Is Your Contact Center In Compliance with Local and Federal Regulations?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Earlier this year, a leading website domain operator was hit with a class action lawsuit when a consumer claimed that the company sent him unsolicited advertisements via text message.

The plaintiff is now arguing that the operator violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) — a complex law established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulates how companies are allowed to communicate with consumers about products and offerings.

The operator admitted that the text messages in question originated from a third party marketing agency that the company hired to manage an outbound texting campaign. As of right now, the case is still unsettled but I wanted to weigh in on it because there is an important lesson to be learned for customer service administrators, regardless of who wins:

Companies today need to be very, very careful with outbound communications because consumers have little tolerance for practices that seem overly-aggressive, intrusive or “spammy.”

As this case demonstrates, some consumers are actively looking for opportunities to penalize companies for behavior they deem to be inappropriate.

What’s more, the TCPA is just one of a long list of regulations — state and federal — that you need to be aware of. For instance, there are state-specific Do Not Call lists as well as state-specific requirements for things processes like monitoring and recording authorization, among others. At the same time, there are certain exemptions that you can capitalize on.

Of course, some companies regularly experience class action lawsuits from their customer outreach campaigns and treat them as little more than a drop in the bucket. But this is not the right approach. In addition to being expensive, class action lawsuits can be very damaging to a brand, and they can alienate customers and shareholders. And for a small to medium-sized business (SMBs) that lacks the financial resources of a large enterprise, the damage resulting from financial penalties, court fees and lost customers could be disastrous.

With this in mind, stop and consider who is overseeing your business’s outbound campaigns. How much experience do your internal sales and marketing managers, or your business’s outbound contact center solutions provider, have in dealing with the underlying legal complexities that you are facing?

At InfoCision, we understand that outbound communications can be very complicated. But it’s also an important aspect of business growth. For this reason, we provide our customers with direct access to a team of experienced legal professionals who work tirelessly to ensure that all campaigns operate in strict accordance with state and federal telecommunications laws.

These legal experts empower our customers to confidently — yet conservatively — reach out to consumers when they need to. Our legal professionals are second to none.

To learn more about our legal & compliance expertise, contact InfoCision today.

Are You Compliant with the New FCC Rules?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

On Thursday June 18th, the FCC approved a TCPA Declaratory Ruling that is meant to “protect consumers from unwanted robocalls and texts.” The ruling was approved by a vote of 3-2 and the official text was released, and became effective, on Friday July 10th.

So, what does this new policy mean moving forward?

An instrumental part of providing the utmost quality of customer care in the contact center space is compliance with privacy restrictions implemented by governing regulatory bodies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

InfoCision has reviewed internal policies and procedures to ensure full compliance with the Ruling and have implemented the most conservative standard to protect our clients, our company and our employees. We also encourage all organizations to make sure any third party vendors they utilize are compliant.

As an industry leading expert in compliance, we are providing a brief summary of the FCC Ruling for your reference.

ATDS (Automatic Telephone Dialing System)                                   ATDS is defined as any device or equipment which has the current or potential capacity with software modifications or additions to store or produce telephone numbers to be dialed randomly or sequentially without human intervention.  The hardware determines whether the equipment is an ATDS or not, i.e. if the hardware configuration cannot dial without human intervention without additional hardware, it is not an ATDS. The definition also includes calls to a set list of numbers using an ATDS.

The TCPA’s express consent requirements for calls to cell phones apply if the calls are made using an ATDS or prerecorded message.

It’s critical when contacting a cell phone number to use a manual dial solution which meets the specific terms required by the FCC.

Re-Assigned Numbers, Called Party and Wrong Number Calls         The TCPA exempts calls made to cell phones using an ATDS or prerecorded message if the “called party” provided prior express (written) consent for such calls.  The FCC has expanded the determination for who the called party is, in situations where the caller intends to call one person but unintentionally reaches another.  This situation could occur primarily when a number has been reassigned without the caller’s knowledge.  According to the FCC, businesses will have only one opportunity to call a reassigned number.

Text Messages                                                                                       Text messages are defined as a call to a mobile number and subject to TCPA consent and dialing requirements.

Remaining compliant is imperative for the respect and safety of your consumers as well as protecting an organization from significant monetary liabilities.

Click here to read more about regulatory compliance standards in the contact center space.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Data Security: Big Data is an Asset that Must be Protected by Marketers

Big data has become a huge asset for marketers who understand how to use it to craft the right messages for the right people at the right time. But are you taking the necessary steps to protect this asset?

