November 2012: Weathering the Storm
by Joseph Sanscrainte, an attorney specializing in telemarketing law.
Weathering The Storm
As a New Yorker, I've spent the past week in hunker-down mode, watching and waiting along with millions of others to see what the next day will bring. It all started last Monday, when the power went out - and continued on until a week later, when things kinda sorta got back to normal.
I had no power for five days, and my kids had no school the entire week. On Wednesday, it seemed like a good idea to venture in by car to the city to see if I could make it to my office. It took me four hours to go from Queens to mid-town, and then I spent two hours driving around trying to find a parking garage (or even, heaven forbid, street parking.) I finally gave up and drove home (which took another two hours). All in all, eight hours on the road, and I got precisely nowhere. To make matters worse, I used up half a tank of gas, and the gas lines are STILL a quarter mile long, even as I write this tell-all expose!
Unlike most, if not all, New Yorkers, I have spent at least a few moments over the past few days thinking about telemarketing and how it is impacted by emergencies. Most of you already know that there's one state (Louisiana) that has rules in place prohibiting telemarketing in the event of a state of emergency declaration. (Louisiana in fact has a program in place that advises telemarketers when it is appropriate to shut down operations into the state when an emergency has been declared, and when to re-start such operations.)
Other than Louisiana, however, no state has a rule and/or program in place that advises telemarketers to stand down in the event of an emergency. This raises an important question - what are the best practices for telemarketers for dealing with an emergency?
I like to think that the majority of telemarketers want to take steps to avoid making calls into areas that have been impacted by emergencies, and there are at least two very good reasons for this. First, from a common courtesy perspective, it's just not nice to bother people when they're in the middle of dealing with an emergency. Second, from a more practical perspective, the more consumers are preoccupied with an emergency, the less likely they're going to be receptive to a telemarketing offer. It's wise, therefore, from both a public relations and pocketbook perspective for telemarketers to consider the protocol for avoiding making calls into area codes impacted by emergencies.
The first responsibility for telemarketers is, of course, to be aware of emergencies as they are occurring. I'm not proposing that every telemarketer create the equivalent of a "situation room" at corporate headquarters. It would, however, be a good idea to couple standard awareness of ongoing news reporting with a program designed to quickly disseminate information regarding emergencies to call center managers for follow-up action as appropriate. The information to be provided to the manager(s) would be the nature of the emergency, along with specific instructions regarding removing impacted area codes from calling campaigns and the time frames for doing so.
It's this last element that, of course, poses the greatest challenge - how to remove telephone numbers in specific area codes, on the fly, and for specific periods of time (i.e., until the end of the emergency)? Each call center could of course generate its own plan for accomplishing this, but Contact Center Compliance offers its own unique solution as well. Specifically, Contact Center Compliance itself monitors ongoing news reports to stay abreast of major emergencies throughout the United States, and it quickly analyzes such situations to determine the area codes that are affected. Any entity seeking to take advantage of Contact Center Compliance's "Emergency Scrub" service can submit its contact databases for fast-tracked emergency area code scrubbing. Contact Center Compliance's Emergency Scrub service operates in the same manner as its wireless number scrubbing service - any telephone number in the database with specific area codes are quickly identified and removed.
Bottom line? Well, avoid coastal regions in the New York City area for the next few weeks. Also, there's no reason for any telemarketer not to implement a program designed to avoid making calls into areas impacted by emergencies. Contact Center Compliance, as it has with so many different products and services, again leads the way with it Emergency Scrub service.