Centrelink has recorded the past nine months of customer calls to four contact centres as part of an ongoing trial of workforce optimisation technology.
The trial involved staff in Centrelink's Geelong, Perth, Port Macquarie and Toowoomba facilities, and aimed to determine the role of call recording software in a large networked environment.
According to a Centrelink spokesman, recordings were used to evaluate customer calls, provide information on why they called, and subsequently improve customer service.
Seventy-six percent of customer service agents in a recent internal survey indicated that the technology had supported them in their jobs, he said.
"A large number of government and private sector agencies have utilised call recording technology for a number of years and its use represents industry best practice," the spokesman told iTnews.
The Child Support program - which also falls within the Department of Human Services - had call recording in place for some time, he said.
"The normal privacy and confidentiality considerations and protocols around customer records have been firmly in place for this trial".
But the Community and Public Sector Union raised concerns that the call recording and screen monitoring technology would be used punitively, turning call centres into "modern day sweatshops".
While the union saw some benefits to using the technology as "a learning and development tool", they feared it would be used to quantify performance, customer interactions, and members' jobs.
The union this month said it would withhold support for introduction of the technology until appropriate safeguards and regulations were introduced.
"Centrelink's trial has implications for everyone using phones in Human Services," it stated, calling for clear parameters on when call recording would occur, notification and access.
While Centrelink had not yet decided on the future of the technology, its recently issued managed telecommunications request for tender included provisions for call recording functionality.
Verint's Impact 360 workforce optimisation package was used in the trial.