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Avoiding the Million Dollar Mistake

October 13, 2011 Matt Rocco

In 2007, a large clothing corporation made a blunder that cost them $107 million in lawsuit payouts. In August of this year, a major financial institution performed a seemingly harmless procedure that will cost them millions of dollars after the six current suits against them are cleared up. What mistake did these companies make? Their call centers—centralized offices that deal with a company’s telephone requests and campaigns for a fee—breached compliancy laws. Compliancy laws are enforced in order to protect consumers and their personal information and liberties.

Although compliancy seems as simple as using polite language and a phone script, as well as taking “no” for an answer during customer service and telemarketing calls, the laws designed by the government are lengthy and numerous. Small and large companies alike need to know and follow statutes such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), the Telephone Sales Rule of 1995 (TSR), Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance, the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Laws, the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010, and the National Do Not Call (DNC) List (among others).

This huge list of parameters is almost completely carried out by a portion of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) known as the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Their attorneys enforce all federal laws that pertain to American consumers. They have the authority to investigate companies, conduct lawsuits, and educate businesses on how to properly follow consumer protection laws. The FTC also created and currently implements the National Do Not Call List. Telemarketing companies and call center campaigns must purchase a Federal list of approved phone numbers after registering with a national DNC as a “seller”. The fines imposed by the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the FTC aren’t particularly forgiving either. In the case of the aforementioned financial institution giant, client information was electronically transmitted each time a call was transferred to their overseas calling centers. Unfortunately, these transfers weren’t protected and the United States government gained the ability to seize this data without violating the Constitution. Though it may have been a tiny slip up, the FTC is suing the corporation for $100 per data transmission, $1500 per phone call made, and $1500 for each person whose information was exposed. These demands are only part of one of the lawsuits that the FTC has made against this institution.

If companies of gargantuan size can make such a misstep, companies of all sizes can, too. How can a call center company protect itself from lawsuits and a giant loss of profit if the rules are so difficult to make sense of? Luckily, there’s an array of options for firms. Software, seminars, and accreditation programs are all options to make sure requirements are being met within the contact centers, ultimately saving money and time that a lawsuit would otherwise waste.

A Predictive Dialing Solutions (PDS) is a program that organizes, automates, and manages outbound calls. The PDS allows call and work flow management, an integrated database, and list control. Another similar program can be found through Do Not Call Software, which can store federal and state do not call information. The software is designed to be different for every size and type of company to ensure the utility of the program. Many companies also offer training seminars so that employees can prevent compliance problems in their own company before they happen, as well as troubleshooting tips on their webpage.

Probably the most comprehensive program to ensure complete contact center compliancy is to become accredited through a yearlong program conducted by the American Teleservices Association (ATA). Very few call centers out of the existing thousands are accredited by the ATA. The American Teleservices Association Self-Regulatory Organization (ATA-SRO) accreditation program was designed to guarantee an excellent teleservices experience for consumers through an objective program that makes certain that government compliance is being closely followed.

Accreditation for a center will only occur after going through a three-step plan. First, self-assessment will occur through auditing software. The software will then generate reports about a company’s current compliance procedures, which can be used to archive supporting documentation (all documentation is completely confidential). Next, a certified ATA-SRO independent auditor will analyze the self-assessment data and carry out their own audit, which will include site visits to the contact center. If discrepancies are discovered during the independent audit, the auditor will return the information to the contact center for revision and correction. If the audit is successful, the report is sent on a Trustee’s Committee for accreditation consideration. The last step in the accreditation process is the company’s recommendation to the Trustee’s Committee for a seal of accreditation. The call center’s identity is withheld from the board members to prevent bias, and any questions that the Trustee Committee may have go back to the independent auditor, who will coordinate with the company to reexamine pertinent information. Though the procedure may seem long and tedious, the ATA-SRO accreditation seal is a sign of integrity to all companies looking to hire a call center that will help maintain the highest levels of compliancy and provide a great customer experience.

Etech Global Services gained the ATA-SRO accreditation recently. The ATA-SRO Accreditation process took over a year and will be a large commitment to maintain. However, this is just one of a number of steps we are taking to ensure that Etech Global Services provides best practice support to our clients.

Just by taking small steps to make certain that call center compliancy is being followed, companies large and small can avoid the loss of millions of dollars and their customers’ respect.

This article was written by Matt Rocco, President and Chief Operating Officer at Etech Global Services. Etech Global Services is a leading provider of intelligent sales and service solutions utilizing inbound and outbound voice and web chat.  Etech Global Services also understands the importance of customer relationships. Today, and in the future, all of Etech Global Services’ solution strategies will be driven by the ‘voice of the customer’. Etech Global Services’ goal is to provide industry-leading service, stellar CSAT scores, and high performing sales and service solutions that enable clients to increase revenue and delight customers. If you would like to learn more about Etech Global Services, their experience with the ATA-SRO accreditation process or to learn more about their contact center solutions, please contact info@etechgs.com