Navigating Call Center Compliance Successfully

Navigating Call Center Compliance Successfully

9 min read

The ever-evolving world of regulatory compliance is complex at the best of times, even for organizations with vast resources. It becomes even more complex as businesses continue to transform their customer service—and their contact center operations in particular—to meet new digital-first, cloud-based realities. As a result, call center compliance today requires businesses to choose their partners thoughtfully and ensure the vendors they work with don’t negatively impact security.

To avoid call center compliance issues, leaders must choose their cloud software carefully. That means selecting vendors committed to maintaining compliance standards through customer privacy and data security. In addition, compliance requires an ongoing commitment of resources and time to stay on top of regulatory changes.

A woman wearing a headset and smiling while navigating a computer

The Basics of Call Center Compliance

Call center compliance means a company adheres to the rules relating to consumer data and privacy set by regulatory organizations. Contact centers must comply with guidelines laid out by a wide range of regulatory bodies, so the rules around collecting and using data vary based on companies’ customers, industry and location. This includes adherence to Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, which protects cash, credit and debit card transactions and the misuse of cardholders’ data.

Contact center leaders must strategically manage the data that flows in and out of their call center to achieve compliance. That means following regulatory guidelines at every step, including when a company receives, collects and stores sensitive information. Getting this right can help businesses strengthen customer trust, increase revenue and build their reputation with consumers. However, failing to adhere to these guidelines can result in heavy fines and penalties, significant brand reputation damage and even criminal prosecution.

Call center compliance depends on various factors, some of which affect nearly every contact center, and others which only apply to businesses in specific industries or locations. Call center compliance regulations include:

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires contact centers to record all phone conversations with customers. These conversations must be saved with a timestamp and date that makes them easily discoverable. The act was written to target issues that led to the financial crisis in 2008 and aims to prevent risky economic activities and protect consumers against practices like predatory lending.

The Do Not Call Registry (DNCR) enables consumers to opt out of phone or telemarketing calls from contact centers. Failing to comply with consumers’ opt-out requests can result in hefty fines.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes data privacy and security regulations on any company that targets or collects data related to people based in the EU. Under the law, companies collecting and processing data must abide by seven accountability and protection principles to ensure accountability, data confidentiality, fairness, integrity and transparency.  The regulation, which took effect in May 2018, levies harsh punishments against businesses that violate its standards, with maximum fines of €20 million or 4% of global revenue, whichever is higher.

Contact centers operating in the healthcare industry must adhere to the guidelines set out by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The act restricts the use and sharing of personal health data and requires businesses to secure and encrypt consumer data where needed.

Call center PCI compliance aims to ensure the security of the credit card ecosystem, which includes computers, eCommerce applications, mobile devices, point-of-sale systems, servers and wireless hotspots. Securing this relies on meeting multiple requirements that cover a company’s use of antivirus software, data access, encryption, firewalls and network monitoring.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) restricts telemarketing and automated phone equipment use. The act was introduced in 1991 amid the rise of unregulated telemarketing calls and faxes and made consumer consent a primary focus for companies that communicate directly with customers. It ensures companies adhere to strict rules around solicitation in line with the DNCR, allowing customers to sue in certain cases.

The Role of Compliance in Call Centers

Call center compliance is crucial to the success of a contact center. Complying with various compliance regulations, including those listed above, is vital to maintaining customer satisfaction and securing sensitive data. To achieve this, contact center leaders must create a call center compliance checklist that includes everything from cutting-edge technologies to employee training.

Creating and Implementing a Compliance Checklist

A call center compliance checklist can help companies monitor the various rules and regulations they need to adhere to. And, depending on the industry and size of the company, this checklist may include a wide range of steps. 

A man sitting in front of a computer in a call center, with a smile on his face, ensuring compliance.

Assessing Your Compliance Needs

Your call center compliance checklist should assess the specific needs of your business. This will depend on factors like the industry your company operates in, the size of your business, the geographical locations you operate in and have customers in and the specific needs of your customers. It may also depend on how your call agents contact customers, be it via phone calls, chat functions or email, and the processes you already have to secure customer data. 

Key Elements to Include

With that in mind, your call center compliance checklist needs to cover the following critical elements:

Ensuring data security: Maintaining the security and privacy of consumer data is vital for any call center compliance checklist. This includes implementing network security technologies like antivirus, anti-malware and firewall software and regularly testing them to discover and mitigate potential vulnerabilities. It also includes verifying the methods used to store information and ensure data sovereignty.  

Protecting financial information: Any organization that takes payments or records customers’ financial data must secure that information. For example, it’s critical to have processes in place to encrypt credit card and payment information to adhere to PCI compliance guidelines. 

