4 ways survey call centers are adapting to new TCPA changes

Change is sweeping across the decades-old phone survey industry, and large survey call centers across the US are reacting in a variety of ways to the new TCPA regulations that we summarized last week.

As one of the industry’s leading suppliers of phone survey research systems and dialers in the US, the Voxco team has a unique point of view on the 2016 reality of the dialing landscape. We have a direct connection to many of the largest and most advanced survey call centers in the US, and we have talked numerous times with most of them since July 2015, when the TCPA changes were first announced.

We’ve seen first-hand how most of them initially reacted to the updated regulations, and how they have adapted in the 18 months since. Here are four distinct groups that we have observed:

1. Integrated Manual Dialing Solution

These survey call centers have absorbed the full cost of adapting and complying, and it’s already paying off. They have fully adapted by setting up a second, distinct dialing environment where they have integrated a manual dialing solution with their CATI survey software.

Based on the respondent list, these survey call centers split projects across the two environments:

  • They use an autodialing environment for dialing known landlines or for dialing mobile numbers where they have received consent to call (usually respondent panels). This environment can now also be used for some government projects.
  • They use a manual dialing environment for dialing unknown numbers and known mobile numbers.

The benefit of this decision is the ability to retain interviewer productivity by having CATI systems feed phone numbers directly to interviewers who then manually activate the dialing hardware with as little as one click. Because the dialer is integrated with a CATI survey system, project accuracy and analytical consistency are retained via native call recording, live monitoring, and dialing analytics pulled directly from the dialer.

2. Manual Dialing on Detached Phones (Analog or PBX)

This second group has their interviewers using physical telephones to manually dial mobile and unknown respondents in a separate environment from autodialing projects. When a new case is presented to an interviewer via their CATI system, they switch their focus to the physical phone, and manually dial the 10-digit number.

While the process is technically compliant, it negatively affects call productivity and accuracy, which is hurting bottom lines. Using real phones (vs. a fully integrated manual dialing system) to dial causes a huge drop in interviewer productivity – some project managers we have spoken with have told us it can add 30-50% more time per call.

With no CATI-integrated dialer to assist interviewers, project managers are seeing lower calling accuracy via interviewer misdials, and the lost benefits of built-in call recording, live monitoring, and integrated call analysis that come with dialing hardware.

3. Manual Dialing via an Existing Autodialing Solution

For various reasons, this third group is unwilling to make sweeping changes to their internal dialing environment set-up. Yes, they are aware of the TCPA changes, and try to comply with the manual dialing rules by having their autodialer prompt interviewers to physically dial mobile and unknown numbers. But they are still manually dialing from within an autodialing environment, which negatively affects the ‘evidence’ that proves those calls were manually dialed.

When projects have razor-thin profit margins, it’s hard to justify making huge internal changes but this solution really is the worst of both worlds: lost productivity via interviewer manual dialing, paired with the inability to prove compliance since projects are completed from within an autodialing environment.

4. Laying low & observing

Yes, there are still some survey call centers who when we first reach out to them, admit that they have been taking a wait-and-see approach. It’s clear that the definitions swirling around the TCPA are still fluctuating, so some survey call centers may still be continuing with no major changes, waiting for more concrete definitions of compliance.

Revenue is dropping as they avoid major new projects, and active projects are being completed using the same processes that were in place 18 months ago, including the use of autodialers. Retaining maximum productivity while accepting maximum risk. And it’s probably only a matter of time before a respondent who is aware of the new regulations pushes back.

Next steps

The new TCPA regulations are here to stay. Yet there may be survey call centers out there who are not fully compliant with the new rules, and remain at risk. And many of those who are compliant, are doing so at greatly reduced productivity by using detached phones to manually dial mobile and unknown respondents.

The TCPA regulations will remain an obstacle for many survey research studies, so it is becoming more essential by the day to move towards compliance sooner rather than later. Consider Voxco TCPA Connect, which allows a distinct manual dialing environment while retaining maximum project productivity, consistency and accuracy. Contact us to review how the process works.

