RE “In Trump era, you may need to beef up your robocall defenses” by Hiawatha Bray (Tech Lab, February 2):

After a whirlwind first two weeks for the new Trump administration, Mr. Bray’s article on deregulation within the FCC as it relates to robocalls offered a much-needed sanity check. When you cut through the chaos of the first days of governing, there are many unanswered questions that consumers, businesses and industries are waiting to play out as it relates to regulation and government oversight.

As the CEO of a marketing research firm that’s been in business since 1972, my company has been impacted greatly by both the rise of the digital age and the ebb and flow of regulatory oversight within the industry, particularly as it relates to phone surveys and the method in which the data is collected. Some of our work is on behalf of political pollsters like those mentioned in Mr. Bray’s article; but a majority of our work is on behalf of private companies and non-profits that are interested in learning more information about their stakeholder groups to improve customer service, introduce a new product or better understand demographic changes.

After reading Mr. Bray’s article, there are two important distinctions I wanted to raise as it relates to the market research industry.

First, self-policing is critical to building trust with our clients and those that we survey. At Bernett, our phone surveys are conducted by live interviewers who utilize software to employ a more efficient method of data collection for our clients.  This type of data collection is regulated differently than robocalls as it relates to Do Not Call (DNC) lists. However, we have strict policies and procedures in place to ensure that the people we call are scrubbed against a DNC list maintained in house. We have invested significant money and resources to certify compliance with the TCPA guidelines.  Whether or not the FCC implements new rules, we remain dedicated to maintaining strict internal processes that protect caller lists.

Second, market research is not the same as telemarketing or robocalling.  As members of the Council of American Survey Research Organization (CASRO), we are bound by a code of standards and ethics to ensure that research is (a) not confused with, (b) subsumed under, or (c) manipulated by other professions, industries, or activities.  We do not participate in cold calling or any telemarketing activity.  Our industry is in the business of collecting opinions, not selling products or services.  But that’s a distinction that resonates more with industry professionals than citizens. We understand that receiving an unsolicited phone call can be an inconvenience, which is why we have strict vetting and qualifying processes for our call lists and robust training programs for our interviewers. This is a benefit for recipients of our calls and our clients – we want to reach people who have a stake in the topic at hand, and have conversations that provide data that our clients can rely on.

We’ll be paying close attention to FCC Chairman Pai’s work on the topic of robocalling. My company and others in our industry will continue to strive for high levels of vetting and transparency regardless of the change in policy. And if we do reach you by phone, I promise we’ll be polite and respectful, and you may even enjoy the conversation!

-Matt Hayes, President and CEO, The Bernett Group