FCC Exempts Package Delivery Notification Calls and Messages from TCPA Restrictions
by: Mitchell N. Roth, Esq.
When the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 1991, Congress prohibited the initiation of calls and text messages to cell phones using an automatic telephone dialing system without the recipients' prior express consent. The TCPA also prohibited the transmission of prerecorded messages without the recipients' prior express consent. Notwithstanding the FCC rulemaking last year which changed the consent standard for sales calls and messages to cell phones, the prior express consent standard for non-sales calls, messages and recordings to cell phones remained unchanged.
In 2012, the Cargo Airline Association filed a petition with the FCC seeking clarification as to whether these restrictions apply to autodialed or prerecorded package delivery notification calls made to the cell phones of intended package recipients. These notification calls typically advise the recipients of the expected date and time of delivery, the tracking number, the delivery company's customer service telephone number and whether a signature is required for delivery. CAA requested that the FCC do one of two things: i) Allow the package delivery service to rely upon the consent of the package sender to transmit non-sales calls, messages and recordings pertaining to the delivery of the package to its recipient, or ii) declare package delivery notifications exempt from the TCPA's restrictions on autodialed and prerecorded calls and messages to cell phones.
In a ruling released on March 27, 2014, the FCC granted CAA's request to exempt autodialed and prerecorded package delivery notification calls and messages to cell phones from the TCPA's restrictions (the FCC specifically chose not to rule on whether the delivery companies may rely upon the consent of the package sender). In support of its decision, the FCC ruled that these notifications are the types of normal, expected communications the TCPA was not designed to hinder, and that consumers generally desire, expect, and benefit from them. Nevertheless, the FCC made this exemption subject to several conditions:
- The notification must be sent only to the telephone number of the package recipient.
- The call or message recipient must not be charged for receiving the call or message, including not being counted against the consumer's plan limits on minutes or text.
- The notification must identify the name and contact information of the delivery company.
- The notification must not include any telemarketing, solicitation or advertising content.
- Only one notification may be sent to a consumer for each package, except that one additional notification may be sent for each of the following two attempts to obtain the recipient's signature when the signatory was not available to sign for the package on the previous attempt.
- Each notification must include information enabling a consumer to opt out of future delivery notifications. Calls answered by a consumer must provide an opportunity to opt out by voice or by pressing a key, while texts must include the ability for a consumer to opt out by sending "STOP" in a reply text. Finally, each voice notification must include a toll-free number that the consumer can call to opt out of future package delivery notifications.
- Opt out requests must be honored within a reasonable time from the date it was made, but may not exceed thirty days from the date of the request.
- Voice call and text message notifications must be concise, generally one minute or less in length for voice calls and one message of 160 characters or less in length for text messages.
This exemption applies only to calls and messages initiated by package delivery companies and not to calls and messages initiated by the companies on whose behalf the packages are being delivered (i.e., shippers). However, this exemption allows delivery companies to correspond directly with the package recipients on matters pertaining to deliveries. Clearly, this will maximize efficiency, customer satisfaction and, perhaps most importantly, the overall customer experience.
The FCC's order may be accessed at apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7521095630
Mitchell N. Roth is a founding member of Roth Doner Jackson, PLC in McLean, Virginia. His practice focuses on counseling clients on compliance with state and federal marketing, advertising and privacy laws. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOCAP's 2014 Symposium Speaker Spotlight
Ready to have your business worldview rocked and your customer care paradigms shifted? Spend a few minutes with Aaron Dignan, CEO of strategy consultancy Undercurrent and a Trend Session speaker at SOCAP's upcoming Symposium, April 27-30 in Charlotte, NC.
That's exactly what SOCAP did to gain insight into where Dignan's Symposium appearance-focused on what he calls the "responsive organization"-will take attendees. Expecting good, we found great. We wanted to share some of our conversation with Aaron here to give you a sample of what's in store for you at the 2014 Symposium.
SOCAP: How would you define the responsive organization for a customer care audience?
Dignan: We study different organizations in different categories. We look for patterns. Are they able to learn and adapt? To operate in quick cycles? Do they process information and act on it? There's also the attitude around information in organizations. How are they at discovering, sorting and taking advantage of information, from both inside and outside the organization? Are they using the information to build a network of stakeholders, including customers, with the ability to help each other?
