Sarah Delphey: Welcome to Tuesday Talks, a live discussion series where we bring truth and shed light across brand identity and the communications industry. My name is Sarah Delphey and I'm the VP of Trust Solutions here at Numeracle, and I'm going to be co-hosting today's session with Frank Pettinato, the CEO at Avantive Solutions. Hi, Frank, it's good to see you again.
Frank Pettinato: Thanks, Sarah, for having me on for another podcast. I'm especially excited about today's subject and look forward to an exciting half hour.
Sarah Delphey: For those who don't know, we had a joint session together at the Call and Contact Center Expo in Las Vegas, where we did a live Master Classe and got really great reception; a lot of folks came to join it live or viewed it online afterwards. With a lot of the feedback that we received, we tried to be really informative about what we provide, what we're putting forward, and put that even ahead of our own business interest.
It's really about making sure that people understand what the product does do, doesn't do, what the benefits are, what the limitations are, and try and cut through some of the insane confusion about what folks are supposed to do this day and age while trying to deliver phone calls. For anybody who didn't see the full Master Class and would like to see that, it's viewable on the Numeracle website and will share a link to view it online.
With some of the topics for today, we're going to talk about a couple of the things, like questions that came out of that session that we didn't have time to cover or that we wanted to talk about in a little bit more depth. We got a lot of questions about the fact that there's a lot going on.
We gave a lot of information about how folks should be making calls but they wanted to know what all the risks are that they should be thinking about and how to break it down for them because they don't even know where to start. Frank, it just seems people are really confused.
Frank Pettinato: I agree; the audience was very engaged for the Master Class and I was pleased at the number of folks that took time to sit in our session and learn about branded calling and outbound dialing strategies. Some of the follow up questions we had about our topics like risks, the regulatory side, implementation, and a lot about the justification of cost or return on investment.
What are metrics that can be used to evaluate it, and how do brands implement it in order to gain and garner the benefit that we've seen over the last couple of years?
Sarah Delphey: That's why I want to run through those a bit more today and talk about some of the risks that service providers face when heading into that calling ecosystem. We have a graphic/visual aid that I'm going to speak to that we'll make sure is available on the Numeracle website and I'm going to speak to it live. If you're just listening on audio, you're not missing anything, but I think it really helps consolidate what we're talking about. If you'd like to take a look at that, we'll make sure it's available alongside the podcast audio.
I really want to distill down the comments of, "Okay, you've told me that there's a lot of things, and I'm basically terrified of being able to complete phone calls." That's some of the feedback we got after our Maste rClasses. "Can you give me a little bit more of a breakdown of what that is and what's going on?" I want to simplify, when you're entering into the calling space, that there's kind of three categories of big risks that callers face. One is their customer and business risks, so, risks involving their own customers and their business.
When you're making calls, you may have poor call practices, and one of those metric-driven outcomes, that Frank can speak more eloquently about, is low answer rates. You're going to have low conversions and lowered success. When folks don't want to talk to you or you haven't set things up properly, you can run into customer complaints or do not call requests to be removed from call lists.
It's important for your customers to be happy, but it's also really important for your agents to be happy. If your agents feel like they're not offering value to the folks that they're calling and they're just an annoyance, that's going to come through on those conversations, and it's going to be a problem if you have to make more phone calls because you're not being as successful. That comes with a high cost.
The other thing I talked about a little bit and I'll go over briefly here are the legal risks. Disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer so please talk to your own lawyer; I'm not able to give you legal advice on this. There's a whole increasing list of different legal rules that come into play when you're looking to enter the calling ecosystem like certain rules about consent under the TCPA when you need to collect that and when you don't. There are Do Not Call lists and rules about if your recipients are on those Do Not Call list which changes the way that you interact with them depending on the nature of the communication that you're making.
You also have to think about your caller ID presentation. Are you being labeled as scam or spam? Have you enabled your caller ID? Do you have branding enabled? Is that something you want to do? How do you need to present your calls, from a legal perspective, to make sure that you're clear and transparent?
There are rules about timing, there are rules about context, there are rules about content, what you can and can't say, when you can call somebody, and of course, data privacy. You can only disclose if you're making a collections call or a call related to private medical information, how much you can list.
It's the second arm of these risks that we're talking about and why it's really important to have both partners that understand these rules and regulations in the business, but also to make sure you have good advice yourself because every business is different and every call campaign is different. Making sure you have access to good legal advice that can be provided specific to your organization is really important, especially for somebody new coming into this.
The last thing I'll put in the arm of risks are those phone vendor and network risks. These are things that are somewhat outside your control, but are things that will impact you and your business. Like call blocking and labeling, which, obviously, is directly connected to your calling practices, but is done by an external party. You can have penalties or suspensions with your vendor if you have complaints or if there are poor traffic metrics, which can have a huge impact.