Still shifting: An update on TCPA and survey dialing in 2016

Despite the FCC labeling their sweeping new TCPA changes as final back in July 2015 when they were announced, the actual dialing reality for survey call centers in the US is still shifting and settling.

The initial July 2015 ruling was a set of strict, sweeping changes that affected everyone in the phone survey research industry. In summary, it stated:

  • An autodialer may not be used to contact any mobile number in the US unless explicit consent was received from the number’s owner.
  • Dialing hardware could not be used, even if it only had the ability to be used as an autodialer, regardless of whether those features were being used.
  • The burden of knowing which numbers were mobile and which were landlines rested on the shoulders of the dialing party. If a number had been reassigned, a call center was responsible for tracking the change, and was only given a single erroneous dial to figure it out.

The ruling itself aimed to counteract an outdated reality – it seemed to be a response to the cost of incoming calls to mobile phone owners. It ignored the fact that major carriers across the United States have all but abolished the charging of talk and text by the minute in favor of unlimited anytime calls.

Another thing that seemed clear to industry analysts was that the changes were designed to dissuade fully robotic telemarketing and automated random-digit dialing. But since the changes were so sweeping and did not specify anything regarding the content of the calls, it also unfairly targeted real interviewers at survey call centers who use automated dialers to contact numbers off of authentic lists of respondents.

So naturally, the changes were not taken lightly by valid survey call centers across the nation. Industry leaders from CASRO and the MRA filed a motion to intervene. They demanded clarity around the definition of an autodialer, and sought relief from the risk of dialing reassigned numbers.

Possibly due in part to the pressure from legitimate researchers, the FCC has since announced exemption for the federal government and its contractors, indicating a shift back towards exemptions for legitimate survey call centers working on legitimate research projects.

Shortly thereafter, a closely followed TCPA court case came down on the side of the defendant. Thanks to this ruling, the hotly debated definition of an autodialer finally had a little clarity, and it shone a little more light onto the FCC’s definition. Because a real human had activated the dialing within their CATI system to dial the phone, it was not considered an autodial. The hardware used did not have the capacity to auto-dial without human intervention, and had no predictive or random number capabilities.

So it’s clear that the initially sweeping TCPA regulations are being relaxed a little to account for human-staffed survey call centers conducting valid research. More changes are still expected and being pushed for, and far more concrete definitions should soon help survey call centers better adapt.

We’re keeping a close eye on the shifting definition of the ruling, and ensuring that Voxco TCPA Connect always adapts to the legal reality. TCPA Connect is a manual dialer with no capability of autodialing or predictive dialing. It can be used as a single button-dialer that connects directly to Voxco CATI and lets human interviewers contact respondents far more efficiently than manual dialing. We offer multiple possible deployment scenarios that fit varying needs.

Designed and managed by phone survey experts, Voxco TCPA Connect will always offer the maximum productivity while allowing call centers to adapt to the 2016 dialing reality. Give us a shout to see how it could work for you.

August Software Feature Updates

August Voxco Survey Software Feature Updates

Another month, another round of survey features being added to the Voxco platform. We’re excited to update you on what’s new now that the software was updated overnight. Here we go!

SFTP Support

When uploading survey results to an external site, or downloading raw data files for importation into the Voxco survey platform, we now offer full SFTP support in addition to the pre-existing FTP service.

SFTP is an even more secure method of transferring data that uses a private and safe data stream. Its major benefit is that it encrypts the connection between your computer and the FTP server, never sending file data or passwords as clear text.

SaaS Support for Twilio

Twilio allows its users to programmatically make phone calls and send text messages using its web service APIs. Now, Voxco clients who regularly use Twilio’s short codes when auto-sending SMS text messages can now be fully compliant with provider requirements by enabling an automated response for keywords like ‘help’, ‘stop’, or ‘unsubscribe’.

