Regulatory breaches can expose an organization to significant financial and reputational damage, so ensuring compliance is a key priority for any contact center leader. This has always been a challenge for call centers, and in 2022, the prevalence of remote work has heightened this issue.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the compliance risk and ensure your contact center abides by these regulations even when agents are working from home.
What is Call Center Compliance?
Compliance rules are developed by state bodies and regulatory agencies to protect consumers. These regulations are particularly relevant for organizations that deal with large volumes of consumer data, such as call centers. Following these rules is not only important for the success of a business, it’s essential for survival. Breaches can lead to heavy fines, criminal prosecution, and irreversible reputational damage. If you don’t comply, you might crumble. For call centers, these concerns typically involve things like call recording, payment processing, and data storage. Any time your organization handles sensitive information or communicates with a customer, you must ensure the safety of the consumer and the security of their data. By developing internal processes, you can protect your call center from the financial and reputational repercussions of a breach.
What are the Types of Call Center Compliance and Regulatory Mandates?
To ensure compliance and protect your organization, you should develop strict rules in your call center. As a leader, it is your responsibility to guide agents, whether remote or on-site, and make sure they are adhering to best practices. As noted, call centers handle a lot of sensitive consumer information, and so there are several important regulatory mandates in place for the industry, such as:
- Call Monitoring Consent: Laws in place require a customer to consent for their call to be recorded. For contact centers, abiding by these laws is a necessity.
- PCI Security Standards: The Payment Card Industry develops data security standards for global payment methods. Call center agents must keep these standards in mind when processing customer payments.
- FDCPA: Under the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, agents are prohibited from using threatening or abusive language during the collection of personal consumer debt.
- Do Not Call Registry: Anyone is entitled to opt out of telemarketing calls by adding their number to the Do Not Call Registry. Any call center which continually violates this registry is open to prosecution.
- GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation protects EU consumers in terms of data ownership and sensitive information. All businesses, even those located outside the EU but dealing with EU customers, must comply with GDPR.
- Dodd-Frank Act: Under the Dodd-Frank Act, all calls must be recorded, tagged with the date and time, and stored.
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act: As per the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, recorded calls may not be altered or deleted prior to the mandated end time.
- HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits sensitive patient information from being disclosed without the consent or knowledge of the patient in question.
- ECOA: The Equal Credit Opportunity Act ensures that businesses do not use age, race, color, gender, religion, etc., as qualifications for a loan or credit.
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act: This Act requires that any organization that offers financial services or products must provide written documentation detailing information-sharing practices to customers and allow customers to opt out.
What are the Most Common Compliance Risks?
For contact centers, there are certain areas where compliance is most at risk. Some of the main areas of concern for contact center leaders include:
- Call Recording/Monitoring: Recording or monitoring calls without consent is a huge concern in the contact center industry. Failure to obtain consumer consent before recording calls leaves an organization open to litigation and the associated financial and reputational damage. As noted in the previous section, the Dodd-Frank Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are two important pieces of legislation in this area.
- Customer Payment Processing: Taking payments over the phone exposes call centers to several regulatory risks. To protect consumers from fraud or cyberattacks, you must abide strictly by PCI regulations, ensuring agent adherence and establishing the trustworthiness of your organization.
- Outbound Calling: There are several regulations in place around outbound calling. You must ensure that your agents are aware of and adhere to all of these regulations for every single outbound call. This means abiding by the Do Not Call Registry, the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act, and any other applicable regulations.
- Agent Adherence: As the frontline of the contact center, agents shoulder a vast amount of responsibility when it comes to consumer privacy and data security. It’s your role as a contact center leader to make sure your agents receive comprehensive training around regulatory compliance, best practices, and the risks associated with breaches.
- Information Transfer: Guidelines in place prohibit the transfer of private information. In most cases, explicit, written consent is required for the transfer of such information. If consent is not acquired before this information is shared, your call center is open to fines, lawsuits, and significant reputational damage.
Which Risks Become More Relevant When Working Remotely?
While many of the regulatory risks detailed above are applicable regardless of whether you’re working remotely or on-site, some become more relevant when working from home.
