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Trust in Branded Calling… Are we there yet?

How the Industry is Working to Secure the Latest in Caller Identification Technologies

Trust in Branded Calling… Are we there yet?
Date
April 21, 2022
Written By
Mary Gonzalez, Marketing Coordinator
Molly Weis, VP Marketing & Comms

Branded calling is still new and one of the least understood features with the ability to elevate a caller’s identity. This new tech is powered by rich call data (RCD) that is displayed on a wireless subscriber's incoming call screen in the form of the company's brand name and/or logo, sometimes with an optional call reason field, depending on the solution and device. 

When successfully implemented, rich call data for branded calling can empower consumers with more call information, boosting their confidence to make the right choice when deciding which calls are important to them and whether or not they want to answer. There are multiple solutions available to present this data on a consumers device, but one of the largest questions that still needs to be asked is:

How do we enable consumer trust in branded calling and protect enterprise information from scammers seeking to harm consumers (brand spoofing)? 

Just like with STIR/SHAKEN, identity and authentication are at the core of enabling trust. In the case of STIR/SHAKEN, the authentication framework works to prevent number spoofing by verifying the identity of the call originator and their right to use their phone numbers. With branded calling, the same principle remains true, though there are still no standards or best practices to protect enterprises from brand spoofing. 

Consumers, enterprises, and service providers need to come together to figure out how brands can protect their data from brand spoofing to ensure they can trust branded calling technologies to safely deliver their intellectual property while, at the same time, finding the right way to communicate that same trust all the way down to the consumers' device.

Technology does not equal trust

Branded calling technologies are simply avenues through which brand trust can be delivered to a consumer, but technology in and of itself doesn’t guarantee trust because it comes down to how and why it is being used. Many times, security concerns are only considered after a technology is built, when it should be part of the process from the very beginning so that the whole structure isn’t compromised by its weakest link. 

“Technology is the how, but you still need Know Your Customer vetting and to know your traffic by vetting the telephone numbers and branding data so that these steps become key requirements and input so we can arrive at a proper design. We need to take into account the work done by the IETF and ATIS standards to finally come to the final building of the physical storage and delivery of this precious data.” 
Lulia Ann Barakat, Sr. Manager - Planning at Verizon 

It’s important that branded calling technologies develop in a way that allows for flexibility with an adaptive design to address any potential gaps and vulnerabilities from origination all the way to termination. Both security and design cannot be an afterthought of the solution but should be present throughout its construction and its execution. 

Enabling Brand Trust

Enterprises wanting to enable branded calling for their campaigns should advocate for the protection of their identity and their numbers. Often, brands must push their identity information through multiple hops along the call path that may harm the reputation of their numbers through each layer before it reaches the end device. 

Brands rely on their carriers to implement standards required by the FCC, like STIR/SHAKEN. Even though they may be told they’re in compliance, they may not fully understand what’s really required of them, muddying the brand’s perception of their reputation and trustworthiness to the consumer. 

Enterprises are willing to participate because it’s in their best interests to do so. They need help from the carriers, but they’ll provide the information that is needed to verify their data and why they’re reaching out to the consumers so that trust can be enabled. It is something that needs to move forward this year, no question.”  
Scott Davis, President & Co-Founder of Volie

Before making the decision to implement a new technology impacting overall contact strategy, enterprises should know who their customers are and how they want to be communicated with. Understanding your consumers’ preference in how they wish to be contacted is an essential part of building a Know your Customer, KYC-based, communications strategy.

Branded calling can be used to enhance customer experience and convey a brand’s trustworthiness, but the trust is only as strong as the technology securing it - that’s why vetting and verification will always remain the cornerstone of caller reputation, with or without branding. The enterprise should be the number one champion of protecting and securing the use of its identity. 

The Role of the Service Provider
If we can’t trust the entry point, then the whole system opens itself up to vulnerabilities.” 
Rebekah Johnson, Founder & CEO of Numeracle

Voice service providers have an obligation to protect their subscribers and maintain trust in who is gathering the identity information being passed to them and then down the call path to their subscribers. When it comes to brand information, carriers only work with entities and vendors they have vetted and that they trust to deliver this kind of information to ensure its accuracy and trustworthiness. 

The problem is that there are many potential gaps along the call path that may open themselves up as vulnerabilities when receiving calls with branded information. Voice service providers will need to monitor all the points of entry in which branded information can be provided and make sure the information has been properly vetted. Otherwise, fraudulent actors may be using the voice network to pose as brands and take advantage of this new technology to scam consumers. 

Think like a scammer — don’t act like one — but think like a scammer. Always look for the gaps, where we need to add the additional security and where we need to keep them out while maintaining trust in the ecosystem.” 
Linda Vandeloop, Chair of the STI-GA and AVP External Affairs/Regulatory at AT&T

Considering the Consumer

We can’t deny that there’s a difference between an illegal and an unwanted phone call, which is why the consumer's voice is the essential third component in achieving trust in branded calling. Consumers are the ones who need to define how they want to be communicated with and provide them with opt-in and opt-out options. 

Since the industry is moving forward with branded calling solutions across the major carriers, information on how it works has to be communicated to them in a way that they can understand, trust, and use. From a trust-building point of view, there is no centralized system for the orchestration or the delivery of branded identity information, which poses a challenge to integrating proper security and trust in the transmission of trusted information. 

Right now, there isn’t as much of a focus on education for consumers when it comes to technologies like STIR/SHAKEN or attestation levels. With the introduction of RCD, branded calling has provided the telecom ecosystem with the opportunity to figure out how to properly educate consumers and consistently deliver on it. Otherwise, consumer trust will always be a missing component affecting the voice channel. 

Best Practices
We are trying to block the bad actors which means we need to enable the good actors. If we collaboratively work to try to identify the gaps and find the best path our eventual objective will succeed. The proper due diligence is a must and challenging ourselves to aim for the best are the necessary elements.”
— Shameem Firoz, Engineer at Verizon 

Here are a few best practices that we can recommend:

  1. Enterprises: KYC-based dialing strategies originating from phone numbers with clean hygiene should form the basis of a customer experience-focused communications strategy. 
  2. VSPs: Solution providers onboarding and vetting a brand should start off with a conversation about dialing patterns and understand who their calling parties are so they can rule out potential harm that may erode trust.
  3. VSPs: Voice service providers who are originating, transmitting, or terminating voice traffic need to be flexible and adaptable to interoperability with policies and standards to protect the network from potential gaps that may lead to vulnerabilities. 
  4. Consumers: Device manufacturers need to consider consumer opinion and be able to render trust across different devices while also providing consumers with the choice to opt-in or out.

Resources

This blog is brought to you by the Numeracle-sponsored webinar presented this year at SIPNOC 2022, “Consumer & Enterprise Trust in Branded Calling: Are We There Yet?” You can access the webinar on-demand playback or download our webinar handout with all the key points and takeaways. 

Numeracle is the only solution provider to extend branded calling across all major wireless carriers, helping brands achieve an additional layer of trust and consistency through branding. Check out the latest press release!

If you’re hunting for more information on branded calling and how the technology works, be sure to check out our Branded Communications Resource Center or our most recent blog post on call display technologies. We also have a hand collection of episodes from our biweekly podcast, Tuesday Talks, for easy on-the-go listening on all things branded calling. 

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