Big data has become a huge asset for marketers who understand how to use it to craft the right messages for the right people at the right time.  But are you taking the necessary steps to protect this asset?

Consumers becoming more aware of how their personal information is being used

As the use of big data has increased in recent years, so have consumer concerns over how their information is collected, shared, used and stored.  In fact, Jane Frost, CEO of Britain’s Market Research Society (a group representing companies working in market, social and opinion research, market analysis, customer insight and consultancy) recently told Information Week that “58 percent of inquiries to the Market Research Society’s confidential advisory service were related to data collection, integrity and use in 2011/12 alone, up from 43 percent the previous year.”

That’s a 15 percent jump in just a year if you’re scoring at home, and it means that consumers are increasingly interested and wary regarding anything involving their personal information.  To protect the asset that is big data, this means ALL marketers must place data security as our highest priority.  Any information breach that occurs not only weakens your own brand and/or the brands of your clients – but it impacts the entire industry as it makes consumers more wary of giving out their information in general.  So it makes sense for us to all work together to ensure we are using best practices in protecting our consumer data.

Why is big data an asset worth protecting for contact centers?

Contact centers represent a vast resource of information and business insight that will allow you to effectively translate customer data into customer experience improvements. Using data to determine service level differentiations to boost conversion rates, improve customer service, customize call center scripts and sales scripts — in real time, will ultimately increase customer value and drive long-term growth.  That’s why big data is so important, because it gives us the opportunity to market so much more effectively and efficiently by boosting sales, driving down hang-ups, enhancing brand value and inspiring our customers to share their good experiences with others.

DMA provides data security resources

The Direct Marketing Association is an outstanding resource for information on data security.  In fact, the DMA just released its annual Statistical Fact Book 2013, and one of the findings was very encouraging on this very topic: Almost 85 percent of marketers will be taking additional steps to protect customer data and privacy in 2013.  In addition, the DMA blog in April posted an entry with tips on how to establish a good data governance program from Experian VP of Regulatory Compliance and Information Practices, Judy Macior.

Finally, marketers must not only be good stewards of consumer information, but we must also be up-front with consumers about our practices and security measures so they feel comfortable sharing their information with us into the future.  If you have any tips or thoughts to share on big data security, please post a comment below.

InfoCision continues to set standard for call center quality with 20th MVP Quality Award

InfoCision just received word that it has officially been awarded its 20th consecutive MVP Quality Award from CUSTOMER magazine – InfoCision is the only company to win the award in every year since it was created in 1994. Advancing technology in communications has certainly changed the industry drastically since then. But what hasn’t changed is this simple fact: If you are dedicated to quality and excellence in connecting with customers or donors, you have a very good chance of succeeding.

InfoCision just received word that it has officially been awarded its 20th consecutive MVP Quality Award from CUSTOMER magazine.  The MVP was first awarded in 1994 to recognize call center companies with the highest standards for quality, and InfoCision is the only company to win the award in every year. I couldn’t be more proud of this honor. Advancing technology in communications has certainly changed the industry drastically since 1994. But what hasn’t changed is this simple fact: If you are dedicated to quality and excellence in connecting with customers or donors, you have a very good chance of succeeding.

Broad scope of quality

We focused this year’s MVP Quality Award nomination on a recent case study that embodies the full spectrum of our commitment to quality in technology, client service and our people. A national premium television provider offers customers an easy way to transfer their service to a new residence by submitting an online form.  Before InfoCision was involved, it took an average of 48 hours to call customers back to verify.  But by implementing InfoCision’s innovative R3 technology along with our highly trained Communicators and our dedicated account staff, the average callback time was reduced to less than three minutes while customer service levels soared.  To read more about the program, please check out the full case study.

High quality people get high quality results

I’d be remiss if I did not mention that our quality starts with the Communicators on the phones.  We look for a more mature, career-minded Communicator and offer them a benefits package that works for them and their families. That’s why the average age of our Communicators is 42, and their average length of service is four years.  It’s also why we have retention rates that are much higher than most of our industry peers at 92 percent.

To read more about InfoCision’s dedication to quality, please visit http://www.infocision.com/ContactCenter/Advantages/Pages/Quality.aspx

Direct marketing compliance update: DMA in DC and cell phone consent changes

I came away from the conference encouraged that there are so many experts in our industry who understand the value of engaging with policy-makers in Washington. We must educate the policy-makers and help them understand the huge impact the DM industry has on our national economy – 9.2 million jobs and more than $2 trillion in annual sales in the US.

