What is the TCPA and what are some best practices to help your outbound call center stay in compliance?
When it comes to compliance, folks in the call center industry hear a lot of abbreviations and acronyms: TCPA, FTC, TSR, FCC, TRACED Act, STIR/SHAKEN, and so on.
TCPA , aka the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, is a critical piece of legislation for anyone in the outbound and lead generation call center industry. The TCPA regulates telemarketing calls, including auto-dialed calls, prerecorded messages, text messages, and unsolicited faxes.
Since being passed in 1991, the TCPA has been constantly evolving as new rulings affect the law’s coverage and courts’ interpretations of its contents.
Staying on top of all these changes and keeping your call center compliant is no joke. Many call center managers and owners know about the TCPA but have a vagueness and/or uncertainty about what they should be doing to comply with the regulations set out by the TCPA. It’s truly hard to keep up.
That’s why we’ve assembled this checklist of important TCPA best practices and call center compliance tips in these four areas:
- Consent Best Practices
- Communications Best Practices
- List and Campaign Management Practices
- Finding the Right Outside Help
TCPA Best Practices for Consent
The TCPA was created to protect consumers from a rise in unwanted communications. One of the key areas that it covers is the issue of consumer consent. Use these TCPA best practices to help make sure your business is getting the consent it needs to contact potential customers and drive results. (And do so without risking the costly penalties of noncompliance.)
Get Consent for Marketing Communications
Prior to a recent Supreme Court ruling in the Facebook v. Duguid case, outbound contact centers using autodialer software were required to obtain “prior express written consent” from a consumer to contact them for telemarketing purposes. The Court’s ruling, however, opened the door for customers of compliant autodialers like Convoso to dial consumers without opt-in consent.
Regardless, we still maintain that obtaining opt-in consent is a TCPA best practice your call center should follow. As Convoso CEO Nima Hakimi put it, “You still want to call people that want to talk to you, that have expressed some level of interest in your product or service.”
Note: Even after Facebook v. Duguid, opt-in consent is still required for those using pre-recorded voicemails in their marketing communications.
Obtain Consent for Non-Marketing Communications
Obtaining opt-in consent for marketing communications is important on its own. But it also extends to non-marketing communications. According to TCPA compliance experts Mac Murray & Shuster LLP, a consumer who provides their telephone number also consents to being contacted for non-marketing communications provided that:
- The number was provided to your business directly or via an intermediary
- The consumer did not provide “instructions to the contrary” (i.e., indicated that they don’t want to be contacted at that number)
- The call or contact is for “normal business communications”
- The call or contact is closely related to the purpose for which consent was given.
Maintain (and Backup) a Record of Consent
Protect your organization against litigation by keeping a record of consumers who have given you their consent, as well as the type of communications they have consented to third-party integrations like TrustedForm can document and prove consent with video replays of users interacting with lead forms. Plus, they provide long-term storage in case you need to refer back to a particular customer interaction down the line.
“Down the line” can be quite a long time in the eyes of the FTC: The statute of limitations for the TCPA is up to six years—and certain state-level regulations can extend that even further.
Offer an Opt-Out
Just as getting opt-in consent is important, the TCPA—and the newer California Consumer Protection Act—require that consumers have clear access to an opt-out. According to Blue Ink Digital’s Greg Dobak, untracked opt-outs could be a source of significant new litigation. Speaking in a recent webinar, Dobak stressed the importance of using a solution, such as Blue Ink Digital’s Secured Leads, to quickly remove leads from lists and avoid calling consumers who are no longer consenting.
TCPA Best Practices for Communication
Following the letter of the law extends well beyond obtaining and managing consent, of course. To stay TCPA-compliant, your team will also need to implement a number of best practices for contacting and communicating with consumers.
Restrict Calls to Compliant (and Effective) Times
The TCPA restricts telemarketing calls to between 8:00am and 9:00pm calls. Further restrictions apply at the state level. Adjustable call scheduling software can automate this TCPA best practice for your call center. Plus, it can help you find out when leads are most responsive and tailor your dial level to boost contacts and conversions.
