What is contact center compliance & how to tackle it?

by Andy Nguyen
Contact Center Compliance

From customer details to call recordings, contact centers deal with tons of valuable data regularly. As a result, they must have the right systems to keep that data safe and secure to avoid a potential data breach. 

But how do you do that?

Simple: through contact center compliance

Adhering to the established rules and regulations will empower contact centers to protect their customers’ private information. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what contact center compliance means, the three key laws around it, and the thirteen best practices for contact center compliance you must follow.

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Let’s begin.

What is contact center compliance?

Contact center compliance refers to contact centers abiding by laws and regulations that provide customer data security. 

Contact centers must alter their workflows and systems to ensure compliance with these rules. 

While some of these laws affect all contact centers, others only impact those dealing with certain industries or locations. 

And whether you’re working with an in-house contact center or an outsourced one, you need to ensure that your agents are compliant with the necessary laws. This will provide your business with legal protection, safeguard sensitive data, and boost your customer experience. 

Wondering what the difference between a call center and a contact center is?

Read our article on the five key differences between the two. 

Let’s now look at the three key laws that lay the framework for regulatory compliance for contact centers in different industries.  

3 key contact center compliance acts

Let’s discuss the three most prominent laws around call center compliance

Note: Compliance laws can vary from one region to another. The laws we’re covering here are legally binding to call centers in the USA

1. Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA Compliance)

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 1991 to restrict telemarketing calls and automatic telephone dialing systems. Since then, the act has evolved to include more TCPA regulations that monitor the workflow of a contact center. 

The act now places compliance requirements on the use of a wireless number, any auto dialer or predictive dialer, as well as pre-recorded outbound calls, faxes, and more. 

Some of the key TCPA regulations include:

  • A telemarketing call center must obtain written consent from a consumer before contacting them via a predictive dialer (an automatic outbound calling system that allows you to bulk-dial).
  • There’s a significant compliance risk if a telemarketer contacts a wireless number through an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS) without consent. However, TCPA regulations offer a limited safe harbor if a customer has recently ported to a wireless number without the knowledge of the telemarketer.
  • Even if a customer gives their consent to receive phone calls, they can withdraw it at any time under TCPA compliance. 
  • A contact center loses the consent to call a customer if their phone number changes. 
  • Telemarketing call centers must provide customers with an opt-out option during any call to avoid a compliance risk. 

2. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS Compliance)

The PCI DSS compliance regulations came into effect in 2006 to ensure that companies working with credit card information operate in a secure environment. 

As a result, this compliance is mandatory for contact centers working in the credit card industry. 

PCI compliance states six major objectives for contact centers:

  • Secure networks with firewalls and security control before storing sensitive cardholder data.
  • Encrypt cardholder data stored on the company’s system to remain PCI compliant.
  • Protect customer information against breaches and threats by using malware protection solutions, such as antivirus software, anti-spyware programs, etc.
  • Limit access to sensitive customer data to only those who need it.
  • Test networks regularly to ensure they’re following the PCI DSS compliance regulations. 
  • Create and follow a comprehensive information security policy to hold employees accountable for customer data protection.

3. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA Compliance) 

HIPAA compliance was enacted in 1996 to regulate the use and disclosure of a patient’s private health information. Apart from healthcare organizations, all service providers who deal with such sensitive information must comply with HIPAA. 

That’s why HIPAA naturally includes call centers that provide answering and call forwarding services to healthcare organizations. 

Under HIPAA compliance, a contact center must safeguard patients’ private information, including: 

  • Social Security numbers.
  • IP addresses.
  • Photographs.
  • Geographical identifiers.
  • Account numbers, etc.

Let’s now look at the 13 best practices that can help you navigate contact center compliance for your business. 

13 best practices for contact center compliance 

The compliance regulations listed in this section are legally binding only to call centers in the USA (except the GDPR, enacted in the EU). 

However, these thirteen mandates set best practices for call centers around the world. 

1. Seek consent before recording conversations

Laws in some regions may require the customer or the call center agent to know if the call center will record their conversation. Other regions will require both parties to be aware of the recording process. 

For example, in the USA, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires both customers and call center agents to know about the recording process.

Call center agents can alert their customers of the recording process with automation such as an interactive voice response system (IVR) or including it in their call scripts.

2. Track agents with access to sensitive information

A contact center must provide all its agents with a unique identity number. This goes a long way in establishing accountability within a call center. 

For instance, in the case of a leak or tampering of information, the ID numbers of a specific employee or team working on that project can be tracked and held accountable. 

Tracking call center agents provides an additional layer of security to vulnerable knowledge management systems handled by contact centers. 

3. Train agents annually to remain compliant

It isn’t practical to train call center agents once and expect them to remember their entire compliance training for years to come. 

Agents handle high volumes of customer phone calls. And for them to remain sensitive towards the security of customer data, they need to be trained regularly. 

Additionally, compliance policies are dynamic and keep changing to accommodate newer technology. That’s why, every year, call center agents must receive updated training for HIPAA, TCPA, PCI compliance, among other industry-specific regulations.