I was recently in Washington, DC for the DMA in DC Conference, an annual event at which data-driven marketers and fundraisers meet face-to-face with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Members of Congress to discuss issues and regulations impacting the industry — and what needs to be done to ensure responsible access to marketing data.

Direct marketing compliance takeaways from the DMA in DC Conference

I came away from the conference encouraged that there are so many experts in our industry who understand the value of engaging with policy-makers in Washington.  We must educate the policy-makers and help them understand the huge impact the DM industry has on our national economy.  Balancing the concerns of consumers with the needs of marketers is critical.

While some lawmakers are beginning to grasp the value of our business, others are totally unaware that our industry provides 9.2 million jobs in the United States and accounts for more than $2 trillion in annual sales – and unnecessary legislation that negatively impacts the industry hurts the national economy.

Here are some issues I’ll be discussing in the coming weeks:

  • What’s going to become of the post office?
  • Proper information privacy – especially as it pertains to information from social networking sites
  • Data security and recovery systems
  • Mobile phone calling regulations.

New FCC TCPA requirement:  You must obtain prior express written consent for all autodialed telemarketing calls to cell phones

On September 17, 2012 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the FCC’s revisions to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requiring express written consent for telephone solicitation messages (including text messages) placed using a prerecorded voice or an automatic telephone dialing system to cellular telephone numbers.  The express written consent requirement is set to go into effect on October 16, 2013.

This requirement will have an impact on any business or organization that calls cell phone numbers that have been provided to them by consumers. It is no longer acceptable to call a consumer just because they gave you their number and/or you have an existing business relationship with them.  Rather, when consumers give their phone number they must also proactively give consent, such as checking a box online signifying your organization may contact them, if it is a mobile number.

We encourage everyone to make sure their data collection forms and procedures are compliant with the new rule by working closely with your marketing partners and internal legal counsel in fully addressing how the new rule specifically affects your organization.  As always, your dedication to direct marketing compliance should never waver. For more information on InfoCision’s robust compliance systems, please follow this link. http://bit.ly/13xY1Yf

Quality Assurance Drives Higher Return on Your Contact Center Investment

From improving customer service levels to aiding in brand management, the benefits of a comprehensive quality assurance system can have a big impact on the bottom line of your programs

quality assuranceIn business, the word “quality” is often thrown around. But what does “quality” really mean in the contact center industry and what are the benefits for companies who utilize high quality teleservices provider.

Having a robust and comprehensive quality monitoring and assurance program helps to provide companies with a higher return on investment through a number of different avenues, according to Brian Feisthamel, director of quality assurance at InfoCision Management Corporation, including:

  • Increasing customer satisfaction and Communicator productivity by ensuring that all necessary information is being captured correctly on each call.
  • Helping Communicators understand how to improve their techniques so they can better connect with the customer from the first phone call, which leads to increased sales and donations.
  • Aiding in brand management by ensuring that all agents are consistently delivering the same messaging and a high quality customer/donor experience.
  • Allowing quality assurance staff to recognize opportunities to improve scripts, which can help drive additional revenue through increased cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
  • Ensuring the ability to quickly scale up and match existing quality and performance metrics.

Read more from Feisthamel on how quality assurance provides a boost to ROI http://www.elabs6.com/c.html?ufl=6&rtr=ons=eju,14k5f,4rew,g7p2,hl7m,8qfr,cwk8

We’d love to hear your thoughts on call center quality, so please leave a comment with your tips or suggestions.

Papa John’s faces lawsuit for mobile marketing compliance violations

mobile marketing complianceLately it seems that as every week that goes by, we hear of a company facing legal or regulatory action for failing to adhere to the strict compliance guidelines that govern the direct marketing industry.  This week a rather unlikely name is in the news for mobile marketing compliance violations:  Papa John’s Pizza.

As reported in several publications, Papa John’s is the subject of a class action lawsuit for sending numerous text messages to its customers without getting prior express verifiable consent.  Papa John’s was using a third party company to send out the text messages, and it appears they may not have been intricately aware of that company’s methods.  While Papa John’s denies fault in the case, many are estimating this could be the largest payout ever for such a violation, as more than 500,000 illegal text messages were sent.

Know your direct marketing partner

So what can companies that utilize direct marketing services take away from this case?  First, it is imperative to obtain express verifiable consent before contacting any consumer on their mobile device.  But since that is clearly part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, direct marketing providers should be keenly aware of that fact.

