Ethics Hotline: Buy New or Build From Scratch

Ethics HotlineWe’ve talked to lots of companies on the benefits of both ethics hotline options

We’ve had this conversation numerous times lately with potential clients. And we’ve posted on it before (here). So it probably warrants a bit more of a global discussion. It’s time to incorporate an ethics hotline into the business. But do you go with a third-party provider, or build one from scratch yourself.
Now of course when we talk with people about their needs for incorporating ethics hotlines into their business, we will attempt to steer them towards having a third-party do all the work for them. “We’ll get everything set up for you, you don’t need to do a thing” sort of conversation. After all that’s what we do, we’re good at it, and passionate about it.
But there’s nothing wrong with a company wanting to take that project on itself. There are those who would like to build their dream home from scratch, and others who would rather house shop ready-made dream homes until they find something they like.
Both options have their advantages, so based on the many conversations we’ve had lately, there’s no better time than now to cover the bases.
Build the dream home, or shop for the dream home
There are those who just like to create from scratch. Hey that’s cool. Others don’t have the patience to stack two Lego blocks together, let alone come up with some sort of structure. That’s cool too.
Pros for The Build

  • It can be built to spec
  • The short term costs might be cheaper at the starting line
  • Don’t have to pay for features you don’t use
  • You’re fully accountable for it

Cons for The Build

  • May be a lower priority for other resources you need to have help you
  • Initial learning and discovery process can take a while
  • Time, money, and effort for internal building, testing, and fixing, manning… repeat
  • Additional costs to keep up with industry regulations and laws

Pros for The Buy

  • Faster deployment
  • Complete functionality
  • One yearly cost
  • Changes with industry regulations and laws
  • You don’t have to lift a finger

Cons for The Buy

  • May not be compatible with your existing internal programs
  • May not be able to remove build-in features
  • Can be locked into a contract with no end insight if that’s what you signed up with (vendors differ)
  • System can be ‘placed on the shelf’ if employees / vendors / customers are too confused with how to use it (and you’re still possibly locked into a contract)

Materials needed for each structure
Anything you build, or buy ready-made, needs the nuts and bolts to fasten it together and make it run smoothly. The question is, are you aware of all the components that are needed to build a system? Or would you rather trust a third-party to take care of all those niggly little details?
The Build

  • Staff resources are needed to create, test, and run the system, taking them away from other tasks. Their efforts will continue to be required
  • If a dedicated hotline is used, who’s on the other end? HR? The CEO? And what happens when they are away and / or sick? Also, do they speak all the languages that your employees speak who would be using their native tongue when they call? Do they know how to handle emotionally charged callers?
  • If a dedicated email account is used, someone has to monitor that account and if needed, figure out resources to translate the report, costing time and money. What if the person or persons on the other end of the email account is sick or on vacation
  • Setting up your system to cover your entire organizational structure – you have to put aside time and money to do it yourself
  • Cost – it may seem cheaper out of the gate but costs will very quickly accumulate. Companies need to put aside money for staff time, creating a system, testing a system, modifying, changing, keeping up with regulations… the list goes on
  • Is not anonymous but that might be what you’re looking for – many companies are. But the reality is that in many instances, employees are extremely reluctant or scared to come forward if they aren’t guaranteed anonymity. And any perceived roadblock will lower the willingness of employees reporting on misconduct. Unreported misconduct can grow to very serious issues before it is finally known
  • Multi-lingual system – if you’re a global company, you need to ensure that all your employees can use the system. Consider this scenario: you’ve just completed the enormous (expensive, time consuming) task of building out a system. Now you have to have the entire thing translated into an assortment of languages for the benefit of your employees scattered throughout the world, and incorporate that

The Buy

  • Creating, testing, and running the system is the responsibility of the vendor – freeing up your resources
  • Dedicated 24/7/365 live answer hotline with agents trained in empathetic investigative and interviewing techniques. There’s always someone on the other end of the line who can speak the language, and if they don’t, translators are brought in
  • If a dedicated email is used, there is always a dedicated person on the other end receiving the report with the ability to translate what is needed and / or source out a translator
  • Setting up the system to cover the entire organizational structure – a third-party will see this through to its entirety
  • Cost – one yearly fee covers everything (if you chose the right vendor). Hotline, email, materials, training, upgrades is all covered. Not to mention a third-party system is independently maintaining a system in order to keep up with ever changing laws and regulations
  • Is completely anonymous (or partially so with a versatile system). Employees are guaranteed anonymity if they call a hotline number, or email in a report. This increases an organization’s chances of learning of important issues that could otherwise go unreported
  • Multi-lingual system – it’s already built and ready for you to use in a number of common languages

Quick Recap
Whatever direction an organization chooses, there’s the benefits of both. But the plain truth is that if there’s misconduct going on, employees aren’t necessarily willing to speak-up about it if they can’t be guaranteed anonymity. Unless the issue is the next accounting scandal about to rock the world, it shouldn’t matter who reports, but rather what they report.

  • Not anonymous
  • No third-party 24/7/365 live answer agent
  • Expenses add up quickly
  • You have to worry about translation services


  • Completely anonymous
  • 24/7/365 live answer agents speaking every language, and if they don’t they will find someone who does (this includes those languages you’ve never heard of before but your employees in remote locations speak)
  • One yearly subscription cost covers everything from set up, use, materials, training, translation
  • We’ll take care of the translation and getting that report entered into the system

Take your time and do things right so you only have to do them once. Get your free eBook here highlighting the benefits of building or buying.
eBook: Whistleblower Hotlines: Internal vs. External

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