A definitive guide to call center compliance

by Andy Nguyen
Call Center Compliance

From PCI DSS to HIPAA, call centers operate under several laws that help protect sensitive data captured during customer interactions. Call center compliance refers to the systematic process of abiding by these laws and regulations during daily operations.

However, adhering to these laws can be challenging without the right knowledge and strategy.

In this article, we’ll share five common call center compliance regulations and five smart tips to improve compliance at your center.

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5 important call center compliance regulations 

The specific laws that govern call center operations vary for different countries. 

Primarily, they concern security aspects like data theft and rules regarding what call centers can and can’t do when engaging the customers.

Following some general practices and security protocols will help you stay compliant with your local laws and run operations safely. For example, if you’re in the healthcare industry, complying with HIPAA requirements will help you ensure patients’ data security. 

Let’s look at six common compliance practices that call center managers should be aware of:

1. Protect customer data

When engaging with customers, call centers usually collect information that might be sensitive and must be protected at all costs. 

Different jurisdictions have laws that regulate and guide businesses on how they should process customer data.

For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS standards) is an information security standard concerned with protecting credit card details. It applies to any business that gathers, stores, and processes cardholder data.

Businesses across the world follow PCI guidelines to improve data security.

The PCI standard prohibits companies from recording credit card information like CVV2 numbers, PINs, and other sensitive customer details by any means (call recording, writing, etc.)

Here are some compliance requirements for safe handling of payment information, as specified by PCI DSS:

  • Build and maintain a secure network for storing cardholder data. 
  • Encrypt cardholder data stored on the company’s servers.
  • Protect sensitive data from cyber-attacks using anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-malware programs.
  • Restrict access to sensitive customer data to only those who need it.
  • Track all agents with access to sensitive information. Assign a unique ID to agents so you can trace any fraud, leak, or data tampering to a specific person with that access ID.
  • Run regular checks on the company’s network systems to ensure PCI DSS compliance.
  • Create a call center information security policy to enforce PCI compliance among your agents.

Similarly, companies in the European Union (EU) abide by data protection regulations set by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It applies to any company that stores and processes identifiable personal data of EU citizens.

Here are some GDPR compliance requirements for call centers:

  • Take consent before recording customer calls.
  • Store all recorded calls in an encrypted format.
  • Appoint a dedicated team to monitor and audit GDPR compliance.
  • Give customers access to their personal data.
  • Ensure that you delete customer data upon request without charging them.

2.  Regulate outbound campaigns

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) regulates outbound calls made for sales and telemarketing purposes in the USA.

It prevents call centers from making intrusive or irrelevant telemarketing calls to the customers.

In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission expanded the reach of TCPA by introducing the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act.

Under TRACED, telemarketers violating the regulations can face fines up to US$ 10,000 for each instance of non-compliance. 

To avoid paying the costly penalties, call centers should make provisions for TCPA regulations in their campaign. 

Here are a few steps call center managers can take:

  • Segregate landline and mobile device contacts as the TCPA has different rules for each.
  • Take written consent from the customers to make marketing calls using an automatic dialer or send recorded promotional messages.
  • Ensure that the pre-recorded messages convey the name of the business/clients.
  • Use auto dialer systems to filter customers listed in the DNC registry (Do Not Call registry).
  • Do not call residences before 8 am and after 9 pm (as per local time zone).
  • Provide the customers an option to opt out of any telemarketing communication during the call.
  • Ensure that you do not use an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS) to call any healthcare facility, fire protection, or law enforcement office.
  • Record every outbound call so that it can be used to prove TCPA compliance in case of a dispute.

3. Take call recording consent

Countries have different laws and specifications regarding telephonic conversation recording. Many countries mandate businesses to record all incoming and/or outgoing calls by taking the required consent.

For instance, many states in the USA require that call centers take prior consent from both customer and the agent making the call (two-party consent) before recording it.

Call centers can either use the IVR (Interactive voice systems) systems to get customers’ consent before recording the call or ask their agents to do it. Besides, they must provide customers a chance to opt out of the call before initiating the recording.

Customer service companies should also get written consent from their agents to record the call.

Regardless of the jurisdiction, your call center falls into; it‘s a healthy practice to take consent from customers and agents. It ensures privacy and boosts your brand’s image.

4. Ensure fair debt collection 

Call centers that run debt collection campaigns should be mindful of how they engage with defaulting customers. 

Countries usually have laws in place that prohibit businesses from using oppressive means to force customers to pay their bills. 

In the USA, section 806 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) states: “A debt collector may not engage in any conduct, the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.”

Here are a few restrictions put forth by the FDCPA that call centers should be aware of:

  • Debt collectors must only contact customers between 8 am and 9 pm.
  • Collectors must issue a written notice (stating all the details) to the customers within five days of contacting them regarding the debt.
  • They must not engage in behavior intended to harass or intimidate the customer (or their friends and family). 
  • Businesses are forbidden from presenting customers with false information to manipulate them.
  • Call centers may not directly contact the defaulters knowing that an attorney represents them.

