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October 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 5
On The Line

We Sure Get A Lot Of Questions Here!

By Tim Searcy

One of the truly enjoyable things about working at the American Teleservices Association is the opportunity to answer our members’ questions. We field about 700 or more questions per month on a wide array of topics. As you can imagine, members ask us about everything from the size and future of the industry to where to go to find certain services or providers, and of course we are consistently addressing federal and state regulatory compliance questions. Because we receive the same questions repeatedly, it is apparent these questions must be on many individuals’ minds. For that reason, I decided to highlight our most frequently asked questions from our members, and the answers we give them.

About the Industry

Q: What impact did the Do-Not-Call Registry have on the industry?
A: A lot! Five years ago we had about 6.5 million people employed in the teleservices industry, today, there are about 5.3 million people employed as teleservices professionals. The outsourcing part of the industry has grown tremendously as in-house operations have decided the cost of compliance and the uncertainty of regulation made it a better decision to focus on their core business.

Q: What are the hot spots overseas for putting up new call centers?
A: It depends. It depends on a variety of factors including application, audience, product, service, and previous experience. However, the industry is full of consultants and practitioners that can be of assistance. Without a doubt, the Philippines and the Central America and Latin America (CALA) areas are very popular because of abundant inexpensive labor and language skills. To learn more, simply go to the ATA website at www.ataconnect.org or www.tmcnet.com About Compliance Issues

Q: Am I really subject to this regulation, law, or legal interpretation about my business?
A: We receive this question all the time. Some ask about specific regulations, and some are just curious about jurisdiction over their industry in general. About 99% of the time, the answer is an unequivocal yes. It continues to surprise us that many companies still don’t believe that the Telemarketing Sales Rule or Telephone Consumer Protection Act and subsequent rules and amendments apply to them. In reality there are very few exemptions, and those exemptions can be handled on a case by case basis on our Web site or with a simple phone call.

Q: What is on the horizon for regulations and legislation?
It’s hard to tell, but the recent amendments by the FTC to the TSR (News - Alert) give us some comfort that no additional federal regulations can be expected in the foreseeable future. However, the states are very active, and the topics of customer service and inbound service technology around service levels have become lightning rods for state legislative action.

Q: How does the ATA help me stay compliant in this complicated and changing environment?
A: The ATA helps members stay compliant through a host of resources both in terms of databases and legal guidance. For example, the ATA has the most comprehensive Regulatory Guide which includes all current regulations and enforcement actions for each of the states as well as the federal government. More importantly, we have professionals on staff as well as legal counsel for members to use on an as needed basis. In addition to research and people, we provide a peer-to-peer experience in the form of seminars, conference calls and an annual legislative summit which lets you work with others to understand best practices. About the ATA Self-Regulatory Organization

Q: What is the ATA-SRO?
A: Simply put, the ATA Self-Regulatory Organization (ATA-SRO) was designed to vet practical standards that deliver a positive channel experience for consumers. This process allows us to tackle tough issues, bringing to light obstacles that would face an industry and possible solutions that would allow business and consumers to “live cohesively.” By doing this within the industry, we would be better advised of issues negatively impacting consumers and the solution impacts to business. The result is a more proactive dialogue inside our channel community as well as with regulators.

Q: What is an ATA-SRO Trustee?
A:: A firm that elects to become a Trustee through this organization has the opportunity to help guide the direction of the ATA-SRO. Trustees are directly involved in leading compliance and regulation within the Teleservices industry by crafting and reviewing the ATA Standards. Not only do the Trustees have the authority to shape the standards that guide compliance, but the opportunities to manage the internal processes and policies are immeasurable. Trustees will ultimately determine which companies are worthy of various levels of accreditation, as well as participate in situations involving remediation with the FTC (News - Alert).

Q: Can firms who are not members of the ATA participate in the ATA-SRO?
A: Yes. Member and non-member companies are encouraged to adopt the ATA-SRO as their compliance and regulatory platform. All contact centers and individuals who work in the teleservices industry should educate themselves on how they can proactively protect their businesses from the potential impact of investigations and fines. If you have questions about the teleservices industry, give us a call at 317-816-9336, or drop us an e-mail at [email protected] or visit our website www.ataconnect.org.

We love to answer questions, and undoubtedly it is something we do very well.

Tim Searcy serves as the CEO of the American Teleservices Association (ATA).

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