Data Privacy and ProtectionOf course, data privacy and protection is an essential aspect of call center compliance, whether you manage your customer service in-house or outsource. The key regulations your call center should comply with are: PCI compliance. PCI—Payment Card Industry—compliance is a regulation set that oversees how credit card details and payments are handled. Since the majority of call centers manage or store card and payment details from customers, they absolutely need to be PCI compliant. SOC-2 compliance. SOC-2 compliance ensures that your call center is following security standards more generally related to sensitive customer data. These standards ensure that customer data is handled securely, and kept confidential and private. HIPAA compliance. While only relevant for healthcare centers and other organizations that manage or store customer health data, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) ensures that private health data stays private and secure. HIPAA also has strict regulations related to how health data is stored, viewed, shared and transferred, which is especially important when outsourcing your call center. GDPR compliance. GDPR—General Data Protection Regulation—is an EU-based regulation pertaining to how customer data is stored, used and collected in online businesses. Any company that collects or processes data from residents of the EU must comply with GDPR, even if your business is not based in Europe. As a result, most US-based businesses need to comply with GDPR if you are selling or marketing to a global audience.
Consumer Protection LawsMore general consumer protection laws are also in place to ensure that consumers are treated fairly by corporations—not just their data, but also their communications from your brand. These are especially important for call centers to be familiar with if your call center is doing outbound calling. There are two primary ones to look for in your call center: Do Not Call (DNC) Regulations. The Do Not Call Registry allows consumers to register their phone numbers in a database online and opt out of telemarketing calls. This database can be accessed by your contact center and must be adhered to when it comes to telemarketing and outbound sales calls—failure to do so can not only encounter legal action, but also significant fines. Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The TSR puts regulations in place for how telemarketing and sales calls must be handled, including regulating:
- how information is disclosed and presented during the call
- the time limits of such calls
- how many times a company can attempt to reach a caller
- payment restrictions
Contractual Obligations and AgreementsOf course, call centers aren’t just legally obligated to your customers and general consumer law, but also to your service contract and agreements. As a result, you should ensure that your contractual agreements cover your legal bases from a variety of angles. For example, your contract should cover: Service Level Agreements (SLAs). SLAs are an essential part of any good outsourcing contract. An SLA specifies the level of service you can expect from your call center. Common SLA metrics include things like 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds or less, set time frames for responding to emails or written communication, and percentages of calls resolved by the first agent (FCR rates). SLAs are critical to agree on before your partnership begins so that you can ensure you are getting the service you are expecting and paying for. If your SLAs are not clearly outlined, and performance declines over time, your call center will not have a contractual obligation to improve. Indemnification Clauses. Indemnification clauses are essential in any type of business contract, stating which party—if either—will be responsible for compensating the other party in the event of certain circumstances or problems. For call center outsourcing, an indemnification can protect your business in the event of a data breach or other legal issue that results from incompetence or failure to comply with regulations on the part of your contact center. Termination Rights and Obligations. Although obviously, you hope that your partnership with an outsourcing provider will be a good one, it’s essential to clearly outline and agree to termination rights and obligations prior to signing a contract. If you need to terminate the relationship for any reason—but especially for one related to legal issues or non-compliance—you should have clear agreements related to payment, notice periods, services provided, data transfer, and so on. Dispute resolution mechanisms. In the event that a dispute or conflict occurs, your contract should clearly state the process for how such issues should be resolved. Ideally, this should include levels of resolution, such as a general escalation process, and when you’ll bring issues to an arbitrator or dispute review board. These mechanisms should also include agreements about communication requirements, notification timelines, resolution timelines, confidentiality, costs, and when the contract is liable to be terminated if a suitable resolution cannot be reached.
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Intellectual Property (IP) Concerns
As you outsource, you should also consider how your outsourcing provider will handle not only customer data, but also internal data—much of which is likely to be sensitive, proprietary knowledge. To protect your own business and company IP from being leaked or disseminated to foreign parties, your call center should have substantial regulations for protecting intellectual property.
Most commonly, this may look like having your call center—and potentially, individual call center agents—sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), which should be unique to your particular company’s requirements.
In addition, you should carefully delineate ownership of intellectual property and processes in your call center partnership. This becomes particularly important if the relationship is terminated. In this case, you’ll need to have clear ways to understand how information will be transferred, and who owns what information, tools and processes. These contracts should be designed to give your company flexibility and control over processes to ensure safety of your IP, as well as continuous and consistent service in the event that you need to transition to a different call center provider.
Regulations Specific to Industry Verticals
Finally, many industries have specific legal regulations and compliance factors to consider as well, particularly:
Many of these regulations have been discussed above (i.e. HIPAA, PCI compliance), but it’s worth noting that if your industry or vertical has specific regulations, your call center should be well-versed in adhering to them. For example, when looking for a HIPAA-compliant call center, it’s a good idea not to just look for any call center that claims to be HIPAA compliant, but to look for call centers that have ample experience working with healthcare teams and a strong track record of compliance.
Considerations for Offshore vs. Nearshore Outsourcing
When considering legal implications of outsourcing your call center, location is a major factor that is often overlooked. Offshore outsourcing comes with increased legal and security concerns. While this doesn’t mean that you can’t offshore if you need increased compliance or regulatory oversight, it does mean that you have additional factors to consider, such as:
- Jurisdictional differences. When outsourcing to another country, you have to adhere to both local, national and international law, for both your country of business and your call center’s country. Many offshore call centers are used to managing these levels of compliance, but many are not—and you need to have the legal support for your company to manage this multi-layered compliance as well.
- Managing cross-border legal discrepancies. If an issue comes up, you need to know how you will manage legal discrepancies, which laws will take precedence, and who will ultimately be responsible to which governing bodies. All of this can and should be determined by your contractual agreements, but offshoring introduces additional considerations in this regard that onshoring or even nearshoring doesn’t.
For these reasons, nearshoring is becoming an increasingly popular outsourcing option for companies who want increased regulatory control or convenience, while still offering affordable labor costs and sizable labor markets. With nearshoring, your company benefits from having a call center with increased legal proximity, located in a similar regulatory environment.
Preparing for Audits and Compliance Checks
Finally, when outsourcing, you should be well aware and well-prepared for your call center to undergo audits and compliance checks. Many regulations—such as SOC-2 compliance—must be regularly verified and audited. Others may not be audited regularly, but can result in major fines and legal issues if a complaint is raised.
As such, your call center should manage regular monitoring and reporting mechanisms to both ensure quality and adherence of their processes and agents to regulations, but also to provide you with an accurate and up-to-date report of compliance. This verification can give you peace of mind that your call center is regularly monitoring compliance and providing updates or fixes for any areas of non-compliance that are uncovered.
In addition, you should ensure that both of your legal teams—that of your company and of your call center—are aligned and have room for collaboration, both in terms of preventative maintenance and should any issues arise.
Outsourcing your call center is generally a smart move for businesses looking to save on costs and improve service levels, productivity and customer satisfaction.
However, ensuring those call centers can adhere to legal regulations and compliance is paramount to ensuring a successful outsourcing practice.
For a call center provider that always meets the mark with legal compliance and ensures that both you and your customers are covered with top-notch security, turn to Global Response. Our global call center operations ensure you have the legal protection you need, while providing your customers with enhanced security and service.
When outsourcing with Global Response, you never have to compromise. Talk to an expert from our team today to see how the Global Response difference can provide the safety and security your business needs for the modern world.