Telemarketing guidelines: It’s also crucial to abide by the rules around communication and telemarketing regulations. That includes deleting phone numbers belonging to people who’ve requested not to be contacted or are listed on the DNCR.

Training employees: In addition to putting processes and new technologies in place, ensuring employees understand their compliance requirements is vital. Call agents must be trained on the company’s new compliance standards and communication and telemarketing guidelines. 

Tailoring Your Checklist to Your Industry

Some call center compliance requirements are only relevant to companies in specific industries. For example, a legal firm doesn’t need to concern itself with the ins and outs of HIPAA, but both will need to abide by GDPR if they operate in or have customers in Europe. So, your call center compliance checklist needs to be tailored to the specific industry you work in and the regulations that govern that sector.

Identifying and Addressing Compliance Challenges 

With that checklist formulated, you can begin addressing your compliance requirements. But to do that, it’s critical to consider some of the most common compliance challenges businesses face.

Top Compliance Issues in Call Centers 

Some of the most significant compliance issues that contact centers encounter include:  

Financial data loss: The loss of customers’ financial data can be catastrophic, helping hackers clone credit cards or commit crimes like identity theft. PCI compliance is critical to preventing call centers from retaining sensitive financial data like PIN numbers, magnetic stripe data or CVV2 codes. The PCI Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) prevents companies from capturing credit or debit card information in its entirety, which lessens the damage if a security risk was to occur.  

Recording calls without consent: Companies must obtain customer consent before carrying out call center compliance monitoring or recording conversations. Be it incoming or outgoing calls, the contact center must tell customers their call will be recorded and give them the option to opt-out.  

Violating dialing restrictions: Consumers now have greater control over who can contact them thanks to regulations like the TCPA and the DNC. Specifically, the TCPA outlines that customers can withdraw consent at any time, restricts automatic dialers, limits interactions to between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and prohibits using artificial intelligence and pre-recorded telemarketing calls.

Exposing health data: Acts like HIPAA exist to prevent healthcare firms from exposing patients’ sensitive health data. HIPAA compliance relies on increased network security and greater control over network and data access. 

Network security errors: Network security is crucial to maintaining call center compliance and protecting sensitive customer and financial data. Companies should look to security technologies like firewalls, anti-malware and anti-virus, encryption and network monitoring and regularly test them to protect their network.

Failing to Follow Regulatory Requirements

It’s critical for call centers to comply with the various regulations that affect them, be it industry-based or geographical. For example, under GDPR, companies must explicitly receive user consent and provide valid reasons for recording calls. Failing to follow GDPR rules can result in significant fines and penalties.

4 Effective Compliance Monitoring Strategies

To avoid the pitfalls of call center compliance failure, you should look to new technologies and best practices that simplify the process. These include strategies like: 

Compliance automation: Many organizations struggle to deliver the user experience their customers expect with the tools and resources available. But call center automation and artificial intelligence (AI) enable you to connect with customers, continuously improve processes and empower employees to deliver world-class customer experience.

Embedding automation into your contact center compliance process can not only help you eliminate agent-related compliance errors; it can also simplify your self-service experience, dramatically reduce call times and eliminate frustrating hold queues. 

Conversational AI: Pairing automation with conversational AI unlocks a host of advanced benefits that can drive business outcomes, including call center compliance. Conversational AI can analyze calls for compliance issues in real-time, flagging compliance-related keywords and prompting agents to make required disclosures and/or take additional actions if compliance requirements are not met.

Employee training: Call agents should receive regular, hands-on training to understand and keep pace with relevant regulatory requirements, call center policies and best practices. Regular workshops should cover communication guidelines and relevant compliance needs to ensure all employees understand the importance of complying with various regulations. 

Use a CRM: Customer relationship management tools (CRMs) can help contact center leaders manage and maintain call center compliance. They are effective for securely managing and recording customer data in line with regulatory requirements, but also help to automate processes that enhance customer service. Most CRMs are also designed to help you meet regulatory compliance guidelines, making them vital to managing data security.

Delight Customers While Maintaining Compliance

Delivering a customer experience that users love while maintaining strict data security and call center compliance may sound challenging, but new technologies and approaches can help you easily transform your contact center processes, empower your call agents and negate any call center compliance issues.

The approach you take will depend on the jurisdiction your business is in and the sector-specific rules it must abide by. However, all contact center leaders can achieve optimal efficiency and increase customer satisfaction with tools like automation and conversational AI.

Find out more and discover a few top tips in our guide to best practices for call center monitoring.

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