Published: April 27, 2020 | Comments
I was enjoying a wonderful night out the other evening when my cell phone buzzed with an unfamiliar number. My cell indicated “possible spam” so I let it go to voicemail, figuring if it was critical, they’d leave a message. They called back - 6 attempts in the next 5 minutes before I blocked the number.
Statistics indicate that 59 billion robocalls were launched in 2019 alone, up 22% from the previous year. That’s 180 robocalls per year for every individual in the United States. And with the vast majority of those calls hitting consumers’ cell phones, it’s no wonder that rectifying the robocall plague has become one of the few issues in Washington DC to unify Democrats and Republicans in a call to action.
Over the last decade, Congress has taken action with several pieces of legislation, including The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which attempts to address when and how a cell phone can be leveraged, and The Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which attempts to regulate spam calls.
But in this headlong rush to protect consumers, legislators may also be handicapping legitimate outreach contact attempts in the regulatory net. Companies whose lifeblood is outbound contact for valid business purposes are finding themselves hesitating and fearful of committing a regulatory violation with every call they make.
In fact, community-proud credit unions have become so concerned that many have stopped attempting to reach their members entirely. NAFCU’s CEO Dan Berger wrote an ex parte letter to the FCC earlier this year arguing that legislation against mobile phone outreach that was put in place in hopes of protecting consumers may in fact do the opposite. With fines and settlements resulting in millions into the hundreds of millions, such angst by businesses across all segments are justified.
Based on current circumstances, how can a company which depends on consistent outbound customer contact mitigate its risk and minimize its exposure? Obviously, the proper initial course of action if you have an outbound component to your business is to seek the advice of independent legal counsel. This should be done without hesitation.
There are also ways to potentially help minimize some of the risk with the deployment of appropriate best practices and technology. Here are some thoughts:
Have the ability to secure and track both consent and revocation of consent in real-time by customer, number, and account.
I worked with a major hospital in Los Angeles which gained consent for outbound contact by mail. They were unaware of the exposure and liabilities which existed during the interim of postal mail exchange. Ideally, consent (or revocation of consent) should be recorded during the initial contacts with any customer.
Consent for contact is not limited to voice only.
TCPA regulations can be applied to digital contact as well. As with voice, when communicating via SMS or email, it’s critical to secure consent as part of your initial customer conversation.
Ensure that your current dialer technology cannot be classified as an ATDS (Automatic Telephone Dialing System) within TCPA criteria.
Again, immediately seek legal counsel as a critical first step to understanding the regulatory exposure your current technology is providing. It’s been my experience that many companies with outbound contact efforts are not aware that their current technology is in violation and subject to extensive fines. Or worse yet, assuming that they will not get caught.
Understand individual state and Federal regulations with regards to contact timeframes.
Many states have unique regulations about frequency and times for allowable calls. Ideally, employ a technology which will help you automatically manage the pacing and timing of your outbound calls to remain in compliance.
Assure that outbound calls are made using numbers which are associated with a proper company.
This will soon become mandatory. Calls made without the proper identification and authentication will not be completed. It is not too early to begin to think about how this will impact your business since there is significant headway being made in this technology.
As with most regulatory efforts, there is an enormous gap between intent and results, as evidenced by the flurry of legislation that continues to develop. This rush to regulate mobile phone outreach will have a very strong impact on your outbound customer contact success. Having a proactive and comprehensive approach with the proper technology is key to minimizing your risk and maintaining operational performance.