Survey Widgets Compatibility

Ok, this one isn’t new, but we’d like to highlight it anyways. Survey Widgets offers the ability to add even more innovative features to your online surveys (e.g. enhanced sliders, rotating image galleries, or dynamic image rankings). Fun surveys enhance the respondent experience and drive completion rates & response quality. Their entire library of widgets are fully compatible with Voxco Online and Voxco Mobile Offline.

Lookup Table Filter Conditions: New Operators

You can now more easily return values which are or are not in a list of comma-delimited values by using the new In/Not In operator.

AllRows Piping Command

You can combine the above operator with the new AllRows piping command to generate a CSV list of all answers across a loop.

The command can also be used to return a list of all answers for all mentions of a specific question across all rows of a loop.

For example:

Q1 Checkbox question with choices 1,2,3

  • Q1 loop 1 = 1
  • Q1 loop 2 = 1,2
  • Q1 loop 3 = 3

[Q1.AllRows] will return 1,1,2,3

Update Details

Have any questions about the above functions or compatibilities? Contact your local support center or your Voxco rep. We’re happy to help you get the most out of your Voxco survey software!

TCPA changes: Time for Market Research to pivot

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act: We Reap What We Sow

Has our own behaviour as an industry led to the recent changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in the US?

After 24 years of advising businesses to stop selling people stuff they don’t want over the phone, the TCPA has been updated to a point where almost the entire US call center industry has had to quickly change the way they operate. Did we think that the good intent of Market Research was enough of an excuse to continue following quarter-century-old practices?

In 1991 when the TCPA was originally passed, cell phones were virtually non-existent. Each home had one or more landlines, and organizations (some with good intent and some with ill intent) blanketed the network with unsolicited phone calls. Today, nearly every household across the US has at least one cell phone, and the sour relationship consumers have with unwanted phone calls has transferred to mobile, where once-innocuous practices now feel invasive.

We know that many respondents don’t enjoy speaking with organizations over the phone to answer surveys much more than they enjoy listening to a dinnertime telephone pitch about timeshares. There were moments of hope along the way that spammers would start getting punished and stop sullying the practice of phone research, but spammers don’t care much about regulatory boundaries – they know what they’re doing is unethical and they’re constantly seeking to exploit the system.

Thanks mostly to these scammers and spammers, unsolicited calls have become such a toxic part of today’s American culture that, even with legal ways to dial respondents, it may have become unappealing to do so in the same manner as we always have.

The never-ending stream of survey requests in every aspect of our daily lives may have tainted the previously clean karma of the classic evening phone survey. Today’s respondents may simply be tired of hearing from us in that same 25-year-old format. A more robust, 2015-savvy focus needs to be applied to the human experience of taking a survey, regardless of the channel. It’s become essential that we respect peoples’ time and the value of their time.

TL;DR: in addition to following the letter of the law, try to understand and comply with the intent of the new TCPA. Respect people’s time and privacy and find new ways to adapt to a new respondent landscape.

Want to discuss how the TCPA is affecting your business? Get in touch with one of our Senior Telephony Experts.

Read the source article by Jason Anderson on the GreenBook Blog

Cellphones to blame for 2012 polling inaccuracies

Study tells pollsters: Call more cellphones

The culprit of the 2012 US election polling inaccuracies, according to two professors in the department of statistics at Oklahoma State University (OSU), was cellphones. Pollsters need to recommit to stricter methodologies or risk further poll inaccuracies in the future.

Prior to 2012, state election polling tended to be accurate, but for the 2012 presidential cycle public polls had Mitt Romney as the winner of many battleground states. A post-election analysis noted that public opinion pollsters who only called landlines performed poorly, generally showing results that skewed more Republican than Democratic. It turns out that cellphone-only households don’t poll the same as the landlines, which leads to more bias in general.

