For risk captains looking to navigate the shoals of the telemarketing industry, here are a few pointers.
First, subscribe to the American Teleservices Association's Regulatory Guide. It provides up-to-the-minute information on what it takes to be in compliance.
"There are a lot of state regulations that limit calling hours, as well as guidelines for calling customers with whom you have existing business relationships," says Tim Searcy, CEO of the ATA, which tracks 1,000 different state and federal regulations pertaining to call centers.
Joseph Sanscrainte, director of regulatory affairs for vendor Call Compliance Inc., calls the guide "the best central repository for all telemarketing rules and regulations across the United States."
The guide is particularly helpful because conflicting state and federal rules often overlap, and because fines range from $500 to $11,000 per incident.
Second, says Searcy, call-center managers need to know how best to interpret the laws on the books. Until case law sets a precedent, the governing bodies don't provide specific information on how the laws will be interpreted or enforced.
"As such, you need to keep up on cases where firms have actually been fined," says Searcy. "These cases contain information that provides clear roadmaps for everyone else to avoid being fined."
Third, be diligent. There are thousands of documents for the various state and federal rules and regulations, says Searcy. As these rules change, it is important for call centers to show that they are keeping up with new rules and training their employees to follow them.
Finally, inspect what you except. Create an audit program. "We encourage compliance officers to build checklists for the purpose of auditing their contact centers, to make sure they are in compliance with the laws," says Searcy.
When the FTC starts to poke around, "the best thing you can do is show your documented procedures and proof that you have been auditing yourselves and making progress," he says.
While fines, the loss of customer confidence and the erosion of loyalty are major concerns for marketing companies, it is also important to realize that there is the potential for criminal proceedings.
"It is to the point these days where everything businesspeople do can potentially be subject to criminal proceedings if they don't utilize the utmost levels of reasonable performance," says Larry Ponemon, a Mich.-based identity theft expert.
September 15, 2005
Copyright 2005© LRP Publications