If you are creating or expanding your call center internationally, or already have one, you have the potential to organize the data coming in ways that can change a company’s direction and impact its bottom line.
The Hotline Challenge: When Confusion = Inaction
There are two possible problem areas when creating an international hotline.
#1: “Salut, Ciåo, Guten Tag!”
If you have custom language greeting based on the originating country, you’ll need to consider the fact that calls placed over a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) are often routed through an internet service provider (ISP) outside the country from where the call originates. In other words, a German company might be routed through a ISP in New Jersey, which means a call center will think the caller is English-speaking. To avoid this, we recommend VoIP systems be routed through a local service provider.
#2: “The number doesn’t work!”
One of the major and more systematic challenges when offering international calling is that employees or customers can get confused about how to reach the number. While most of us know that we need to dial a different country’s entrance code (for instance, to call the US from outside its borders one must first dial +1), far less people know that you sometimes must also dial a country’s exit code as well. (in the US, this is 011.)
This can create confusion in what should be a straight-forward process of simply providing a number.
On a more granular level, companies have two main choices when setting up an international hotline, and each choice has strengths and drawbacks.
UIFN & ITFS: What you need to know
There are two main telephony options to choose from: a Universal International Free phone Number (UIFN) or International Toll Free Service (ITFS).
UINF: Best for Multiple Country Rollout
When you begin the process of securing an international toll-free phone number, the first consideration is the number of countries in which you’re operating. If you are rolling out to a large number countries and ease of communication is at the top of your priority list, a Universal International Free phone Number (UIFN) is the way to go. The reason is a UIFN can be communicated as one number across multiple countries. It is essentially the equivalent of a worldwide toll-free number.
STRENGTHS: a single number, simple, makes creation of policy materials easier on HR and compliance departments.
DRAWBACKS: not available in every country, needs the outbound prefix (+1 in U.S.) of the calling country, more expensive to set up.
ITFS: Best for Limited International Rollout
If you have a more limited roll-out that isn’t going to be in a large number of countries, an International Toll Free Service (ITFS) is your best option. It can be provisioned for a specific country and routed to just about any other country worldwide.
STRENGTHS: Easy to set up, has a lower cost, more recognizable as a toll-free number because it uses each country’s toll-free numbering format.
DRAWBACKS: call number varies from country to country, so there is no single compliance phone number.
The Real Value of Your Hotline
We’ve helped to create highly successful international hotlines for hundreds of our customers. And they can be a bedrock of responsible business, allowing a place for concerned employees from around the world to voice themselves, and for businesses to head off what could be embarrassing or expensive litigation.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Hotlines are a window into the ethical well-being of a company, and one of the best ways for CCO’s to understand where things might be going wrong. In the past, they’d have to gather this data from siloed sources, compile into something like an Excel spreadsheet, and then present the information to the board – but without a larger narrative about why it matters.
Today, our proactive clients are doing more than just setting up hotlines and gathering data. They’re using this information as part of a larger, global compliance effort that can not just gauge a company’s ethical compliance, it can help to steer it back on course.
Our case management software allows mangers to automate the flagging of certain topics, track issues even with multiple subject lines and multiple grievances, and track the progress and resolution of specific cases.
CCO’s can see a dashboard of larger and deeper international trends of data that includes but isn’t limited to hotline information, so they can anticipate problematic areas before the actual problems arise. Fully customizable reports can be generated for boards and CEO’s, so that the CCO becomes a vital source of on-the-ground information about the health and well-being of the company.
A successful international compliance program is, in this final analysis, one that supports a much larger and more dynamic vision for the grown and health of its parent company.