As a contact center, calls are obviously your lifeforce. You need to find a way to reach a large mass of customers quickly. But you need to do so without sacrificing consumers’ privacy — that’s where the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) comes in.
Any business, such as a contact center, dialing a high volume of outbound voice messages needs to keep regulations in mind or face potentially hefty fines. We’ve created this guide to ensure your business knows the ins and outs of regulations.
If you don’t follow along with regulations, it could end up costing you your business. Let’s go over the basics for why it should matter to your organization.
What is the TCPA?
Source: JD Supra
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act is a set of regulations implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in coordination with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It acts as a way to protect consumers’ privacy and crack down on unwanted and persistent calls. As Keogh Law writes, the act was created in response to a rising number of class action complaints about the abuses of spam phone calls.
Around the time that the act was enacted, devices acquired the ability to be used to play pre-recorded sales pitches. They were able to dial up to 1,000 phone numbers per hour, which meant that they often took advantage of that.
The act allows for people on the receiving end of unsanctioned autodialed calls to collect a minimum of $500 in damages — but it can cost way more money than that. As the TCPA was enacted almost 30 years ago, it has changed significantly since it was first created. The FCC frequently updates rules and regulations in order to reflect any new technology that could be used to send illegal automated communications.
In order to remain completely TCPA compliant, you need to keep some requirements in mind when dialing numbers. As TCN writes, here are some things you need to keep in mind:
- You may not contact anyone listed in the National Do Not Call Registry (DNC).
- Texts can only be sent between 8 a.m.- 9 p.m. in the called party’s local time.
- You must have customers’ prior express written consent in order to call them
- Do not use auto dialers to mobile phones or other recipients where the receiver pays for the call itself.
- You may not call any telephone number considered to be an emergency line.
- You cannot call with an unsolicited advertisement unless you already have a previously established business relationship.
While you should always keep these protocols in mind, there are some types of calls and businesses that fall under exemptions from the act, such as the following:
Prior relationships — If a contact has asked for informational messages regarding your business within the past 3 months, or if they’ve used your services within the past 18 months, they’re considered a prior relationship. That means you don’t need prior express consent to call them.
Specific types of businesses — Non-profits and certain healthcare-related calls are exempt from TCPA since they are not selling any goods or services.
Emergency purposes — Calls sent for emergency purposes are exempt from TCPA regulations.
Why your Call Center Needs to Keep TCPA in Mind
Simply put, if you disregard regulations, you’ll face significant financial consequences. Repeatedly violating the rules could end up being something your business can never recover from. As Fonolo writes, the FCC would charge you $16,000 per violation — repeated violations means you could end up with fines you could never recover from. Even though they’re a major company, Sprint ended up paying $7.5 million for violating the regulations.
But you don’t have to navigate these tedious regulations alone. Call center technology has adapted to assist you in following regulations. Fonolo states that several companies now provide scrubbing services to ensure you take numbers that did not provide consent off your call list.
Remaining compliant is simple, as long as you keep in mind the following do’s and don’ts of TCPA compliance.
TCPA Compliance Do’s
In order to avoid FCC fines, be sure to keep these compliance best practices from Call Center Hosting in mind:
Always scrub cell phones right away — The act strictly prohibits call centers from making telemarketing calls to a cell phone number without receiving previous consent first. You’ll be subject to fines if you contact one of those numbers, even if it’s by accident. So the best way to avoid those unwanted fines is to just scrub numbers right away. Telemarketers can utilize call center software’s ability to scrub numbers automatically.
Differentiate between landline and cell phones — The act clearly states that you cannot make a telephone solicitation to landline numbers without written consent, which is different than consent regulations for cell phones. So if you always make sure to differentiate between both types of numbers, you can easily keep track of which phone numbers fall under what regulations.
Review prerecorded voice calls — Your contact center probably uses an IVR dialer to carry out its campaigns. It brings a significant level of ease to your organization, but keep in mind that the TCPA imposes strict regulations on these devices.
Namely, these prerecorded messages must always include the name of your business. It’s wise to review each campaign before they go out to ensure they adhere to these guidelines.
Have your agents dial phone numbers manually — An auto dialer is great for sending out a high volume of phone calls. But this technology cannot review a contact list like your human agents can. So if you want to provide your contact center with an extra level of security, using real people to dial numbers is a good way to go.
Record every outbound call — It’s always a good idea to keep a record. If you record every outbound call, you can go back and review as needed to ensure they’re sticking to guidelines.
Use auto dialers with DND filtering — Since you can’t call phone numbers on the Do Not Call registry, it’d be wise to utilize an auto dialer that has a Do Not Disturb (DND) filter. That way, you won’t be able to make calls to those numbers that have not given you consent.
