In my previous post, I talked about the FCC’s new ruling regarding the requirements of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). To recap, the ruling discusses what equipment falls within the definition of “autodialer,” addresses calls to reassigned telephone numbers, indicates that consumers can revoke consent by any “reasonable” means, and establishes new exceptions for certain financial and healthcare related calls, among other changes.
In the days following the ruling, I’ve spent hours on the phone with executives responsible for communicating with their customers. Below are my thoughts for companies using autodialers, interactive voice messages or application-to-person text messages to engage with customers. Keep in mind, I’m a layman, not a lawyer, and you should seek legal counsel to develop your policies. What follows are my ideas, which are not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal opinions or legal advice.
1. The ruling encourages companies to verify customer mobile phone numbers are still current. You might investigate data service providers offering solutions that can help verify a particular mobile phone number is still assigned to the customer who provided you with consent for automated calls and texts to that number.
2. The ruling also suggests companies should pay attention to wrong numbers or disconnected services. For example, you could take the time to manually verify any mobile numbers that show up as the wrong party or a disconnected service. In the meantime, consider preventing any further automated calls or texts to these numbers or limiting the number of calls you make to numbers with no customer response.
3. Implement a “Do Not Call” (DNC) option on inbound IVR systems. The new ruling indicates consumers can revoke consent using “any reasonable method.” By adding a DNC option to your inbound IVR system, you can automate any incoming requests to remove consent and take the burden off of the contact center agents. At the same time, contact center representatives can be trained to accept and document such requests from both customers and non-customers alike. Consider configuring customer relationship management (CRM) systems to allow specific customer phone numbers to be designated as DNC.
4. Check your paperwork. Consider reviewing and, modifying if necessary, customer agreements and intake forms to include appropriate consent language regarding the use of automated technologies for customer communications. Companies can also shape their policies and procedures so that contact center representatives will periodically update customer contact information and consents for automated communications.
5. For consent-exempted communications, take a second look at your approach. Financial services companies that deliver communications to mobile numbers about suspected fraud, data breaches or identity theft, as well as healthcare companies that reach out regarding appointments, prescriptions and treatment-related topics, may want to consider whether they want to stay with their current messaging (to customers with prior consent) or implement the newly consent-exempted but more restrictive messaging allowed by the ruling.
There are undoubtedly other ideas and recommendations that can be added to this list. As you learn or think of ways to address the new ruling, please share them in the comments below! It’s in everyone’s interest to reduce the frequency of TCPA complaints while we continue to work to meet the rising expectations of today’s always-connected, digital consumer.