- Cloud-Based Software: The rise of remote work has led to the increased usage of cloud-based software as organizations strive to connect workers across locations and time zones. To protect consumer data and ensure compliance, call center leaders must secure these cloud-based programs as best as possible. Away from the office, agents may not have access to a secure corporate network or their usual office-based tools for data processing and security. This shift in software increases the risk of a data breach.
- IT Limitations: With workers operating in different locations, it can be challenging for IT departments to carry out the same level of due diligence for remote tools as they would for on-site technology. Despite their best intentions, agents working at home and potentially using their personal hardware may lack the same level of security and leave themselves exposed to data breaches. Without the security of a corporate network, agents are more vulnerable.
- Training Difficulties: The best approach to agent training is to evaluate performance and then assign tailored training programs based on the identified weaknesses and skill gaps. This is more difficult to determine for remote workers, as supervisors may find it hard to know whether or not agents are following best practices and adhering to regulations. Interactive online courses are one possible solution for training remote agents in regulatory compliance and cementing the importance of data security.
- Working Environment: Home working presents additional security challenges owing to its scattered nature. For example, at the office, there is likely a secure entry system involving a keycard or another verification process. At home, there is no such security measure. A desk at home is much more challenging to secure than a workstation in the office. Workplace audits are virtually impossible for remote workers, and, as noted, access to IT infrastructure may be limited. On a human level, remote work may provide additional distractions, which impact adherence.
- Additional Workload: In an increasingly digital world, more communication channels are available than ever, and customers are more likely to go to one of these digital channels as their first port of call. Remote workers have a huge responsibility to ensure compliance across every channel while also caring for the wants and needs of customers. This balancing act, with one eye on CX and the other on regulations, presents an extra challenge for remote workers.
What Can Call Centers Do to Mitigate Those Risks?
Fortunately, despite the additional challenges of maintaining regulatory compliance in a remote working scenario, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the extra risk. By establishing or refining an in-depth QA program, you can ensure regulatory adherence in any working environment.
Software & Scorecards
Technology may throw up data security risks, but it also provides a number of solutions for call center leaders.
- Call Recording Software: As noted previously, the Dodd-Frank Act requires that all phone conversations be recorded and saved with a time and date stamp. However, there are also regulations in place prohibiting the recording of payment information to protect consumers from fraud. One way to ensure adherence to all the necessary regulations is to use a call recording software that auto-pauses when payment information is required and automatically resumes after that point in the conversation.
- Scorecards: QA Scorecards can be customized to track compliance on both a company level and an agent level, ensuring organization-wide adherence. Most scorecard software also allows you to set up an auto-alert system, so the relevant parties are instantly notified in the event of a breach. This allows managers and supervisors to take corrective action immediately, protecting their organization from serious damage.
- CRM Systems: Modern CRM systems are designed with compliance in mind, removing the need for additional work on your end. Any comprehensive CRM system will adhere to industry standards, protecting you, your agents, and your customers from data breaches. Additionally, many CRM systems can be customized based on the specific rules of your contact center.
A strong focus on regulatory compliance as part of the overall training process will go a long way to ensuring your organization’s security. Adequate education around IT security practices and internal policies, as well as detailed training on adherence for agents, is relevant both on-site and in a remote context. Using Scorecards, you can identify potential regulatory issues and deliver virtual, targeted training to eliminate them before they escalate. For remote workers, in particular, the IT department should provide information on securing personal devices and using data encryption to protect consumers. It’s also important to remember that this training starts from day one, so you should incorporate it into your onboarding process to affirm its importance.
Evaluating the entire compliance process on a company-wide basis will ensure that there are no chinks in your armor. Processes involving sensitive data must be watertight to ensure that agents abide by the rules in their customer interactions. Best practices for adherence should be clear to every member of the organization, remote or on-site, and regular evaluations will allow you to determine whether or not employees are following guidelines.
How can Scorebuddy Help Mitigate Remote Work Compliance Risks?
Scorebuddy is built with regulatory compliance in mind. With our fully-customizable Scorecard Builder, you can monitor every aspect of regulatory adherence, alerting managers to breaches in real time so they can take immediate action. You can also maintain an audit trail with Scorebuddy, demonstrating your commitment to the rules and reducing your organization’s risk profile. To see how Scorebuddy supports regulatory compliance, book your free demo today.