I'll give you an example. I use a bank and make the same phone call each week to do a wire transfer between accounts. It's always the same call and always the same verification of my identification. Finally, I asked, "Can't this be automated?" The bank said "We hadn't thought about it.maybe." By the third call, this bank should have been asking me if I would participate in a pilot for automating this function, not me asking them on the tenth call if they had ever thought about it. They are not using the information available in their network.
SOCAP: What do you see as the most important value shifts for organizations as they work to be more responsive?
Dignan: We see companies adopting a more visionary than strictly a commercial purpose. They make money too. But they also build a vision. They build networks to reach people and on which people can help themselves. Apple delivers help to Apple users, but consumers on the Apple network help themselves too. They love the brand. The IRS has a brand too, but it doesn't have volunteers helping others solve problems in an IRS branded forum. Brand gathering is a force and customer care is part of that customer experience.
There's also a shift away from a closed to an open organizational mind set. In the past, companies operated as silos with secrets that they protected. If you had an edge, you did not want the world to know what it was. Fifty years ago, that worked great. Now the world is a much more transparent place and the value of holding secrets is diminishing. There's greater value in fostering a participatory innovation culture.whether we are talking about an office floor plan, financial information, an application program interface.whatever. It's a wholesale shift. Organizations are saying if it can be made more transparent, let's do it.
SOCAP: How do you see companies unlocking the benefit of the data they gather to engage customers?
Dignan: Everything is data. The question is: how are you going to gather it? You can do it in passive ways, through sensors or webclicks.the digital exhaust of what you are doing.or you can be aggressive and ask for data, like in applications or surveys. Organizations need to be doing both. How you are collecting information and what you are doing with it needs to be well defined. The problem is that organizations have more data than they know what to do with. They didn't think about it 10 or 20 years ago. Data was not structured or tagged. So there's a lot of hygiene that's still needed.
SOCAP: How does technology aid responsiveness?
Dignan: One company's product becomes another company's service. For instance, companies are leveraging the Amazon backend and cloud platform. If I'm in a garage somewhere building a business, I can use Amazon's data, infrastructure, skills and pipeline. Organizations need to identify what part of the value chain they want to be better at. Companies think they need to build everything from scratch and miss the final advantage to customers. I often say the best time to start a company is tomorrow because you gain the innovations that have taken place in the last 24 hours.
Best Practices for an RFP
Here are some key steps for identifying the right fit for a contact center partnership.
There comes a point when most customer care professional will be faced with the request for proposal process. Here are some helpful tips on the RFP process, as recommended by a major manufacturer that was looking for a new contact center service provider.
Developing the RFP
- Understand why the change is being considered. Be sure that areas for improvement are sufficiently addressed in the RFP.
- Engage the enterprise in the RFP creation process. Assemble a comprehensive, multidisciplinary team with representatives from all relevant divisions and departments. This company's RFP team included customer care, quality assurance, operations, purchasing, reporting/analytics and legal. Allow each functional group to reflect its interests in the RFP.
- Seek meaningful insights into contact center provider mission, vision, culture and operations. Topic areas for exploration include:
- Company history and perceived strengths
- Organizational structure
- Technology strengths, capabilities and suitability for addressing client needs
- Reporting and analytics capabilities, including sample reports and example insights gleaned from data analytics
- Approach to quality and current certifications (such as ISO)
- Approaches to hiring and staffing, and to managing turnover, both for agents and managers
- Ratio of agents to managers
- Process for handling problem escalation
- Provider locations
- References, industry reputation and track-record of consistent performance
- Learning curves can be steep, business process issues can be complicated and technology hurdles can be high. Request a detailed timeline for program start-up that reflects a substantive understanding of the challenges ahead.
- Contact center personnel serve as the client's representatives to the public. Assure that provider's internal policies and procedures on human resources management, workforce diversity and equal opportunity hiring comply with applicable federal and state law and regulations and that they are also in keeping with your company's own standards of practice and business ethics.
- Decide whether to include penalties if key performance indicators are not met.
- Understand the provider landscape. Do the research necessary to identify leading and emerging contact center companies and include these in the bid solicitation process.
- Leverage technology. Vertical industry and special purpose websites and related information services may facilitate getting the RFP to companies not otherwise identified in research.
- Determine the importance of proximity. Companies requiring substantial "face time" with contact center personnel for training, new product launches and the like may do better with local or regional providers.
- Leverage SOCAP and its network of business partners for distributing RFPs and identifying top contact center providers.
Assessing Bidder Responses
- While excessively long responses are counterproductive, proposals offering few details on how work will be conducted could indicate the bidder's lack of interest, commitment or capability.
