By Tim Gorham
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 I summarized in my last post.
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:
- 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.
- 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. an 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.