By Joan Mullen
The past year has certainly left its mark on the teleservices industry, especially the outbound consumer component. It has also resulted in various reactions in addition to the most obvious one — frustration. How much will inbound teleservices be affected? Will regulation or suppression of business telemarketing be next? Can this or that be done to “get around” the revised regulations? For areas in which the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) are not working in concert, which agency’s rules have to be complied with? Is it all worth it?
Having been in the teleservices business for some time, I definitely feel that it is worth the effort to make sure that we are in compliance and to diligently work toward a safe business-to-business climate. It is also worth every effort made by industry organizations to get the FTC and FCC to hear and act on our concerns so that we can run our businesses and continue to be compliant.
State laws are also more of an issue than ever before as several states are revising existing laws and introducing new ones making their penalties much more onerous than before. At the risk of preaching to the choir, the bottom line is that as an industry we weren’t vigilant enough in the years leading up to the 2003 revised regulations to the Telemarketing Sales Rule. And we really don’t want to waste time or money calling anyone who does not want to be called.
Being in compliance is not necessarily easy and some parts are certainly confusing. The development of a checklist of procedures that work for you and your company can make compliance less intimidating and stressful, permitting you to get on with your core business.
What should be included on a Compliance Checklist? Let’s look at the different components.
- Establish areas of compliance responsibility with all clients.
- Review and revise all client contracts and addendums as warranted.
- Obtain client SAN (Subscription Account Number) for the national Do-Not-Call list.
- Verify area codes to be called against those subscribed to by the client.
- Subscribe to the DMA’s (Direct Marketing Association) Telephone Preference Service and state Do-Not-Call registries as needed.
- Check state telemarketing registration laws for applicability to your company and register if necessary.
- Check state monitoring laws and verify your company’s compliance.
- Check state laws regarding permissible calling hours, permission-to-continue, and no rebuttals to verify compliance.
- Depending on the type of telemarketing applications that your company supports, review federal and state sales requirements for compliance.
- Seek legal counsel regarding laws and regulations that may apply to your company.
- Predictive Dialers must be configured to ring at least four times or for 15 seconds.
- Predictive Dialers must be programmed so that abandoned rates do not exceed 3% (per day per campaign if you’re under the FTC’s jurisdiction or 3% across all campaigns per 30 days if the FCC regulates your business).
- Predictive Dialers must be programmed to play a pre-recorded message for abandoned calls on all outbound consumer programs. The pre-recorded message must include the company name and telephone number. It does not have to be a toll free number but it must be a number that is answered during normal business hours and it must be capable of handling a DNC request. The recorded message may NOT include a sales message and it must state that the call was for telemarketing purposes.
- A consumer telemarketing call must connect within two seconds of the consumer’s completed greeting – otherwise it IS an abandoned call EVEN if it is answered by a live rep after the two seconds OR if the call is programmed to play a recorded sales message after less than 15 seconds or four rings.
- Systems must be programmed to transmit Caller ID that includes the name of the seller or service agency and a customer service telephone number that is answered during normal business hours with the same business name that is transmitted.
- Systems must be programmed to comply with local calling hours.
- Procedures must be developed and implemented to scrub all lists against all required Do-Not-Call lists.
- Determine with clients where the callback number for both abandoned calls and Caller ID will be housed.
- Determine with clients what business name will be given in an abandon recorded message.
- Determine with clients what business name will be shown on Caller ID.
- Set up a callback number for both abandoned calls and Caller ID callbacks.
- Design scripts and back-up information for both abandoned calls and Caller ID callbacks.
- Callback numbers must be answered during normal business hours and must be able to process Do-Not-Call requests if warranted.
- Design training material for handling all Do-Not-Call requests and related questions.
- Design training material for handling Permission-to-Continue and No Rebuttal state laws.
- Design appropriate forms for representatives to sign acknowledging that they understand compliance policies and procedures as well as the fact that they will be monitored for training and quality control purposes.
- Set up and implement training procedures for representatives.
- Train representatives as warranted.
- Have representatives sign appropriate acknowledgement forms.
When all areas are considered, the compliance requirements above may seem overwhelming. But taking a closer look, we can see that many of the requirements have been enforceable for quite sometime and therefore should already be part of our routine. In addition, if we take each subject separately, it becomes manageable once under control.
The most important thing to remember is that we in the teleservices industry are under the microscope more now than ever before and if we are challenged it will be our responsibility to prove compliance. At the same time, if we keep thorough compliance records and they are in order we should be able to show that any “mistake” is just that, a mistake. This is an election year and any telemarketing legislation or regulation will generate a plethora of goodwill for the sponsor and any violation could result in major headaches for the violator.
In addition to using a checklist to verify that your company complies with both federal and state laws and regulations, I also recommend participation in and support of industry organizations and their activities on your behalf. There is assistance “out there” if needed in organizing your company’s compliance policies and procedures.
Joan Mullen is Vice President of Special Projects & Industry Relations at ORC ProTel, Inc. Contact Joan Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Compliance Check List
__ Client Agreements and Addendums
__ Client SAN numbers/area codes verified
__ Subscriptions to TPS and state DNC registries updated
__ State telemarketing registration laws checked
__ State monitoring laws checked
__ State laws checked regarding: permissible calling hours, permission to continue, no rebuttal
__ Federal and state sales requirements checked
__ Company legal counsel consulted
__ Predictive dialers configured/programmed as warranted
__ Abandoned call recording prepared
__ Caller ID script/procedures prepared
__ Training material developed
__ Initial training completed
__ Acknowledgment forms designed
__ Acknowledgment forms signed
[From Connection Magazine – May 2004]