- Key performance indicators provide a "first blush" view of a provider's capabilities. But not every client workload is the same in terms of degree of difficulty or amount of support needed. For instance, does the provider have a good feel for call volumes? Look for unrealistic staffing or pricing estimates or other indicators that the bidder has misunderstood work requirements.
- Buildings flood or burn, power outages occur and other disruptive events happen. Determine whether the bidder has a realistic disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
- Contact centers can attract identity thieves or other fraud-minded actors. Assess the bidder's approach to system security and how well personally identifiable information is protected.
- Customer care is evolving rapidly with consumers looking for more robust interactions rather than simple, impersonal transactions. Explore the bidder's view of how this marketplace change is taking place and how it is impacting the contact center of the future.
- Consider whether the bidder is making sophisticated use of social media and integrating it into customer contact channels. Some providers will have social-media expertise in-house while others will have to work through third parties to offer it.
- Once noncompetitive bidders have been eliminated, consider asking finalists to prepare a detailed presentation responding to a real-world business scenario you provide. A scenario based on data meaningful to your enterprise can help eliminate ambiguity and allow more apples-to-apples comparisons among competing offers. Trusted relationships are key. Bidder presentations can also help provide additional insight into the enthusiasm, expertise and character of the providers involved.
- Narrow the list of bidders based on presentations and a better understanding of their ability to meet contact center program requirements. Conduct a site visit to meet all key personnel, review technology infrastructure and take a final reading on corporate culture and the likelihood of building a true partnership.
- Analyze the finalists' offers using SWOT techniques or other approaches to determine relative strengths and weaknesses of competing offers.
- Be sure to consider future needs when making your final decision.
- Anticipate bumps in the road. Allow a generous cut-over period for the new provider to take responsibility for handling 100 percent of operations.
- Develop a plan that keeps the out-going contact center provider engaged until the newcomer is up to speed. Financial incentives can keep departing personnel motivated to continue performing at a high level.
- Expect overly optimistic performance assurances from the newcomer. Key performance indicators may decline in the early going as provider personnel come up to speed. Be flexible but, as necessary, request a performance improvement plan.
Other Lessons Learned
Plan to rebid the contact center contract every three to five years. This keeps the incumbent competitive and fosters continual process improvement for contact center operations. Retain old RFPs and use as templates for re-competitions.
Do you have useful tips, practices or lessons learned that you can share about the RFP process? We'd love to hear from you. Send your ideas to CRM Magazine at email@example.com.
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Looking Forward: Quality Meets the 21st Century
by: Jason Levesque, Argo Marketing Group
As we move into the 21st century, quality practices should be revisited and revised to meet the nature of the dynamic digital beast.
At Argo Marketing Group, business has evolved from a call center to a multi-channel customer engagement center. Multi-channel engagement should be the norm as customers take to the Internet with questions, demands, and needs. For example, roughly 30% of Argo's customers prefer to communicate via web chat, email, or social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter. With an established quality program centered solely on monitoring phone calls, Argo has identified a need to re-invent quality in order to properly engage customers on the digital front.
Social media for example, has enormous potential for companies to get closer to customers, which may lead to increased revenue, cost reduction, and efficiencies. Using these digital touch-points as a channel for customer engagement will fail if the traditional customer relationship management approaches are not reinvented to grow with, and stay a step ahead of the digital age.
Redefining Quality in the Digital Age
Monitoring social media conversations, web chats, and email correspondence is but a tip of the quality iceberg Digital engagement tactics allow a brand or company to effectively monitor customer reviews, and affords companies the ability to offer real time customer interaction management. The goal? Deliver consistent and personalized customer exchanges at every touch point to maximize engagement and grow a following of brand ambassadors.
By implementing cutting edge technology to track virtually every tweet, email correspondence, Facebook post, and web chat, companies and brands can gain insight to better their brand offerings, reputation, and engagement. Social media growth like an increase in followers, type and quantity of posts, positive/negative feedback trends, and mentions can help brands edit their engagement on a real-time and personal basis. From a business perspective, companies can gain invaluable insights into the profile of their customer: demographics, gender, buying patterns, and needs. Companies can now identify real-time spikes in engagement and plan internally to appropriately handle the volume. This allows a Quality Engagement team to take the same rigorous process of monitoring calls and apply it to other touch points. Think of it as a brand refresh in terms of customer engagement; it is simply a matter of taking what is currently working and applying those tactics to the digital front.
