Telemarketing remains productive for many customer acquisition, upgrade and cross-sell offers, but much care is needed to be in compliance with the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which took effect in October.
Some telemarketers continue to achieve satisfactory results, possibly because overall call volumes are down. If my home is an indication, it has been a bit quieter on Saturday mornings since last fall. There seem to be far fewer calls from local firms such as newspaper sales and home improvement offers that lack the resources to process lists and tape sale verifications vital in today’s highly scrutinized environment.
Let me provide 12 keys to telemarketing compliance:
Know the laws. Program managers at sellers and service bureaus must know the laws clearly. Sellers also will benefit from an attorney with experience in the field setting guidelines. Small to midsize firms without in-house expertise may want to retain a specialist attorney in this field.
Safe harbor eligibility. Section 38 of the FCC rules defines its agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that: “A seller or telemarketer acting on behalf of the seller that has made a good faith effort to provide consumers with an opportunity to exercise their Do Not Call Rights should be not liable for violations which result from an error.”
To qualify for this protection, multiple requirements are defined starting with the ability to show that written procedures for compliance are implemented into “routine business practices” and “it has trained its personnel and that of any entities assisting” in the procedures.
Manage your agreements. As the sponsor of a program, it no longer is possible to contract out all risks of regulatory action resulting from telemarketing, but it often is possible to have mistakes made by subcontractors covered in agreements. Many vendors will accept only limited risk, and a seller needs to know what risk they bear if a mistake happens.
Company-specific list. When customers or prospects ask your telemarketer to not call them again with a marketing offer, be absolutely sure to add them to your appropriate in-house, company-specific DNC list. You need to be 100 percent sure that the process for passing new DNC requests from telemarketing call centers goes cleanly through the network of suppliers and internal divisions into your central house file.
We suggest maintaining weekly or monthly counts of DNC requests from each source, then matching those counts against inputs to the house file.
DNC lists. Verify that your list processor, whether internal or outsourced, processed your prospect files against the national, state and your company-specific lists. See the hard-copy document, which we call a “scrub” report, indicating the records matching against the DNC lists, and keep a copy well filed.
Do a second scrub. It is standard for outsourced telemarketing firms to scrub against state and national DNC lists even if a client has scrubbed the file already. These second scrubs often find a few extra matches. Of course, keep the “scrub” report to be able to show that this step was taken.
Call window start-up checks. Before starting any campaign, have each telemarketing subcontractor or even internal call site provide you documentation of the following: the abandon message they will leave, the caller-ID message, that dialing software will observe the “four-ring/15-second rule,” and a copy of the report indicating that DNC files were processed.
During campaign. Check daily reporting for the ratio of live contacts and abandons, which should be no more than 3 percent. If a firm exceeds this standard, a written response should be sent immediately directing that corrective action be taken.
Monitor calls. Telemarketing clients frequently use a dedicated third-party monitoring group to provide another level of supervision to their campaigns. Monitoring can be set up so that each telemarketer can be graded for communications skills and adherence to directions.
Listen to sale verification tapes. One of the most important steps in telemarketing management today is listening to a representative sample of verification tapes, which cover the affirmation made by the customer to enroll in the program. Tape both the audible reaffirmation of the customer’s assent to enroll and full presentation of disclosures, and to hear clearly a positive affirmation by customers.
Though most firms will agree to listen to every sale verification, a few “soft sales” can slip through, resulting in serious potential problems. A second independent spot check by client staff or their representative is another vital safety check on a campaign.
White-glove treatment for EBR lists. Some sellers have held off making a cross-sell or upgrade offer by phone to anyone on a DNC list with whom they have an existing business relationship. Even so, most want to expand relationships with their customers by offering additional services. Section 113 of the FCC rule allows sales calls to customers on the federal DNC list if the customer has made a transaction or payment to the seller within 18 months. One risk in calling EBR names is that you may generate a high level of requests by customers to be added to your company-specific DNC list.
Be a trade association member. The Direct Marketing Association and the American Teleservices Association do an excellent job of informing their members about changes in the law and suggestions of best practices to be in compliance, and are a valuable resource to have on your side if an unavoidable problem does occur.