The bigger takeaway is just how important it is to truly know your direct marketing services provider.  With the myriad of laws and regulations that govern the industry, no company or organization should allow someone to send out marketing messages on their behalf without total faith that they are crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” when it comes to regulatory compliance, as well as operating in a manner that is ethical to consumers.  If they are not, it can create significant liability for a company, even one as large and well-known as Papa John’s; and it can level mountains of good will built over many years.

So before signing on with a direct marketing partner, make sure you do your homework and verify that they not only understand the regulatory environment of the industry, but have systems in place to ensure that all campaigns maintain strict compliance.

TCPA Legal Action Thrown Out

Recently, I came across a blog post about a TCPA class action lawsuit that was thrown out for being frivolous to say the least.

Without getting into too much detail, a man recently tried to sue Citibank, claiming that its direct marketing efforts were a violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The man claimed that he contacted Citibank in May of 2011 to apply for a credit card. As part of the application process, he gave his cell phone number to the bank and a few days later he received a text message with a promotion for Citi Cards (Citibank’s credit card). That message said he had the opportunity to opt out of future text messages by simply replying with the word “stop.” He did this, and Citibank sent him a final text, confirming that he would no longer receive promotions through the text message program. The man then proceeded to file suit in the Southern District of California, where he argued that the final confirmation text message violated the TCPA.

Now, if the man had opted out of the text message program and continued to receive promotions, I could very easily understand why he would be upset. That would be a direct violation of the law and his rights would have been considered to be infringed upon, but this simply was not the case.  The ruling in this case helps set a precedent and protects the industry from frivolous lawsuits like this in the future.

New Technology in Contact Centers

The teleservice industry is continuing to evolve and as direct marketers, we must adapt to the way consumers choose to connect with us. The digital age is thriving and things like text messages, email and social media are becoming more and more popular mediums of communication with consumers. When I look at this particular case, I am encouraged to see the judge’s decision reflects a balance in protecting the rights of consumer privacy with that of legitimate business interests.

With all of this being said, I think it is important that call centers, like InfoCision, understand our role in all of this. We have to remain compliant and follow the regulations that are in place. Here at InfoCision, we have invested millions of dollars in technology and dedicated resources to ensure all of our campaigns comply fully with all applicable laws and regulations, including the TCPA and the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).  We also have to be aware that our industry is unfortunately often under scrutiny. Violations by a few bad actors could ultimately result in more restrictions on our business. The new advances in technology are enabling us to expand consumer choice and create a superior customer service experience.

The Importance of Call Center Compliance

As every business leader knows, there are always going to be times when an organization must take risks.  However, when it comes to regulatory compliance in the call center industry, taking risks should never be an option.  Capital One Financial Corp, which has been working exclusively with low-cost offshore call center vendors, was recently fined $210 million dollars by the Consumer Protection Bureau for deceptive marketing tactics undertaken by their offshore call center partner.  Unfortunately, because the call center was short cutting training and quality processes, the client has become responsible for significant fines resulting from the fraudulent practices by their offshore call center agents.

Capital One released a statement in response, “Capital One’s third-party vendors did not always adhere to company sales scripts and sales policies for payment protection and credit-monitoring products, and the bank did not adequately monitor their activities.”

Compliance at InfoCision
No company should ever have to issue a statement like this because of the unethical practices of their marketing partner.  Here at InfoCision, our policy is that WE, not our clients, are primarily responsible for meeting the state and federal requirements for every program that takes place in one of our call centers.  We provide our clients with a dedicated team of regulatory compliance experts to give them peace of mind in all aspects of the management of their campaign.  As a company, your reputation is too important to leave to chance.

Welcome to The Right Call

Welcome to The Right Call!  In conjunction with InfoCision’s brand new website at www.infocision.com, we are also rolling out a new blog that we hope will be a marketplace for ideas in the call center and direct marketing industries.

At InfoCision, we have industry-leading experts on staff who are committed to providing their teams with the tools to deliver outstanding results for our clients.  These senior management team leaders will be offering advice and applicable tips that we have found helpful in our daily business operations, hiring efforts, strategic decision making and much more.

And we hope that our new website will be a valuable resource for companies and organizations looking for a direct marketing and/or call center partner; as well as job seekers who are looking for a meaningful career in the variety of positions that we employ.  For both groups, the new website should give you a good idea of our company culture, our family-friendly culture and our commitment to excellence and quality in all we do.

I encourage you to look the website over, and then contact us further if you would like more information on whether InfoCision is “The Right Call” for you.  I also encourage you to check www.the-right-call.com often to engage in some meaningful dialogue about a host of topics related to our industry.

 

Steve Brubaker

Chief of Staff

InfoCision