, BusyDesk, Click and others, it soon became clear that the most configurable and easy to use solution was to be Sage CRM MME.

We found that Sage CRM MME (formally known as ACCPAC CRM) had all the key features that we needed:

• The ability to store clients under their own name or by company with multiply contacts.

• Functionality to record all conversations an correspondence against both the client and their company.

• A true Internet solution, meaning that we would be able to access our information from the office, home and more importantly while on our customers sites.

• The system we required would need to be configurable, allowing us to change and add new fields to our database as required.

• We had proved in the past that we had both business and sales procedure that worked. We wanted a CRM solution that would allow us to map these procedures and use them day-by-day as a work-flow to the run our business.

• Previously, all our quotes & marketing/sales letters were produced in Word and because we had all these templates, it was great to see that Sage CRM MME could continue to use these. An added benefit was that once the letter/quote has been produced, a copy is stored against the contact for future reference. Again, idea for gaining access to and updating this information when on a customers site.

• Occasionally, other documents, relating to a client were received by post or fax. We were able to scan these and add them to our customers contact history by simply dragging-and-dropping the document.

• Reporting was also something to think about? Sage CRM MME offered both system “snap-shot” reports and the ability to write detailed reports in Excel, directly linked to our MME data.

• We always used to use Microsoft Outlook for our diaries and email, the final thing that we needed was full integration between the CRM and Outlook solutions – With Sage CRM MME, this was never a problem.

Having now used this solution for a number of years, this software has met with our expectations, and more. We now not only have this linked to Outlook, we also have links directly though to our back-office accounts solution, meaning that we have a complete view of all our clients’ data, from one screen.

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10th Feb 2006 16:34

no-one heard of....

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10th Feb 2006 16:48

Not sure what your question means Dennis. Do you mean you have never heard of it? If so, see

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14th Feb 2006 16:42

no voice recognition software yet?
Steve, do you know how far off we are from having a package that will take your MP3 recorded message and transcribe it into a text file in Word?

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