In the 2012 election cycle, 40% of all US households were cellphone-only (CPO Households) up from 8% in 2006. Those households tend to lean more towards Democratic support (let your imagination determine the reasons), and so their underrepresentation is greatly skewing the results. It turns out pollsters are partially ignoring a defined portion of the population who vote decidedly differently from the segment who are being polled. And if we keep following this increasingly-invalid sampling methodology, polls will become even more skewed in the future – in just 3 years, it is estimated that CPO households are at nearly 60%.

Of course as political pollsters try harder to reach CPO households, FCC restrictions and the increased costs associated with stricter cellphone-calling are making it harder to follow standardized telephone survey methodology by equally weighting CPO and landline households. The OSU professors recommend that sampling methodology is adjusted “to reflect the new realities and account for a segment of the CPO voting population that tends to vote for Democratic candidates.”

Full regulations surrounding the new ruling by the FCC on TCPA changes has been released and we are working to provide a summary of the meaning soon. Keep an eye on the blog for what it means and how it will affect telephone surveying of CPO households.

Read the source article at The Magazine for People in Politics

Protect Your Data Before It Costs You

The Real Cost of a Data Breach: More Than Just Incurring Legal Fees and Reputational Harm To Your Marketing Research Business

Data breaches are a big concern for market researchers across the USA. If you don’t realize the threat that breaches could have on your organization, consider this: a breach involving 10,000 records could push your organization’s exposure to over $2 million in costs to address it.

According to a recent study released by the Ponemon Institut, the cost of a data breach is estimated at $217 per record. Costs could include potential legal damages from client or respondent lawsuits, plus the associated defense lawyer fees. But on top of that, there are major costs associated with following data breach notification requirements of each state, ,mandatory payments of identity theft services for respondents whose records were breached, and likely you’ll need the help of a good PR firm to steer your brand back on course.

It is crucial that market research organizations are pro-actively limiting their risk of being the subject of an attack. Consider whether or not your organization is following best practices to defend against breaches:

  1. Be sure to use appropriate data encryption on all data that you are hosting on-site.
  2. Involve employees in data security efforts. In a recent analysis of over 1,000 recent data breaches, the Online Trust Alliance found that staff error or social engineering were to blame in almost 30% of the cases.
  3. Dispose thoroughly of all data that is no longer needed.

Voxco software and servers are both extremely secure and we do everything we can to protect your data, but additional pro-active steps are strongly recommended for research organizations worldwide.

Read the source article by Stuart Pardau at the MRA

The Growing ROI of First-Party Data

The Big Impact of First-Party Data

First-party data isn’t new. But what is new is the growing realization among brands of how vitally important this data is becoming to their business. The results of a new EConsultancy survey of 300 senior-level marketers speak for themselves: First-party data garners the highest ROI of any data type.

When the marketers were asked to compare different levels of data (first-party versus second- or third-party) and their effect on desired outcomes, first-party data ranked highest across the board – even taking into account its increased implementation cost. It was most popular for gaining insight into customers, cited by 74% of respondents. But 60% also said it was the easiest to justify spending on, drove the highest increase in customer value and the highest campaign lift among data sources—all by a long shot.
Yet despite the overwhelmingly positive perception of first-party data, even the top organizations are still not taking advantage of the whole slate of channels for collecting proprietary customer data:
  1. The greatest source of data to digital marketers may not be digital (yet). There’s still a gulf in understanding of how the digital and traditional worlds interact. Data from offline sources/point-of-sale can bridge that gap.
  2. At many companies the richest customer dataset is hidden in plain sight. Email/SMS databases include vast amounts of rich, reliable data that goes back to the beginnings of an organization’s digital marketing efforts.
  3. Traffic from mobile devices is growing by double digits every year. Yet, fewer than 50% of respondents were taking advantage of the data produced by mobile web/application channels. Gathering data from sources beyond the website is one way that leaders differentiate themselves; their data is more likely to reflect the real world’s diversity of devices and channels.
  4. For many brands, the most important customer interactions happen at call centers. They are often where new accounts are initiated and where problems surface. Smart brands invest in automation, systems and training to improve their selling and service, but only about half collect the rich data being produced.
  5. Even among large organizations, few brands currently have initiatives to use data from beacons and sensors. Roughly one-in-four high ROI companies is active in this area, but the number drops to less than 10% for the mainstream, figures that will inevitably rise sharply in many sectors. The potential for this type of first-party data is enormous because it captures aspects of customers’ lives in detail.
Across the entire sample, the vast majority of marketers (82%) plan on increasing their use of first-party data. The unmatched value of first-party data provides the best path to true customer understanding and therefore to better performance. The ROI of collecting ownable, valuable customer data is through the roof. The only question that remains is what are YOU doing to keep up with the drive towards first-party data collection – there’s a huge opportunity right now to break ahead of the pack, or get left behind.