But call center agents are often under pressure to perform and may resort to such means.  This affects their performance and could also hurt the business. 

Managers should ensure that agents are well trained to engage customers using non-intimidating language. 

Moreover, the company should have a strict policy on addressing non-compliance in such cases.

5. Safeguard health information 

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to protect a patients’ identifiable information. It applies to US-based businesses offering healthcare services.

The HIPAA privacy rule establishes rules for using and disclosing protected health information (PHI) and other sensitive data of a patient, such as:

  • Social security numbers.
  • Facial identity.
  • Geographic location.
  • Medical record number.
  • Details about physical and mental health.
  • Account number, etc

Similarly, the HIPAA security rule specifies various technical and non-technical methods to safeguard electronically stored protected health information (ePHI).

To ensure HIPAA compliance, call centers for a healthcare organization should take precautions while gathering, using, storing, or transferring patient information. This includes setting up systems and policies on data security and training your agents on the same.

Abiding by relevant laws is crucial for safe and secure call center operations. Let’s check out how call center leaders and managers can ensure strict adherence to regulatory compliance.

5 smart tips to improve compliance adherence 

Here are a few tips to boost your compliance program and minimize non-adherence:

1. Train your agents

Frontline call center agents are the face of your company as they interact with the customers daily. They are also responsible for gathering and processing customer data. 

They must understand the importance of compliance and receive thorough coaching on the same. Your agent training program should have a dedicated module on compliance and adherence.

Here are a few pointers on building a compliant workforce:

  • Managers should stay updated on the laws and regulations relevant to their industry to ensure compliance among their teams.
  • Appoint dedicated mentors with a solid track record to train new hires on compliance practices.
  • Bring in experts who specialize in compliance monitoring to conduct internal audits.
  • Reward employees that show exemplary behavior in ensuring compliance – like preventing a data breach – to motivate your team to be compliant.
  • Train managers and agents to stay vigilant and spot compliance red flags in their work surroundings.

Call centers must prioritize ongoing compliance training to keep agents updated on the latest practices and guidelines.

2. Use technology to boost compliance

Monitoring every aspect of the call center manually to ensure compliance is not efficient or sustainable. 

Moreover, a manual approach increases the chances of non-compliant practices sneaking in from time to time.

Call centers should instead opt for technology solutions that are designed to meet compliance requirements. Using technology is more affordable than appointing dedicated teams to ensure overall compliance.

Here’s how you can leverage technology to improve call center compliance:

  • Use PCI compliant phone systems that automatically pause the recording or prompt agents to do it manually when the customer speaks the credit card details.
  • Prioritize using a PCI DSS compliant call center software with security features like anti-virus, anti-malware, etc.
  • Ensure PCI compliance by deploying an effective firewall to intercept call traffic from potentially harmful sources.
  • Use data security technologies like tokenization to transform sensitive information like credit card data into random tokens and keep them safe from breaches.
  • Get TCPA compliant dialing tools for making outbound calls.
  • Incorporate advanced speech analytics to scan agent-customer interactions for trigger words and phrases that indicate non-compliant behavior.
  • Use two-factor or multi-factor authentication like OTP (one-time passwords), biometrics, smart keys, etc., for both customers and agents.

Improve compliance in your workplace with these top call center monitoring software. 

3. Develop a compliance policy

With so many laws and regulations to mind, call center or contact center compliance can often get unmanageable.

To streamline the process, call centers should develop and enforce a formal compliance policy. This policy would act as a foundation for your compliance efforts with clearly defined rules, procedures, and accountabilities.

Including a general safety checklist in your policy is a great way to minimize casual compliance-related negligence among your staff. 

You should also raise awareness among your agents by emphasizing the severity of common mistakes, such as sharing login credentials with colleagues.

4. Use agent scripts

Developing phone scripts is one of the most effective ways to ensure consistency in your compliance program. 

Scripts contain pre-written responses and workflow instructions that guide your agents and help them stay compliant during customer interactions.

For example, using scripts for debt collection calls will help your agents comply with the legally correct language. Besides, scripts will also help you improve customer experiences and boost your brand’s credibility in the long run.

5. Outsource your compliance needs

If you’re struggling with your compliance goals due to limited resources, outsourcing the function could be the way to go. 

You can delegate all compliance-related processes to external services. These services usually have well-trained staff and advanced technology to meet demanding compliance needs.  

Besides, it’ll be more affordable than running an in-house compliance program with a dedicated team. You can instead use the saved resources on your core operations.  

For more information, check out this comprehensive call center outsourcing guide.

Final thoughts

A call center needs to have a robust compliance program to minimize the risks of lawsuits and costly penalties. 

Above all, you’ll be able to run safe and secure operations, which can boost your brand’s image, as well as customer satisfaction in the long run.

Use the information and tips shared in this article to minimize compliance risk at your call center.

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