Over-Promising in Telemarketing – Achieving Zero Tolerance with Speech Analytics

By Scott Bakken

Improper telemarketing practices that lead to enforcement actions against retail energy suppliers may be rare, but the penalties along with many other business headaches can be steep.  Regulators will likely be more forgiving if they learn that a company has state-of-the art auditing technology and methodical procedures in place.

No matter how much warning you give agents about the negative consequences of sidestepping prepared scripts and the risks of over promising, you’re taking a leap of faith that they will adhere to your policies when you turn away.  That’s a business decision you’re free to make.  Regulators on the other hand, aren’t likely to be impressed.  In fact, they may react especially aggressively toward non-compliant incidents that happen if you haven’t made the proper provisions.

Telemarketers who implement enhanced monitoring of 100% of its calls with speech analytics can rightfully argue that it has demonstrated its commitment toward zero tolerance.  Isolated violations will result less devastating settlements when regulators compare your efforts with careless offenders.

Speech Analytics can help both reactively and proactively. With enhanced auditing processes in place, regulators might be more inclined to seek a settlement than take the company to trial.

The technology makes it easy to quickly and accurately identify specific recordings and call types. You can monitor all calls for context such as very serious non-compliant utterances like “if you switch to us, I guarantee we’ll save you money.” Lacking an automated way to search for problematic calls, the only alternative is for quality assurance to spend countless hours manually listening to batches of recordings.  This manual process is simply not practical and ripe for non-compliant incidents falling through the cracks.  The president of a Buffalo-based telemarketer recently told me, “We’ve always emphasized compliance but speech analytics has helped us reduce legal fees by an estimated 15-20%.”

If regulators focus on your telemarketing practices, it will be critical to develop a reactive positive story to persuade regulators that any infractions are not the result of neglect.  Implementing speech analytics will be a good place to start with an audit of historical call analysis and establish a baseline of your situation.  No doubt you’ll immediately uncover issues that had slipped by the most diligent QA manager.  Fortunately, this does not have to take a long time or be expensive.  Hundreds of thousands of calls can be processed against a set of phrases and language patterns to detect non-compliant recordings.  Furthermore, your investment in the technology can also be applied to more conventional business objectives such as evaluating agent performance more efficiently, reducing average handling time, and improving first call resolution.

Guidelines for Analyzing Calls for Compliance

  • Analyze the calls for many areas of business intelligence including non-compliant problematic calls
  • Continually adapt scripts for compliance
  • Analyze outsourcers
  • Proactively build your case of zero-tolerance
  • Adapt to regulatory changes
  • Put other customer feedback to action – it’s all at your fingertips!

Consider using an automated zero-tolerance program as a competitive advantage as you expand your market.  Your commercial clients will be able to check a box related to risk assessment and have one less detail to worry about.

Being reactive or proactive to zero tolerance compliance depends upon your situation. If you do not have speech analytics tools in place, consider getting proactive.  There are many companies to choose from with wide-ranging differentiators and capabilities. 


My Agent Said What???

Our business analysts have heard the following statements uttered by agents while developing speech analytics projects:

  • “I guarantee you’ll save money with us.”
  • “small claims court won’t do you any good. I say go for it.”
  • “agree with you, my company sucks.”


Scott Bakken is CEO of Maintrax Business Analytics