Are Spinvox call centre staff putting voicemails on Facebook?

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Some Spinvox call centre staff are chattering away on Facebook – essentially a public platform – about internal company operations and in one incident we’ve found, posting a private call onto Facebook. A BBC investigation today has uncovered evidence of Spinvox using call centres to convert messages. It’s been rumoured for some time that this was the case, but the company has always maintained that this was just to convert small amounts of messages which were hard to understand. They said the vast bulk of message conversion was done via voice to text software.

However, there appears to be a very large call centre operation at work – larger than would be suggested by mere error messages.

And in fact, Spinvox employee groups appear to be littered all over Facebook.

Spinvox Marlow workers is “For the crazy people with a box on their heads….”

Spinvox Chile was set up for call centre workers there for “how we communicate it is happening with the demands that are raised.”

But most disturbingly one employee in Egypt, Mohammed Mustafa, has a Walid Saeed, who appears to be a Spinvov employee, has posted what sounds like a voicemail message to convert:

Co-worker Mohammed Mustapha responds: “R You sure that’s can be converted ?”

An audioboo is below:


Spinvox says it works with some of the world’s biggest telecoms companies and institutional investors who, following due diligence and audit, have gone on to sign contracts with the voice-to-text firm. We’ve put a call in and are waiting for their full response to this story.

  • http::// Paul Lomax

    It was less of a rumour, more of a fact.

    They have ‘patent pending technology’ for this voice to text system. See If you read it in detail it becomes apparent how large a part humans play in it.

    It’s basically a CMS that lists the computer’s (usually poor) effort at translation with a link to play the audio. Humans play every single message for “quality control” and manually edit whatever the computer came up with, which is quicker than keying it all in from scratch. In theory the CMS learns from its mistakes a bit like an iphone keyboard or T9.

  • Jack

    How come the voice to text conversion is still so s**t then? Perhaps a double bluff to make users (/investors?) believe in the tech system. Make it too good and someone’ll smell a rat. Cunning…

    • amadeo

      because they are low paid non-english speaking workers!

  • http::// Paul Lomax

    What’s amusing is how crap it was despite human intervention – unless it’s improved significantly since I cancelled in 2007 due to them making some rather dangerous translations.

    I put it down to South Africans not understanding accents…

    Actual examples:

    From a friend called Keith (not Steve):
    “Hi mate, Steve. Were given up on the ___ to be just be a member to get out at Barkley. So we gone round to the founders. Give’s a ring when you get that. Talk to you soon. Bye.”

    And one from my fiancée, which had some dangerous mistranslations saying she was ignoring me!

    “Hi honey, it’s me. I ignored where you are. I was talking to Bonchie(?) at the moment. I haven’t had any feed so I’m not sure what to do, whether we get something here or exchange rumours(?) something about home. So anyway if you get this message in the next couple of mins could gibe me a ring back. Hey bye.”

  • jamie woodside

    bbc today programme, radio 4

    bbc presenter evan davis has given this company a lot of exposure on the bbc without understanding how its technology works and this morning claimed it makes little difference whether it’s a human or a machine doing the translation. personally i think it matters, if it is not a machine i want to know.

  • amadeo
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  • Ezra

    Interesting development. I actually just switched to Google voice where the transcription is REALLY poor. I was about to switch back, given that for whatever reason I’m still “beta-testing” spinvox 2 and a half years later.

    Ah well, it wasn’t texting correctly to my RAZR (yes, I am living in 2006), but the conversions were always pretty nice. Guess I know why.

  • Gigi

    Read the SpinVox blog – good information there. BBC was inaccurate on a number of things…

  • John

    @ Gigi

    If you actually read – in detail – the blog post on the BBC and then the SpinVox reply (also released to the media by its PR agency) you will see that SpinVox does not directly refute the BBC’s story. SpinVox merely claims that it does indeed have automation, but doesn’t day how much it is used. If you read the BBC article properly, it does not alledge that there is no automation at all.

    The SpinVox reply is misleading at best and still does not address key questions. Its also worth noting that -as yet- it has not refuted the details of the Register article.

    Also, Gigi appears to be posting the same reply and link on multiple comment threads, so I guess we can say hello to an employee of SpinVox or its PR agency :-)

    • Andre

      even if it is a PR agency I think a response from the company should at least be mentioned in the article!!!

      They speak about the facebook video and say it is from a training case and is two years old.

  • David Craig Hiser

    It is disturbing that someone may have posted a private phone call on facebook…
    and so you re-post it here, therefor encouraging its public spread any further?

    Seems a little hypocritical to call them out for something, and then do the exact same thing.