Limit Your Redialing
Dialing a single lead repeatedly can frustrate that consumer and make them more likely to lodge a complaint or file or suit. It will also drive up the likelihood of your caller IDs being blocked or flagged by the consumer or their telco carrier. Use workflow dialing to automatically rest leads after a certain number of calls. Meanwhile, an omnichannel approach can help you contact interested prospects with fewer calls.
Honor Requests to Stop Calling
Create an internal process to ensure your company honors requests made by consumers to stop receiving calls. Train agents on how to enter these requests into an internal Do Not Call list (more on that below) and include a consistent response to the consumer’s request within your scripts.
Always Be Respectful of the Consumer
“The customer is always right.” Abiding by this saying might seem like common sense or a best practice for business in general. But it’s actually a TCPA compliance best practice, too. Frustrated customers who feel disrespected are the ones most likely to take action against your company. Avoid these issues altogether by fostering a culture at your call center that puts your customers (or potential customers) first to support compliance and performance.
TCPA Best Practices for List and Campaign Management
The TCPA also governs who can and can’t be on your lists and included in your campaigns. Adhere to these TCPA best practices related to list and campaign management to support compliance from end to end.
Frequently Check the National Do Not Call List
Consumers who do not wish to receive any telemarketing calls can add their numbers to the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. The TCPA requires that call centers maintain their own written procedures for regularly scrubbing their data against the DNC list. To follow this TCPA best practice, your company needs to maintain its own internal Do Not Call list, which can be cross-referenced against the national DNC registry.
Scrub Your Lists for Litigators
To further protect your call center, you will also want to scrub your data for litigators and serial plaintiffs. Organizations like DNC.com and The Blacklist Alliance provide solutions that can help remove predatory plaintiffs’ and attorney’s numbers from your lists.
Distinguish Between Cell and Landline Numbers
Different rules of consent apply to cell phone and landline numbers. For example, call centers cannot make a prerecorded telemarketing call to a landline number without prior written consent. To save time and follow TCPA best practices, choose an autodialer software with the ability to automatically segment mobile and landline numbers.
Regularly Check Your Pre-Recorded Scripts
For telemarketing campaigns that leave prerecorded messages, the TCPA stipulates that the message must include:
- Multiple identity and purpose disclosures. For instance, you need to identify your company and the reason for your call at the beginning of your message.
- A phone number for Do Not Call requests
- An automated interactive voice or key-press operated opt-out mechanism
Evaluate all new and existing prerecorded message scripts to ensure that they follow TCPA guidelines as well as any state-level regulations.
Beyond Internal TCPA Best Practices: Finding the Right Outside Help
While following the above TCPA best practices is a great start to supporting compliance inside your call center, you can’t go it alone. Take a proactive approach to compliance by working with the right partners.
Enlist Expert Legal Counsel
The compliance landscape is extremely complex. It’s also constantly changing. To focus more on what you and your agents do best, enlist the support of dedicated legal counsel that specializes in contact center compliance. Having a trusted legal partner on your side gives you an important resource to turn to whenever you need it.
Perform Regular Audits
Quarterly internal audits of your compliance processes and policies can keep your call center on point. However, regular full-scale audits may be best handled by a third-party. This is another area that your dedicated counsel can help. Expert legal counsel may be able to conduct extensive audits of your processes annually to identify and shore up areas of risk.
Double-Check Your Data Providers
Don’t put the fate of your organization in the hands of just any data provider. Procure your leads and lists from reputable providers who have compliance safeguards in place. But don’t stop there, either. Implement internal processes to regularly audit your third-party data and ensure that it is always compliant.
Team Up with the Right Contact Center Software Partner
Not all dialers are created equally. And that’s true when it comes to compliance, too. Your dialer software provider should be able to help you boost contact rates and conversions. But they should also have their finger on the pulse of today’s compliance landscape.
With new regulations like STIR/SHAKEN and the CCPA on the horizon and issues like call blocking and flagging on the rise, your software should be capable of delivering new solutions to the newest industry problems. Ask your dialer provider what they’re doing to support compliance while delivering the best results for your call center.