This reapplication process has proven to cultivate stronger customer retention by creating customer loyalty. Companies can now effectively ensure a consistent customer experience that will promote brand loyalty and increased sales for clients by connecting with them on a real-time basis. This is essential in today's market, as customer loyalty is at an all-time low. An Ernst & Young survey of nearly 25,000 people across 34 different markets around the world summarized their findings, "On the whole across all 34 markets brand loyalty checked in just under 40% as a determining factor in making a buying decision, but, that number dropped to just 25% in the United States, a highly significant decrease in the number of American consumers who say brand loyalty is something that impacts their buying behavior."
To keep brand loyalty thriving, companies should effectively communicate with their clients and deliver on a promise of creating a strong Customer Experience. Customer experience is no longer just updating consumers about a brand, or talking at consumers, it's about personifying a brand and connecting with brand ambassadors.
Call Center Customer Engagement
The call center industry has changed significantly over the last five years. Multi-channel customer engagement centers must continue to embrace new channels as technology moves forward. Success is reliant on the ability to ensure that Quality Engagement such as real-time engagement, and quick response times are constantly adapting with digital advances. By properly leveraging each touch point, companies can earn customer loyalty, enhance their Customer Experience and help increase a clients Return On Investment. This customer-centric Quality Engagement allows companies the opportunity to win business, and more importantly, maintain it.
CEO Jason Levesque founded Argo Marketing in 2003, and has become a widely respected Maine business owner. As of 2014 Argo Marketing employees 450 professionals at three boutique locations, making Argo Marketing one of the largest privately held third party contact center operations in North America.
Jason was elected to be the Republican nominee for Maine's second Congressional District in 2010, although he came up a few points shy of a victory in the November election, he still remains active in local and national politics and spends considerable time working on topics related to customer service on Capitol Hill.
Looking Ahead in 2014
President’s Blog Post
by: Matthew D’Uva, FASAE, CAE
In a global marketplace, great product ideas can be duplicated, replicated and imitated in the blink of a virtual eye. But delivering great care is not so easy. I believe that quality customer care will be the 21st century's most important market differentiator.
SOCAP is gratified to help advance the field of customer care by developing well-trained and knowledgeable experts. In fact, this is the focus of numerous major initiatives on our 2014 agenda.
- SOCAP will expand its online training offerings in 2014. Our first online course, Core Contact Center Management for Customer Care Professionals, which includes five self-paced modules for Team Leaders and Supervisors, has just been completed and we're marketing the course to the membership. I am pleased to report that our members have embraced this training in a big way, many using it to supplement their own in-house training efforts.
- SOCAP's events, including the Symposium, the Annual and our Executive Summit will continue to serve as premiere in-person opportunities for thought leadership, professional education and networking. Our 2014 Symposium (April 27-30) will be in Charlotte NC with an innovative focus on our Industry Communities. This year's Annual Conference (October 26-29) will be at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and will address the customer experience journey. We're also pleased to bring back our Executive Summit, March 6-7, in Washington, DC, which will explore how globalization is changing the everyday realities of customer care and feature global economics expert, Euvin Naidoo.
- SOCAP will continue to leverage the web, social and mobile media as critical modes of communication and key content delivery. I hope you are a frequent user of mySOCAP, our platform for online member collaboration and exchange. I am pleased to report that over 1,000 SOCAP members have used this capability, participating in 114 groups. Our groups have posted nearly 500 pieces of content and have been viewed almost 11,000 times and downloaded this content over 2,000 times. We are committed to diversifying the content we deliver through traditional modes like CRM Magazine and on the web, on Facebook, on YouTube and other new media channels.
- SOCAP is working with TARP to develop a Consumer Care Engagement Optimization (CCEO) Framework, a strategic tool to help you and your organization to more accurately determine how your care organization compares to others. This framework will serve as a roadmap that can help you advance your organization by quantifying the benefits of customer care, including all phases and elements within each phase. It will also serve as a well-spring for ideas on continuous process improvement. We expect this Framework to be well underway by this spring (look for session at 2014 Symposium) with the final framework to be presented at the Annual Conference in October.
We believe 2014 will be a year of bright promise and real opportunity for SOCAP and the customer care profession. In a world of commoditized products, customer care sets organizations apart and establishes the basis for consumer loyalty. The better we work, the better our companies work. As a result, I see a future with only upside for SOCAP and its members. I encourage you to engage with us to make our profession even stronger and to increase your knowledge as a customer care professional.