Why We’re Still Talking About Phone Number Reputation
The Real Key to Preventing your Phone Numbers from Being Mislabeled
Molly Weis, VP of Marketing
April 27, 2022
STIR/SHAKEN, more calls blocked across the network, and the arrival of branded calling technologies are all shinier and newer topics to discuss, so why are we still talking about phone number reputation? (We’ve been talking about this since 2018!)
It’s because phone number reputation, even though it hasn’t radically changed over the last few years, is still the answer to many of the questions brands are raising as to why their calls are still not as successful as they’d hope.
And what exactly is number reputation? What we’re talking about here are the labels presented as a result of the algorithmic scoring of calls that land on mobile devices based on patterns in call delivery, perceived risk of answering, associated complaints, etc. All the major wireless carriers use phone number reputation to decide how calls will be displayed to consumers.
Good reputation = a clean phone number displayed
Bad reputation = labels like Potential Spam, Scam Likely, or Fraud Risk displayed instead
For the side-by-side comparison of number reputation vs. some popular, newer, concepts we’re frequently asked about, continue on with us here:
STIR/SHAKEN vs. Number Reputation
The STIR/SHAKEN Caller ID Authentication framework is all we heard about last year. This was supposed to be the long-awaited answer to stopping robocalls, yet as a consumer, I still receive robocalls, and as a business, we still see our calls labeled Scam and Spam. What’s the deal?
Let’s stick with these two perspectives (consumer vs. business) as we break this down.
STIR/SHAKEN is a framework that assigns a certificate of authenticity to each phone call that’s traversing the network as it passes from service provider to service provider. As a consumer, STIR/SHAKEN is great because it helps reduce the number of illegally spoofed calls hitting our cell phones (calls from bad actors pretending to be someone they’re not).
As a business conducting outbound calls, your role in STIR/SHAKEN is to ensure you’re working with a voice service provider, who is fully compliant with the FCC-derived timelines and mandated requirements. STIR/SHAKEN improves the ability of law enforcement to trace the source of illegal calling activity back to the voice service provider facilitating it in order to stop the alleged perpetrator from continuing to originate calls.
But what does this have to do with call labeling and number reputation? Nothing actually. STIR/SHAKEN specifically targets illegally spoofed calls, but legal calls that may or may not be unwanted fall under a completely different umbrella. This is where phone number reputation returns as the answer. The key to preventing your calls from being labeled as a Scam or Spam is not in STIR/SHAKEN compliance, it’s in establishing a clean number reputation.
Call Blocking vs. Number Reputation
Our contact center has confirmed we’re working with only fully-implemented, STIR/SHAKEN-compliant providers. We’re still seeing our calls blocked, though. What’s the deal?
If you’ve confirmed with your voice service provider (whoever makes your calls go or whoever your dialer platform uses to make your calls go) that STIR/SHAKEN has been fully implemented on their network, then it’s not STIR/SHAKEN that’s causing your calls to disappear into a black hole. It’s number reputation.
If your calls develop severe enough suspected fraud-level number reputation (calls classified at the top-end of the risk scale as determined by the wireless carrier-deployed algorithms assessing traffic on their networks), this alone can cause call blocking. It can also cause your calls to be diverted directly to voicemail, never even ringing on the called party’s device.
If your business has identified an uptick in “call can’t be completed as dialed” errors, consumers frustratingly reporting they never received the calls you claim to have placed to them, or calls mysteriously diverted to voicemail with greater frequency - check your number reputation, and get your business vetted and verified as a legitimate caller across the wireless carrier ecosystem.
Call Branding vs. Number Reputation
We heard it’s possible to display our company’s brand name via caller ID on cell phones now! Can’t we just update our caller ID name to replace the Scam and Spam labeling?
Call branding, just like call reputation, all starts with trust authentication and identity vetting and verification. As the wireless industry evolves to allow businesses to display a brand name (and in some cases, even a logo) to called parties, the security considerations, as you might imagine, are absolutely critical. Under no circumstances can we allow bad actors to take advantage of the ability to present a brand name and logo to called parties, giving bad actors an even more convincing playground from which to defraud wireless subscribers.
As such, a rigorous brand identity vetting and verification process is the critical first step in launching branded calling for your business. This is the same KYC-based process utilized to establish trust in your identity for the purpose of preventing and correcting Spam and Scam labeling resulting from negative call reputation.
The second sticking point here is which information ends up being displayed to a wireless subscriber when a business takes the steps to present a branded calling presence but is concurrently classified as a Spam caller due to negative reputation scoring. In this game of rock, paper, scissors, call labeling beats call branding. In other words, negative reputation trumps branding presence – that call will be delivered with a Spam label, completely negating the branding (which the consumer will never see).
So again, phone number reputation is both the answer and the cornerstone to a branded calling strategy. Before your business can deliver a consistently displayed, trusted presence, you need to establish trust in your calling identity and maintain a healthy number reputation first.
The Key to Phone Number Reputation Today
Why are we still talking about phone number reputation? It’s because maintaining a healthy phone number reputation is still the answer within the big picture of your overall dialing strategy.
Numeracle has always believed caller trust starts with reputation. If you’re a legal business calling for legitimate business purposes and you’re struggling to escape the constant cycle of Scam and Spam labeling or call blocking, this is actually a pretty straightforward issue to tackle. It starts with identity vetting, continues through reputation monitoring, and proactively progresses through blocking and labeling remediation to correct issues as they arise.
Remember, the algorithms have been around for a few years now, and the only thing that remains the same is that they keep changing and evolving in approach. If you haven’t started an investigation into whether or not call labeling is impacting your ability to connect, reach out today for recommendations on how to get started.
We’d like to thank our special industry partner, IntelePeer, for hosting on their podcast, Take It From Your Peers, and providing a platform for a most lively, and frank discussion on the ongoing challenges enterprises face when looking to maintain clean number reputation across the calling ecosystem.