  • Godby

    It has always been humans converting the voice to text. Though CD would tell the press and investors otherwise. AKA shooting fish!
    It first started off with a call centre in Bunbeg, Ireland. Essentially spinvox is an Asterix PBX that sends the voicemails as emails to a server which in turn enters the data into a database and presents a front end to a Transcribing Assistant (TA). The TA plays the message, and attempts to transcribe it. The TA has no knowledge of the to and from numbers, only supervisors have that priviledge.
    The transcribed message would then enter into a queue to be SMS’d to the recipient.

    • Loopy

      I think you have it wrapped. 2010 = no spinvox

  • AL

    SpinVox = Enron

  • Tim O'Donoghue

    There are many “in flight” conversations around this breaking story (which I have long since had an interest in) which I have gathered here…

    and am sharing here in case useful to others who are also interested to track / join this conversation.

    Spinvox; there’s a clue in the name…

  • Robert Frank

    Yeah nice one @AL you have a really great understanding of what happened at ENRON

  • Joe

    Searching on google for spinvox call centers and other stuff, you will find threads out there detailing how it’s all done.

    In reality, there is no ASR that can properly transcribe a message in the private sector arena, word for word. I’m sure it exists somewhere and is used for other purposes though.

    Additionally, all voicemail-to-text companies use humans to do some of the work. SpinVox has 100’s of call centers worldwide, and I’m sure a staff of 800+ people who transcribe messages. No other way it would work, but no company is going to disclose that to you.

    I guess if you’re ok with someone else hearing your voicemails, it’s an alright service.

    Sometime try leaving yourself a voicemail and saying an indian name or pakistani name or egyptian name, I’m sure it will be transcribed perfectly.

  • Bryce Maddock

    This is why I use PhoneTag.

  • Facebook Applications

    Yes. Nice development. It will be great if they implement voice option. thanks

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  • Jess

    QC house locations



    Not all of these are open anymore, mostly the contracts were terminated because the QC houses dared to demand payment on time due to SpinVox being in breach of the payment terms. The latest being the one in Mauritius, for this very reason.

    Every month SpinVox would religiously enforce the [unachievable] risk/reward portion of the contract through Phil R, Nick G and Tony A, deducting monies for every incorrectly typed messages and further deducting monies for messages typed to slowly, or a combination of the above.

    In some people’s view it may be perfectly fine to exploit 3rd world countries for business purposes, but this was more than exploitation this was/is borderline slave labour, with many agents working a whole month and not being paid a penny because SpinVox presented their version of the quality, speed and other associated data.

    Agents would start with £3 for every hour and this could end up being as little as £0.00 for the hour if SpinVox’s quality scorers interpreted the message differently to the agent (3 major errors and the messagef fails) or the agent was sent particularly difficult and lengthy messages or, heaven forbid they needed to use the bathroom. QC houses could not contest the quality SpinVox believed they heard.

    Let me say that again, the agent would have processed their 45 messages for that hour but would have earned £0.00, although SpinVox would have had the 45 messages converted in any event and sent to the carrier client………..churn rates in QC houses ran at over 65% if not more.

    Tie this back to the numbers presented in this forum;
    (Assume 1 message left every 7 days per subscriber)————————————————————————————————
    30m subscribers x 1 msg every 7 days = 120m msgs/month

    1 good agent can process 45 messages in 1 hour

    120m/30/24 = 166 667 messages an hour

    166 667/45 = 3703 agents PER HOUR required.

    3000 agents to process 70m subs (280m msgs/month) seems a little off target; 30 agents to process 1m is even more far fetched!!

    Does this start to help you understand the exploitation and the scalability problem.

    The above does of course not factor in AUTOMATIC CONVERSION BY D2; the last real number I was privvy to (within the last 9 months) was so low, it is not worth using it in the above equation as the reduction in agent head count is negligible.

    Any other brave [ex]-SpinVox staff care to add any detail I may have missed.

    Mr. Andrews, visiting SpinVox is not the place to be, visiting the QC house is where you want to start, take a walk around and be amazed.

    May I suggest ACS in the Phillipines, so that you are truly dazzled.

    • Christian

      I’ve worked for Outbound Call Centers in Switzetland before and visited Offshore Centers in Tunisia, Morocco and Colombia. What you are describing sounds more like slavery than an acceptable Business!

      I have only one word for the execs of a $100M venture funded company that alledgedly lies about almost all of their technological achievements; JAIL!

  • jess
  • Phil

    Yeah go to the phils and see hundreds of agents converting d msgs.

  • sadiq

    I see nothing wrong if humans are used to do the conversion. all the other companies use humans. so what difference it makes. who you think will know your name or phone no and who has the time . our company has worked on such projects but we do not know who is the caller and where the messages go. there is total confidentiality.

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