July 2009 | Volume 28 / Number 2
On The Line
Getting Here From There
How do we achieve this goal?
Start with the end in mind: These are not my words, but they have been echoed by great authors from Moses to Covey. The outcome must be defined as a balance and not as domination. The teleservices industry cannot hope to win back the hearts and minds of consumers against those that defraud them. In reality, fraud is not endemic to our channel, but it exists and is associated with the telephone. The target must be to secure consumer confidence and respect while at the same time acknowledging the need for aggressive enforcement.
Martial the necessary resources: Often when resources are discussed, people think of money, personnel and infrastructure. These are necessary elements of an overall strategy. However, the real resource the industry needs is information. The following questions need to be answered prior to a proper balance being achieved:
Can consumers and policymakers agree that a balance is a worthwhile goal? Without some acceptance of this fundamental belief, any effort is wasted. This will require substantial education and factual information. With a better understanding of the role teleservices plays in competition, less expensive goods and services and satisfaction, may come the ability to set fair guidelines that actually enhance the value of the channel.
What is enough? No one has been able to provide a clear and fair set of guidelines for what level of consumer protection is sufficient. Some advocates would have the industry remove all outbound calling, eliminate automated service by phone, and move all customer contact onshore. In a vacuum, these may seem like good solutions, but we know that these kinds of changes would come at prices consumers and policymakers would be unwilling to pay. So where is the line? We believe the line is at consumer protection and market driven excellence. As long as consumers have choices, the free market will be the best arbiter of business practice. Consumers should be encouraged to choose based on the combination of product, price and service as well as the channel of best delivery for those items.
Can industry self regulate effectively enough? One of the great difficulties in implementing the American Teleservices Association (ATA)’s Self Regulatory Organization (ATA-SRO) has been to gain consensus. Marketers want to have all the freedom to compete, but recognize some limitations are in the best interest of the consumers and regulators. Just as we request that regulators draw a line that is fair, we must also meet the consumer at a point that is fair. Create the dialog. There are MANY people interested and invested in the teleservices space. Consequently, the ATA has engaged almost all of them including politicians, regulators, consumer groups, technology professionals, international providers, and marketers. Everyone has a different agenda, but surprisingly all of them agree on two things: something has to change, or it will be changed for us, and it is not going to be easy.
Provide a sustainable solution: I encourage you to visit the ATA-SRO website (www.atasroconnect.org) and learn more about what we are doing and how you can become engaged. The keys so far have been a framework that makes sense combined with regular calibration with key constituents. The ATA-SRO is designed to accredit institutions to prove their compliance with federal and state laws. Beyond that, the ATA is engaged in the future. We are working with industry to address concerns related to business to business calling, inbound up-sells, the use IVRs, and offshore service provision.
This experiment in industry democracy has already garnered great support. Many companies, and now a few industry groups, are beginning to demand ATA-SRO accreditation as a minimum performance standard in their outsourced contact center contracts. The ATA should see about 20 accredited firms in time for our annual convention in October, in New Orleans (www.ata2009convention.org), as well as dozens of certified auditors. To get from here to there, we must get interested parties aligned and communicating. CIS