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August 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 3
Compliance Desk

Tips on Regulatory Compliance

By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor, Customer Interaction Solutions

Compliance is a top of mind issue for contact centers, especially those conducting outbound campaigns. Enterprises and nonprofits alike need to stay within what is often a confusing and ever-changing set of laws and regulations.

1. Have knowledge of the rules

2. Have written compliance guidelines

3. Meet recordkeeping requirements

4. Have mutually-supportive due diligence

5. Have a defendable position

"Even the most sophisticated firms have compliance issues," explains ATA Chief Executive Officer Tim Searcy. "Constant vigilance to know the requirements and ongoing diligence to verify that your firm meets those requirements is crucial in avoiding potential mistakes."

Steve Brubaker, Senior Vice President – Corporate Affairs, InfoCision Management Corporation, offers these compliance recommendations:

1. Understand the state and federal regulations and how they apply to different industries

As a third party vendor it is the teleservices company’s responsibility to be compliant with both federal and state Do Not Call (DNC) regulations. To make sure the organization is in line with all of the laws it is beneficial to have a compliance officer. The compliance officer can work with the corporate attorneys to understand and interpret the laws and regulations as they pertain to the company, clients and the different types of campaigns being run. At the end of the day it is the teleservices company that is responsible for compliance. This is what clients expect.

2. Invest in compliance from a monetary stand point and a personnel standpoint

There is a significant commitment of resources for ensuring compliance. There are ongoing costs for staff and legal expertise, in addition to federal, state and even international fees to maintain up-to-date DNC lists. It is important to invest in a highly trained and experienced compliance staff that will monitor all levels of business and the applicable state and federal regulations. On top of these expenses are the investments in compliance technology. Even before the DNC regulations went into affect InfoCision maintained its own DNC lists and internal systems; many that parallel the same regulations the FCC was implementing. But even so, InfoCision still had to make a several million dollar investment to meet the new requirements.

3. Commitment to compliance must be from the top down

Building compliance into corporate culture is very important. Corporate leadership needs to set the tone and a positive example for all employees to instill the importance of maintaining compliance, not just for the company but for clients as well. If a company’s CEO does not place a high value on staying compliant, those feelings will trickle down throughout the company. The price of noncompliance is steep; potentially putting a company out of business and negatively impacting the client’s reputation.

4. Continually audit business and IT processes

To ensure compliance in this rapidly changing regulatory environment, companies must constantly audit their business and IT processes to search for any potential problems. From initial set-up of programs, to the creation of policies and procedures, to testing and monitoring, auditing is a necessary component of today’s teleservices campaigns.

5. Stay on top of emerging technology

Almost daily new technology is coming to market that can help a teleservices company maintain compliance. One example is an application process interface that helps save time in making changes to software when a new or changing law or regulation must be applied to the IT process of a particular telemarketing program. This platform is modular and is designed to anticipate change and make it as easy as possible to find the code that needs to be updated.

"Although these are just five of the top tips a company should consider when evaluating their compliance needs, I also recommend membership in the American Teleservices Association’s Self Regulatory Organization," says Brubaker." Membership not only enables a company to comply with existing laws and regulations, but also to adhere to industry best practices."

Alphie Kilgus, director of product marketing, Gryphon Networks, provides this set of advice to help contact centers stay within the law, wherever they operate and call to customers in:

1. Respect consumer’s global and individual preferences, or ‘contact governance’

Find out which products and services they are interested in knowing more about and when. Discover from them the channels they prefer or can legally be contacted through: phone, e-mail, fax, or digital media.

For example, if you offer financial services but learn that a customer is not interested in them, but you also provide travel services, you may find, by informing the customer of this during the opt-out process that they didn’t know you offered travel services. They may possibly like to find out more about these services. You may also ascertain the method by which they would like this travel information, for example, by e-mail monthly.

"People will tell you what they are interested in and how they want to be contacted if you ask them, "says Kilgus. "They will be more responsive when you do call and contact them because they will respect you for listening to them."

By learning what customers’ preferences are, you can target your marketing more effectively and gain greater yields by offering what they want to buy and how, as compared with pushing them with what they don’t want using channels through which they do not wish to be accessed. By not listening to them, you may get complaints, perhaps an investigation or fines, and at the very least you may drive them to list your firm on Do Not Contact lists.

"If you do compliance right i.e. contact governance can be a growth strategy," Kilgus points out. "If you don’t do it right, you’ll suffer the consequences."

2. Use multiple channels: not just phone, e-mail, or fax-only

Multichannel response rates are higher than making a phone call or sending out a direct mail piece or e-mail alone. Include in your communications in one channel contact information or notification that you may be contacting in another channel. For example, when your agents make outbound calls, inform the customers and prospects that they can expect to see literature, in either direct mail or e-mail format from you in the next two weeks.

Make sure you comply with all the regulations and scrub names against all Do Not Contact lists, including those for mail and e-mail such as the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service (MPS), Commitment to Consumer Choice, and email Preference Service (eMPS) as well as the US Do Not Call lists.

3. Ensure that the customers’ data-- names, addresses, and phone numbers -- are accurate. No one likes to get mail or calls that were intended for someone else

4. Think globally

Many marketing campaigns, including telemarketing campaigns, are now being carried out across many countries thanks to the low US dollar and low cost e-mail and IP-transmitted calling. That means firms must comply with the different laws in these nations, which are continually changing. One example is Canada’s national Do Not Call List that comes into effect at the end of September, 2008.

5. Tap into your exemptions and existing business relationships (EBRs) i.e. your customers, and fund raisers

Though the rules that define what is and what is not an EBR may vary state by state it is much more effective to market to those who have purchased from you than to acquire new prospects, and there are fewer restrictions on telemarketing to them.

Unfortunately most companies don’t take advantage of the EBRs because they are not equipped to parse through the customer lists to comply with the various EBR rules. It is worthwhile, though, to utilize your EBRs. Gryphon’s exemption management technologies have enabled companies to bring up to 60 percent of the marketable audience that was previously unavailable for them to contact. These customers are the most likely buyers because they already have some type of relationship with you.

Compliance is ultimately about listening to and respecting the wishes of customers, which includes taking every necessary step to obey the laws and regulations that had been passed and set up in response to their concerns about telemarketing practices. By following the above guidance from industry experts on regulatory compliance you can help ensure that your people, process, and technology are all supporting a consumer-friendly approach to outbound call center services.

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