Niels Sören Richthof of Enghouse Interactive shares his advice for outbound contact centres to stay compliant.
New rules have come into force, making directors whose businesses make nuisance calls personally liable, and potentially facing fines of up to £500,000. This is going to put even greater pressure on organisations to ensure they always remain compliant.
It’s a complex problem, which affects many organisations across the UK today. While some deliberately make nuisance calls, the vast majority want to follow best practice and ‘do the right thing’. However, even if they have the right policies in place, these can sometimes ‘fall down’ at execution level if agents forget to suppress or ‘opt out’ an individual record. If that person is subsequently called, it could be classed as a nuisance call and result in a compliance breach.
So how can organisations avoid such pitfalls? Here, we outline some top tips they can follow to ensure they stay compliant at all times.
Put Relevant Processes in Place – and Enforce Them
Businesses need to put stringent processes in place, communicate them clearly to employees and ensure they are adhered to. Ideally, they should create a quality assurance or compliance department that monitors processes continuously to ensure they are followed. One aspect is to monitor call abandonment rates. If the rates peak above the compliance level, remedial action can be taken to bring them back to normal operating levels.
This is important because if regulators see that compliance has been breached in terms of calls made, they will want evidence the control mechanisms have worked, that remedial action was taken, and that resulting damage was mitigated or limited in scope as a result.
Build a Business-Wide Culture of Compliance
Compliance needs to be ingrained in the culture of the business so that anyone in contact with a customer knows what action to take if they breach regulations. GDPR is a prime example. In the past, organisations have not always recorded when and how they have obtained consent to email individuals. Businesses have had to sharpen their focus, ensure all staff are trained appropriately and that processes and systems have been implemented to stay within the law.
Nuisance calls are a serious issue for any customer-facing organisation. At any time, customers may ask not to be called again. But if the agent does not subsequently tick the box, the customer will remain in the cycle.
Quite often, quality assurance teams will focus on the sales part of calls and not follow through to see if customer requests to be removed from the database or contact list have been actioned by the agent. Businesses therefore need to invest more in quality assurance to ensure that the process covers all the call from beginning to end.
Have a Single Repository for Customer Data
Technology can also play a key role in ensuring compliance. A key step is making sure that there is one repository for all customer information. If information is held across disparate systems, it is difficult to track when a customer has asked to be removed from the database.
However, if the business uses a single unified customer relationship management (CRM) solution, then there is just one tick-box to address, and the business can be confident that regulations have been met.
Use Predictive Outbound Dialling Technology to Ensure Compliance
Businesses need to provide their agents with the right tools to do their job effectively and ensure compliance at the same time. This is where predictive outbound dialling comes into play. Phone numbers can be maintained directly within the dialler to prevent calls to contacts that do not wish to be called. Also, if the CRM system passes through a blacklisted number to the dialler, no outbound call will be made and the phone number will be reported as blacklisted back to the system.
Record and Retain Relevant Audit Trails
Technology can also be used to maintain an audit trail of what has happened to an account. Within that audit trail, businesses need to record how they obtained consent, any retractions of that consent and whether or not the customer has consented to be contacted once again in the future. There needs to be a full history recorded against this process, so the business has a legitimate defence if a challenge arises. However, with GDPR and the right to be forgotten, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Ultimately, though, it is how technology is used rather than the technology itself which will help bring about the elimination of nuisance calls within an organisation. It is the behaviour and attitude of the business and its staff which will determine whether a business is a perpetrator of nuisance calls or cuts them out altogether. This is what organisations need to reflect on as they consider the increasingly punitive punishments in place for those falling foul of the regulations.