Keeping Call Center Agents from Causing Legal Liabilities and Undermining Relationships


Legal disclosures are everywhere—almost to the point of ad nauseam. They are found in everything from prescription drug ads that feature absurdly long lists of side effects to the obvious, “This hot coffee is HOT.” Such marketing-based disclosures become practically invisible. But when it comes to delivering legal disclosures, there is danger in not taking these seriously, particularly in a call center environment.

It is often legally required to accurately deliver legal disclosures, order summaries and reservation details. These are delivered on calls with a hospital, a stockbroker and a banker—when setting up automated payments or replacing lost or stolen credit cards—the list goes on and on. In truth, these are extremely important to both the consumer and the company because they spell out legal rights for all parties and give consumers added privacy protections and defenses. They also stipulate limits to an agreement or how liable a company is for certain actions.

This Call May Be Recorded

The majority of calls handled by a call center include at least one disclosure, some variation of the statement, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance.” Even this statement can be complicated and require care. For instance, federal law requires one-party consent, which means that one person in the conversation must have knowledge of and give consent to the conversation being monitoring or recorded. This is the default, but several states have more robust rules such as requiring both or all parties in the conversation to give consent. These are referred to as “two-party” or “all-party” consent requirements.

In the collections industry, collectors (phone agents) are required to say something close to: “This call is an attempt to collect a debt; anything you say may be used for that purpose.” In fact, this is a law stipulated in Section 807(11) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), generally referred to as the “mini-Miranda.” In any contact with a consumer, the collector is required by law to disclose that they are attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose. Additional communications also have to disclose that they’re coming from debt collectors. (See “3 Dos, 3 Don’ts, and 1 Don’t-Even-Think-About-It.”)

Violations of these and other legal disclosures are subject to potentially serious outcomes including criminal penalties, fines from government bodies, or nullifications of transactions, such as the purchase of stocks and bonds. Many states provide the right to recover damages and attorney fees when consumers file suits claiming non-compliance. While violations may lead to substantial settlements and fines, these can also lead to customer dissatisfaction.

Delivering Disclosures

When legal disclosures are delivered correctly, the company is protected, customers are informed, and liabilities for both are reduced or eliminated. In a call center environment, the agent is responsible for disclosure delivery—and for doing it correctly every time. But even the most careful, professional and fastidious agent is prone to human frailties. When disclosures are memorized or read over the phone, they are subject to agents skipping, misreading, not speaking clearly or truncating the content. This is intensified when the legal department changes the disclosure.

Changes in disclosures content generally require additional agent training, coupled with follow-up procedures such as posted reminders, added monitoring and additional meetings. These efforts take resources and time away from primary call center activities. There is a better way!

Leveraging Technology for Ideal Disclosures

Call center nirvana is where legal disclosures are delivered clearly, accurately, optimally and at the right time, every time they are required. The answer is found in not relying on the agent to state or read the disclosure, but rather to have the agent introduce and then play a recording, helping the customer understand that it’s critical to get this exactly right for their protection. The agent remains on the call the entire time to address possible questions or repeat information. The agent’s CRM is integrated with this disclosure-delivery system in such a way as to prevent the agent from skipping this step.

In addition to delivering perfect compliance, the agent can be much more productive. While the recording is playing, the agent can be doing other things such as organizing their thoughts regarding the rest of the call or documenting case notes. Companies can thereby reduce call handle time, while increasing compliance and reducing the liability that comes with fines and lawsuits. Furthermore, the quality assurance team no longer has to worry about training regarding the disclosures; they can focus instead on the agent’s soft skills rather than worrying about whether the agent read the disclosure word for word.

When voice calls are integrated with other technology tools and touch points, the impact and accuracy increase even more. For instance, if an agent sends an email or text to a customer, who then validates that they received the disclosure, then protection for the company is set in stone. Customer satisfaction scores can also increase because customers see that the company cares enough to deliver the information in a format that works best for them.

Art Coombs is the President and CEO of KomBea. He has more than 25 years of experience with a number of global firms and their call/BPO centers worldwide. Art is also a best-selling author on business and human performance as well as methodologies for BPO/contact centers, outsourcing, and technical support. For more information, please visit