Provide training to your team on changes to the TCPA — The very best way to keep your agents compliant is to make sure you stay up-to-date on any changes and pass what you learned off to your team. As TCN writes, a great way to do this is by providing interactive training opportunities, such as screen recording, call recording, and compliant scripts. That way, you can keep an eye on your agents’ behavior and strategies in the moment.
Utilize an e-signature tool — The rules clearly state that a contact center news prior expressed written consent before auto dialing a phone number with a written message. Utilizing e-signature software is a great tool to obtain your subscribers’ and leads’ signatures quickly and efficiently.
If you want to avoid fines and losing customers, make sure to avoid the following items from TCN.
A large burst of calls — The regulations work to block spam. If your contact center is blasting out a high volume of calls in a short time frame, that will absolutely look like spam.
Unsolicited robocalls — If you’re sending automated calls to phone numbers that did not give you consent, that will hit on a number of different violations. Both of these actions will undoubtedly lead to your contact center being blocked.
Inadequate disclosures during phone calls — You can’t get away with not efficiently disclosing which business you’re calling from during sales calls. If you don’t make the name and purpose of your organization clear to whoever you are calling, your business can expect customers to block your contact center.
Suspicious dialing patterns or strategies — The act prohibits certain dialing patterns and strategies. That’s because they’re known to lend themselves to spam-like behavior that takes advantage of customers. That includes sequential dialing, which is the act of automatically dialing alternative numbers for a customer in hopes that they’ll answer that call.
Neighbor spoofing would be roped into this as well. This is when a call center would use a number with a specific area code to look like you’re calling from a certain area. Both of these strategies could prompt your customers to block your business.
TCPA Contact Center Compliance Trends for 2021
Keep the following contact center trends from Convoso in mind in order to stay ahead of your competition.
Use a TCPA compliant dialer — You should be using a dialer that is up-to-date with the most current TCPA regulations. Contact center software can now offer this built-in by providing the ability to enable responsible dialing strategies.
Five9 is a prime example of a TCPA compliant dialer. It integrates with third-party scrubbing services to ensure your calling lists do not go against “Do Not Call” lists. The vendor works with legal counsel and TCPA compliance vendors to make sure they are providing a compliant product. Finally, Five9 TCPA offers Manual Touch Mode.
Its website states experts have praised this as “the industry with a balance of functionality, reporting, and Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) risk mitigation.”
Purchase compliant leads or verify existing ones — Buying leads is nothing new. So if you specifically purchase leads from service providers that are compliant, you’ll be following protocol right off the bat.
DaaS company Jornaya offers a 3rd Party TCPA Guardian. It will comb through your existing leads to ensure they’re compliant. It is designed to help you avoid risk by knowing you’ve received the customer’s consent before contacting them. That way, you can prove consent in the event of TCPA litigation.
Responsible dialing strategies — Finding dialing strategies that are responsible and compliant will always be a trend. There are a few ways you can do so. For one, try analyzing your dialing metrics by implementing KPIs that can analyze the returns on certain phone numbers.
You can also invest in caller ID reputation management software that will go hand-in-hand with your dialing strategies. These tools will ensure your number won’t come up as “Spam Likely” on your customers’ phones.
Convoso is a prime example of caller ID reputation management. The tool helps you implement responsible dialing strategies. That way, you’ll be less likely to be flagged as spam. The less you’re flagged as spam, the higher your contact rates will be.
TCPA Violation Fines
If your business is reported to be partaking in suspicious behavior such as the ones listed above, the FCC can fine you. As TCN writes, the standard fee for a call that violates the regulations is $500. But some plaintiffs in these situations have sought up to $1,500 in fines from businesses that break these protocols.
This isn’t a fixed fee — fines that you potentially face could be even higher. These fines tend to come from common violations, so they should act as a cautionary tale for how easy it can be to face fines from breaking regulations.
Conclusion: Keep Your Contact Center Compliant
Your contact center can’t function if it’s not compliant. Breaking these regulations could cost you customers and money, which could lead to the demise of your business in general. It benefits both parties if you go the extra mile to stay in line with regulations, along with making sure you’re up to date with the way the act is updated to reflect new and emerging technology.
If you are looking to upgrade your contact center software in order to ensure your tool is offering TCPA-compliant features, take a look at our top providers for 2021.
Frequently asked questions
Before you launch your calling campaign, your organization should seek legal counsel that is well-versed in regulations. They can help you to structure your campaign to ensure every move is completely compliant.
Yes, calls from political campaigns must follow the same declaratory rulings that apply to telemarketing campaigns.
Yes. As of 2012, the FCC decided that text messaging should be treated in the same way as telephone calls.
This refers to messages that are necessary for the health and safety of consumers.
If you are dialing from an ATDS, it must always be written consent.