While federal rules have long governed telemarketers, states are increasingly rolling out their own laws to protect consumers from things like spam and robocalls. But, as Gryphon’s Mark McKinney explores, each new regulation adds a layer of compliance complexity for call center leadership.
Editor’s note: Mark McKinney, author of this article, is a vice president at Gryphon, a call center compliance system provider.
In October, Connecticut began to enforce SB1058, a state law that expanded the list of requirements for telemarketers. The new requirements include limiting call windows from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., express written consent from the customer and the disclosure of telemarketers’ identity, the organization they work for and the purpose of the call within the first 10 seconds of the conversation.
The Connecticut law is the latest in a string of statewide telemarketing laws that aim to expand the precedent set by the Telephone Customer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), which sought to restrict the use of automatic dialing systems and other predatory telemarketing tactics. New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and New York are just a few of the states that have passed similar legislation recently.
While these laws help protect consumers from spam and robocallers, they also present serious challenges because they make it more difficult for legitimate marketers to contact customers and prospects. As these kinds of laws continue to expand to additional states, contact center leaders must find ways to navigate today’s increasingly complex compliance landscape in a way that enables them to retain valued customers.
You can’t avoid compliance, even if some call centers try to.
Despite its negative reputation, there’s no denying that telemarketing drives results — lead generation, sales activity and customer reach can all be improved through telemarketing. However, evolving compliance regulations create challenges that can limit the effectiveness of telemarketing and lead to an array of potential consequences.
For starters, there’s the financial cost of a compliance violation: Connecticut’s new law imposes a fine of $20,000 per violation. There are also reputational costs associated with a compliance violation — no company wants to make the front page of the Wall Street Journal for an egregious mistake.
But beyond these obvious consequences, there is the cost of lost business that comes from avoiding states with complex compliance regulations. It’s an increasingly common scenario for many organizations because most call center agents and leaders have too many sales-related responsibilities to make compliance a priority. So, organizations enlist the help of a third-party service provider to scrub contact lists and remove individuals who are covered by stringent compliance legislation.
This is not sustainable. If your approach to compliance legislation is to disqualify potential prospects in specific states, over time, you’ll exhaust your pool of prospects. With the ongoing introduction of legislation, your organization risks constraining its reach and missing out on potential sales opportunities by neglecting to address these challenges.
Telemarketing isn’t just annoying to consumers; it’s also often a pain for the companies that rely on call centers to drive sales.Read more
How your call center can ready itself for future telemarketing regulations
Managing compliance is an ongoing challenge because new telemarketing regulations will continue to emerge. Going forward, it will take constant vigilance and the right technology to prevent agents from being tripped up by evolving requirements.
- Treat compliance as a continuous priority: Too often, organizations take a responsive approach to call center compliance rather than a proactive one. Organizations only respond once a new regulation goes into effect, not realizing they’ve missed out on valuable preparation time. Months — or even years — before any telemarketing law goes into effect, a notice for proposed rulemaking is released that notifies the public about the existence of the potential regulation. After the regulation becomes law, it can take several more months for it to go into effect. Rather than taking a wait-and-see approach, your organization needs to use this time to study the implications of each regulation and determine how you will respond.
- Build (or outsource) a compliance rules engine: With so many compliance regulations to juggle, call centers need an automated solution that streamlines compliance. This is where a compliance rules engine can help. After aggregating compliance-related data from a variety of sources, a compliance rules engine can synthesize this data so your agents have the relevant information available to them before they make a call. Right away, agents will know whether they can legally call a potential prospect. If they can, they will also know what information they need to disclose during the call.
- Centralize your enterprise compliance solution: To ensure your rules engine is effective, it’s important to centralize it across the organization. This will help you manage your agents more effectively and ensure they have the tools they need to succeed, regardless of their location or experience level. Call center agents are often dialing from geographically disparate locations across the country or perhaps even around the world.