Why use experienced investigators as call handlers?
We are often asked about this as other providers use sales or conventional call centre staff. The reason is twofold; firstly we believe that call handlers need to know something about investigating concerns and how a client can address an issue otherwise you may as well use an answering machine. For example, it is easier to explain a medical problem to a Doctor or Nurse than say a Car Mechanic or Hairdresser. As investigators they are used to talking to witnesses who may be stressed or reluctant to provide full details, they also understand fully what information a client will need to know.
Secondly, the Private Security Industry Act 2001, states very clearly that persons involved in obtaining information about persons or their activities need to be licensed. The competency specification to obtain a licence includes the skills and knowledge to conduct investigations and interviews, search for information and preserve evidence and to understand and work to relevant laws and standards. Each of our call handlers has over 25 years experience in these competencies.
The other providers I looked at destroy all records of calls as soon as the details are passed to the client. Why do you retain such documents?
We only retain appropriate documents in accordance with Data Protection legislation. It would be much easier for us to destroy our records once a client has received a copy, however, as the previous answer suggests, there is a need to preserve evidence and work to relevant laws and standards.
The rules regarding the conduct of investigations require the retention of evidence or information gathered during the course of an investigation. For example, if a client makes a leniency application to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) they require the retention of all such reports. The importance of this approach is highlighted in the final recommendations within the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England & Wales (ICAEW) ‘Guidance to Audit Committees on whistleblowing’. The guidance urges Audit Committees to consider “there are adequate procedures for retaining evidence in relation to each concern”.
In the majority of cases once the report is forwarded to the client then it is not needed again, but on occasions we have needed to provide both our original notes and report to support clients in Criminal and Civil proceedings. Remember, a Safecall report and accompanying notes are often the first record of an issue and therefore its authenticity may be challenged in future proceedings, it is therefore no good saying they have been destroyed.
Do you tape record calls?
No. If calls were recorded they would have to be retained and made available to appropriate parties if a call resulted in civil or criminal proceedings. The tape could lead to a caller, who has requested anonymity, having their voice identified and therefore we do not make such recordings.
Is the service expensive?
No. We agree an annual fee based on the number of employees and the company antecedents. A number of clients have immediately recouped the cost with information from staff regarding fraud and other potentially expensive concerns. The system has hidden cost advantages such as a lessening of bullying and discrimination and can lead to massive savings in legal fees and damages awards.
Do you give advice to callers?
No, other than on how to report a concern or protect their identity. We believe a conflict of interests can occur once advice is given as it can give the impression that we are taking sides. Our role is that of a conduit to make it easy for staff to report concerns to senior management within an organisation.
We already have an Employee Assistance Programme, what further advantages do you offer?
We believe a difference exists between an assistance programme which is an advice line, external or internal, and a straightforward reporting line. A number of Employee Assistance Programmes provide advice on a wide range of subjects but because of confidentiality restraints, do not always pass information to employers. Unfortunately staff sometimes mistrust such services and see them as an extension of current management procedures. The advantage we offer is that we are an external independent means, available 24 hours each day, for staff to pass information to the highest levels of an organisation.
How do you guarantee anonymity?
Firstly we explain our role to callers, without requesting any personal details, issue them with a PIN number and obtain two passwords. As a result we have no means of identifying the caller unless they volunteer details. We cannot therefore disclose such information in any subsequent hearing. We arrange for anonymous callers to contact us at regular intervals to update them and ask any further questions prompted by the employer.