What is the TCPA?
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.
The 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 only have a vague idea about what they should be doing to comply with its regulations.
We get it. 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 five areas:
TCPA Best Practices for Consent
The TCPA was created to protect consumers from a rise in unwanted communications. One of the key areas 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 2021 Supreme Court ruling in case of Facebook v. Duguid, 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.
Since that ruling though, the issue of consent has continued to be argued in the courts and legislated in the states. Plus, even with the Court’s decision, opt-in consent is still required for any teams using pre-recorded voicemails or intelligent virtual agent (IVA) technology in their marketing communications.
Because of these requirements—and because of the preferences of consumers—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.”
Obtain Consent for Non-Marketing Communications
Obtaining opt-in consent for marketing communications is important on its own. But that TCPA best practice 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 (CCPA)—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 Convoso 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 support compliance, your team will also need to implement a number of TCPA 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. 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 call center compliance 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 a predictive dialer 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, such as those you use with smart voicemail drop capabilities, to ensure that they follow TCPA guidelines as well as any state-level regulations.
Call Center Compliance Beyond the TCPA
While the TCPA should be a chief concern for sales teams, it’s far from the only aspect of call center compliance that you need to worry about.
STIR/SHAKEN and Call Flagging
Although it was first introduced back in 2019, STIR/SHAKEN protocols remain a hot-button issue. In attempting to combat caller ID spoofing and rising robocalls, regulators have largely passed the burden of identifying spam callers over to carriers themselves. As a result, carriers have implemented black-box algorithms that determine whether a phone number is likely spam.
In tandem with call labeling services available directly to consumers, this has created significant issues for legitimate businesses trying to reach leads who have asked to be contacted. Contact rates are down, leaving organizations scrambling to bolster their sales numbers.
Against this backdrop, caller ID reputation management has emerged as an essential component of call center compliance and performance management. Without software that can monitor the health of caller IDs and support smarter dialing strategies to avoid “Spam” and “Scam Likely” labels, key performance metrics are likely to take a nosedive.
Meanwhile, the last few years have also seen the rise of the so-called “mini-TCPA.” In the wake of the Facebook v. Duguid ruling, an increasing number of state legislatures have taken to enacting their own restrictions on calling and texting consumers. We’ve seen laws codified in states like Florida, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Georgia, with even more legislatures drawing up their own similar bills.
In some cases, these bills are more restrictive than federal TCPA regulations, not less. And regardless of their strictness, it’s complexity that’s perhaps the biggest hurdle for contact center compliance now: As more and more state laws are passed, call center teams must navigate an increasingly elaborate web of regulations if they’re dialing into states around the country.
Having software that can be customized and automated to respond to each state’s regulations is crucial. That’s why Convoso has introduced its StateTracker tool.
The StateTracker tool is the only solution that is purpose-built for outbound sales teams to comply with daily attempt maximums under Mini TCPA-style laws. You can now set up a variety of state compliance checks in a single location and reduce the risk of human error that can lead to lawsuits and fines. This will allow you to dial with more confidence and demonstrate to regulators that your organization goes above and beyond to comply with regulations.
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Beyond Your Own Best Practices: Finding the Right Outside Help
While following the above TCPA best practices and call center compliance tips 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.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this page, and related links, is provided for general education purposes only and is not legal advice. Convoso does not guarantee the accuracy or appropriateness of this information to your situation. You are solely responsible for using Convoso’s services in a legally compliant way and should consult your legal counsel for compliance advice. Any quotes are solely the views of the quoted person and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Convoso.