Read the source article at Econsultancy

Polling Is Getting Harder, But Remains Vital

Polling Is Getting Harder, But It’s A Vital Check On Power

There is apprehension in the air around the state of the polling industry in the US. The problem is simple but daunting: The ability to draw a random sample of the population is becoming much harder to do. A couple of prominent reasons:

  • Response rates to telephone surveys have declined into the single digits, even for the highest-quality polls. Upcoming TCPA changes could frustrate efforts even further.
  • Online surveys have not yet defined a set of best practices, meaning it’s a challenge to “ping” random voters online in the same way that you might by phone.

Lately there have been a series of relatively poor outcomes, which is of course leading to worries. Polls can be essential to understanding public opinion on a host of issues that people never get a chance to vote upon. Without accurate polling, government may end up losing its most powerful tool to know what the people who elect it really think. A serious issue worth considering.

Read the source article at FiveThirtyEight

We’re keeping a close eye on FCC legislation, and know that our clients are too. Stay tuned for more.

Finally some clarity on the proposed TCPA changes

FCC v. Telephone Research Common Sense, Part II: What the FCC is doing on telephone research and what is next

Responding to the general confusion about the details surrounding the June 18 FCC decision, the Market Research Association has dug into the specifics about the changes being considered to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). In an attempt to shine a light on what is being discussed, they talked with members of the FCC staff, outside lawyers and consultants who work closely with the FCC.

Here is a summary of what are known to be in the rules up for vote this month:

  1. Telecommunications carriers can implement call blocking technology.
  2. Consumers will be able to revoke consent to receive autodialer calls and robocalls, in any reasonable way and at any time. “Reasonable” is not defined.
  3. Someone autodialing a cell phone number that has been reassigned to a new subscriber may do so once.
  4. The new order clarifies the definition of an autodialer as any device that could have the capacity to dial random or sequential numbers, including a preselected list of numbers. FCC staff have clarified that the definition will include preview dialing, and potentially anything short of using a rotary dial phone.
  5. Some calls will be excluded from the new rules, including some urgent and emergency calls.

Read the source article at Home | Marketing Research Association

We will be keeping all of our clients up-to-date on changes that are passed, if any. Keep an eye on our blog for more info after the June 18 vote.

FCC v. Telephone Research Common Sense: New rules could block most calls, make compliance more complicated, and invite more class action lawsuits

FCC v. Telephone Research Common Sense: New rules could block most calls, make compliance more complicated, and invite more class action lawsuits

Chairman Wheeler has proposed that the FCC: (1) authorize call-blocking technology; (2) broaden the definition of an autodialer; (3) require that the express prior consent for autodialer calls to cell phones be written; (4) penalize calling cell phones that have been reassigned to new users; and (5) potentially extend the telemarketing opt out rules to non-telemarketing calls using autodialers. Wheeler said that the rules would be voted on all together at the Commission meeting on June 18.

Read the source article at Home | Marketing Research Association

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