Contact centres: How to do outbound calls without being branded a 'nuisance'
We’ve all been there – whether it is someone constantly ringing you about an accident you may or may not have been in, or a robotic voice advising you on PPI. Nuisance calls are a perennial problem.
Some businesses continue to break the law through their persistence. As it stands, only the business entity is liable for any fines if they break the law. But recent proposals unveiled by the government have put directors in the firing line and meant potential fines of up to £500,000. This is going to put huge pressure on businesses to get outbound calling right.
It’s a complex problem which affects many businesses across the UK. There are, of course, some rogue companies that deliberately operate from their position as nuisance callers. The majority of businesses want to follow best practice and ‘do the right thing’.
However, whilst they might have the right policies in place these can fall down at execution level where a customer service agent may have forgotten to suppress or opt-out an individual record. If this individual is called, it could be classed as a nuisance call and may result in a compliance breach.
To avoid this, businesses need to take ownership and make sure that processes are put in place and service agents are given the right tools to succeed. It also needs to be driven from the top down to ensure adherence, but how best can this be achieved?
Putting processes in place
Businesses need to put stringent processes in place that are communicated effectively to their employees and adhered too. It is not enough to carry out a one-off training programme or simply alert agents that new processes are in place.
Ideally, businesses need to create a quality assurance or compliance department that monitors processes continuously, to ensure that procedures are followed and being met. One aspect of this 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 the calls made, they want to see evidence that the control mechanisms have worked, remedial action was taken and whatever damage occurred, was mitigated or limited in scope as a result.
Involving the entire business
Compliance doesn’t begin and end in the contact centre. It needs to infiltrate right across the business so that anyone in contact with a customer knows what action to take if they breach regulations. GDPR is a prime example of this. In the past, organisations traditionally have not always recorded when and how they have obtained consent to email individuals. Businesses have had to sharpen their focus and ensure all their staff are trained and that processes and systems have been put in place to stay within the law.
Businesses need to take ownership and make sure that processes are put in place and service agents are given the right tools to succeed.
Nuisance calls are a serious issue for any customer-facing organisation. Fierce competitiveness in the business world can lead contact centre agents to put adverse pressure on the customer to buy. As a result, a customer may ask not to be called again. If the agent does not ‘tick the box’, the customer will remain in the cycle. Quite often the quality assurance team will focus on the sales part of the call and not follow through to see if compliance has been met to remove the customer.
Companies today, therefore, need to invest more in quality assurance to ensure that it also covers all of the call from beginning to end and that requests to be removed from the database or contact list are actioned by the agent.
A central repository for customer records
A key step when interactions with customers take place across a business is making sure there is one repository for all customer information. If information is held across disparate systems it will be difficult to keep track when a customer has asked to be removed from your database.
It only takes one forgotten record to put you on the brink of a compliance breach. However, if the business is working with a single CRM solution then there should only be one tick box to address, and the business can have confidence that regulations have been met.
Data management is critical but you also need to provide your agents with the right tools to do their job effectively. This is where predictive outbound dialling comes into play to help you achieve compliance. Phone numbers can be maintained directly within the dialler to prevent calls to contacts that do not wished to be called.
Also, if your 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 CRM system.
It only takes one forgotten record to put you on the brink of a compliance breach.
Technology can also be used to help keep 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 there is still some ambiguity about how this should play out.
Ultimately, it is how technology and process is actioned that determines whether a business avoids nuisance calling – even when inadvertently so. 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 alternatively 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 stringent and necessary new regulations.
Looking to accelerate your outbound customer service strategy? Download the guide to predictive dialling to learn more.
A product manager with over 15 years’ experience in predictive dialling, campaign management and real-time speech analytics, Niels experience goes down to grass root levels. Involved in the development of outbound predictive dialler from its first release and ensuring it meets stringent OFCOM regulations, he then continued to work at the...