Expanding Do Not Call Registers and Outbound Dialing

The phone is still considered the most effective method for contacting people, even though direct mail and email are much less expensive.  Some studies have shown phone calling produces a bottom line of 2 to 3 times that of other methods.  Of course, if you disagree with this initial premise, feel free to comment :)

Phone calling’s effectiveness in marketing has produced misuse and often gross misconduct – the quintessential call at dinner time with the overly cheery guy trying to sell you new windows, or the 4 calls from the same company in the same afternoon, or the automated call touting a great new service available in your area that arrives just after you sit down to enjoy your favorite sitcom at 9:32pm.  

Do Not Call (DNC) registers provide mechanisms for consumers and, in some cases, businesses to get off most telemarketers’ lists – at least with good corporate telemarketing citizens.  And my experience is that a high percentage of companies who use outbound dialers are good corporate citizens; however, as with most things, just a few unscrupulous and/or incompetent people/companies in our world make life and business much harder for the rest of us.

Outbound dialing, also called predictive dialing or automated dialing, is used for many purposes outside of just telemarketing including:

  • Debt collection
  • Fund-raising and volunteer recruitment
  • Proactive customer care (e.g. everything going well with your new…?, health care follow-ups by nurses, did you receive your shipment?, your service has been restored, etc)
  • Political campaigns and polling
  • On-going relationship management

In many cases, DNC list scrubbing doesn’t apply to the above uses of a predictive dialer because there is an existing business relationship in place, consent given, or the usage is specifically not included in DNC regulations (e.g. political, non-profit).  If your organization is unsure of how DNC regulations apply to you, contact a compliance expert.  In fact, if your organization does outbound dialing and does not have someone responsible for and knowledgeable about regulatory compliance, get someone in that role and have them work with a compliance expert.

Because of privacy as well as consumer protection concerns, more and more countries are implementing DNC registers.  In the US, the FTC established the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003.  State-based DNC registers had existed prior to this and are still in place, though some are beginning to defer to the federal list.  The United Kingdom and Spain followed suit in the same year as the US.  Canada established their list in 2005, Australia in 2006, and India in 2007.  Other countries are following suit including the Netherlands.

National DNC registration management involves some interesting challenges including:

  • How do businesses scrub their lists against the master without compromising privacy
  • How often do consumers have to renew their registration, if ever
  • What kind of numbers are covered (residential, mobile, business, fax, VOIP)
  • How does the regulator track complaints and then enforce DNC legislation

Canada initially released its complete list of registered DNC users only to have an increase in telemarketing calls – obviously not the intended result.  As far as DNC registration renewal, some countries require renewal every 3 to 5 years while others provide permanent registration for a phone number until that number is reassigned or disconnected.  Including business numbers in DNC registers is another interesting application seemingly focused on protection of smaller business owners’ time.  The US National DNC register includes only residential and mobile numbers.  Mobile numbers have become an increasingly challenging scrubbing requirement for debt collectors – a specific case of DNC scrubbing affecting this type of organization which has been exempt from telemarketing-type DNC regulations.

According to Galexia’s recent report on National DNC registers, the US has over 170 million numbers registered covering over 75% of US consumers (at least 1 of their numbers).  Over 60% of households and 55% of the businesses in the UK are represented on the UK register.  Other country’s registers are smaller but growing.  Enforcement in the US and the UK has grown with some high profile cases in recent years.

Are these national DNC registers sounding the death knell for outbound dialing?  In most cases, the answer is no.  DNC and other regulations are forcing the poor corporate citizens to change and focusing the efforts of good corporate citizens.   Also, as noted above, there are many other uses of outbound dialing and those uses are growing and becoming blended into the bigger corporate customer contact picture.

How have DNC registers or other compliance regulations around outbound dialing affected your organization?

Matt Taylor