Periodic training can streamline your compliance efforts by helping agents execute compliance to the best of their ability. 

4. Refrain from recording CVV numbers on credit cards

Under the PCI-DSS regulations, call centers are prohibited from recording and storing key credit card information like the Card Verification Value (CVV) number. 

What’s CVV?

The credit card CVV number is a sensitive piece of data that proves your credit card’s authenticity during online credit card payments.  

PCI DSS compliant call centers can’t store other sensitive data, such as full magnetic stripe information and your PINs. 

When call center agents record customer phone calls, they risk storing these highly sensitive cardholder data as recorded or written information. They need to be mindful about not recording while entering credit card information. 

One way to practice better regulatory compliance is using speech analytics software. Integrating your call center software with speech analytics is a helpful compliance solution that flags any sensitive data in real-time. 

This way, your contact center can be PCI DSS compliant and not store key credit card information. 

5. Stick to ethical behavior while recovering money

The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA), passed in 1977, prohibits call center agents from using unfair debt collection practices. These practices include the use of abusive or threatening language with customers. 

The FDCPA applies to contact centers that collect personal consumer debts, including credit card payments, cell phone bills, utility, and late auto loan payments. 

6. Follow the do not call registry (DNC compliance)

Some countries offer their citizens access to a “Do Not Call Registry” (DNC). For instance, customers can choose not to receive telemarketing calls in the USA by registering their phone numbers on the DNC for free.

Outbound call centers often engage in outbound dialing activities, such as lead generation, telemarketing, etc. 

During such outbound dialing activities, contact centers must ensure that their agents practice DNC compliance. Agents must refrain from making outbound calls to the phone numbers on the DNC list. 

Failure to meet the DNC compliance regulations in the USA can result in fines of over $40,000.

7. Abide by the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data regulation that applies to any business that stores information about European Union residents. The regulation even applies to companies operating from outside of Europe. 

The main objective of the GDPR is to grant customers ownership over their sensitive information. 

The regulation enables customers to request contact centers to erase all their stored data. That’s why contact centers must have the equipment to keep and delete customer information on request. 

8. Refrain from destruction and falsification of call records

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 responded to highly publicized financial scandals like Enron in the USA.

The law’s primary objective is to protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations. 

The law requires contact centers to implement a system that ensures their recorded calls can’t be changed or deleted.

9. Practice the Truth of Lending Act

The Truth in Lending Act of 1968 came into effect to promote the informed use of consumer credit and debit cards. 

Under this act, a contact center has to provide customers with key information about credit card payments, terms, interest rates, and late fees.

The process empowers customers to make informed financial decisions.

10. Comply with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was enforced in 1999 to regulate companies that offer consumers financial services like loans, financial or investment advice, or insurance.  As a result, this act governs contact centers in the financial services industry.

Under the act, contact centers need to make their customers aware of their information-sharing practices. They must also give their customers an option to opt-out of their service. 

Additionally, a contact center should also maintain written documentation of its security protocols.

The mandates and laws we’ve discussed may seem challenging to implement. Let’s look at some tips that can help with regulatory compliance. 

11. Keep agents in the loop on changes to policies

Call center agents across different industries are prone to experience compliance fatigue. Employees may feel worn out by the tedious systematic processes and workflows. 

As a result, they may pay less attention to the protection of customer data. 

Contact center managers can tackle this issue by getting creative in their delivery and monitoring compliance. For instance, they can engage the agents in mock drills to test out new compliance regulations. 

Keeping employees at the forefront of any of these programs can significantly minimize your compliance risk.

12. Perform compliance audits for compliance monitoring

A contact center’s success and reputation depend on how well its business aligns itself with the compliance rules that matter.

The best way to reinforce compliance regulations is to perform audits for periodic compliance monitoring. You can reduce your compliance risk by reviewing your call center processes and measuring agents’ performances. 

Performance measurement can happen through customer feedback, agent documentation, and call recordings. Your contact center should conduct compliance monitoring on an annual basis at least. This is a great way to enhance your company’s compliance efforts. 

Additionally, regular audits provide you with documented defense should your contact center be charged with violations.

13. Implement privacy-boosting contact center software

Apart from educating call agents about compliance rules, it’s beneficial to invest in technology that can help them follow the necessary compliance regulations. 

There are several contact center software that can help boost your customer’s data security. 

For example, tools with advanced encryption features can encrypt your phone lines, web connections, and networks within the contact center to secure customer data

Contact centers can also adopt better authentication technology such as biometrics like fingerprints or face recognition on their dedicated apps. Authentication technology goes a long way in boosting customer data protection. 

Read our article on the eight best call center software to know more details. 

Wrapping up

With the evolution of communication technologies, new forms of data breaches and malicious threats are rising. That’s why contact centers must meet all compliance requirements that apply to them.

Go through the compliance rules and tips discussed in this article to understand how to take the right steps to maximize your business’s compliance efforts. 

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