For anybody who doesn't know, I used to run the fraud department at a carrier and this was my job to do. We did suspend customers on occasion when there were issues that couldn't be resolved. It did have an impact, and unfortunately, we would try and give as many warnings as we could, but if there were consumers that were being impacted, it was what it was. We had to take actions to stop the harm that was being done and the crime that was being done.
On that same note, if your vendor has an outage because there's enforcement action against them or one of their partners and they get taken out of route or they have a disruption, it could be very disruptive to your business. Then of course, the thing that plagues a lot of businesses today is third party spoofing, where somebody is using your phone number. Usually we see this with businesses that are at a higher risk of being targeted, like banks or government institutions, but it can also happen incidentally for certain businesses by a fraudulent actor.
I'm going to talk more about what drives that, but Frank, I'd like to get your input on this because this is something that you know far better than I do. All three of those are driven by the experience and how you're setting things up. All of this is going to be determined before you even start making and dialing outbound, and it's going to be set up by if you've improperly set your client expectations and not obtained appropriate consent, that's going to drive all three of these risks and it's going to drive consumer complaints, which creates a feedback loop.
If you're making unwanted phone calls and those consumers complain, those complaints can impact the way that your calls are being labeled. Your calls may be labeled as scams and become even less successful or result in more complaints. There's a snowball effect that can happen if this is something you do after the fact versus setting yourself up for success from the beginning.
If you are blasting out calls to leads that maybe don't have a good connection or weren't properly set up and don't see value in what you're offering, those poor call statistics can come back at you if you're not being clear about upfront about your caller identity and why you're calling. Who are you? Why are you calling somebody?
And again, if you choose partners that may be at risk of being disrupted in their business, that can also cause a problem as well for you. It's not just their problem, it can be your problem as well. I wanted to run through that real quickly just to recap some of that information from the event and really get Frank's take on it again as well. Frank, anything you wanted to add on that piece?
Frank Pettinato: First of all, this is a great visual on the dynamics of outbound calling and the risks. There are other variables here like landline versus wireless where the wireless consent is critical and there are a lot of state regulations as well as the TCPA that have to be taken into account. It's important that anyone who's partaking in outbound calling understands their consent, understands their customers, members, patients, the arrangements that you have, the state regulations, the TCPA, and other similar state level TCPAs, in order to make a robust model on how you're going to execute your outbound calling.
The labeling piece is important. These days, a lot of outbound calls are made using SIP, and that's where basically where 90+, probably almost 100%, of the scam calls are because of the low cost structure. Simply using a SIP vendor puts you at risk and when your primary SIP vendor, who may be a reliable vendor, hands it off to perhaps a vendor that is not as robust. There could be chances that your calls could be unknowingly blocked at any point as that outbound call is being sent to a recipient. This is a real impact to performance, and you talked about that in the customer business risks and the low answer rates, which could be a result of labeling spam/scam.
Also high costs of not being able to contact the folks that you actually want to contact to conduct business and agent dissatisfaction is a brilliant addition to this. At the end of the day, we need to rely on this critical asset, which is our agents, in order to engage with customers, members, prospects, patients, or whomever we're calling, and have a smile on their face the whole time. If they're not getting a lot of high answer rates or they're hearing on the call that a recipient is seeing that it's a scam/spam call, that is a major dissatisfier.
I would tell you that another tactical piece to take into account are the number of caller IDs you use so that you're not heavily concentrating a lot of outbound calls on one number because that's a red flag. And the considerations of branded calling, which we're going to talk about as we go through today's presentation, as a mitigation factor because that prepares the callee to receive a call from a brand that they hopefully are expecting a call from, which makes that transaction just all that much better and potentially increases live answer rates if it's a sales call or potentially increases conversion rates. I think that is a critical component of mitigating those risks.
I would say the biggest mitigation strategies are one: understand your compliance and really be intimate with it, two: have good hygiene of your caller ID numbers by making sure they're registered, making sure that they're yours to use, and making sure you're using a low ratio so that you're not highly concentrating a lot of calls on a caller ID, and three: consider branded calling as a strategy because it will allow not only for the calls to be completed because the carriers understand that you must be a serious brand if you're going through the effort of branding your call, but, a recipient may be predisposed to pick up that number, pick up that phone, and engage with you, which is ultimately the outcome. Thanks for putting that slide together. I think it's awesome.
Sarah Delphey: There's so many risks listed on here. Do you have any other thoughts for anyone new to this ecosystem on what's the most important thing that somebody needs to focus on to mitigate their risks?
Frank Pettinato: I think it's a continuum. At the beginning, the concept of consent and non-consent dialing on wireless/mobile, it's really important to understand what that is. Do you have the ability to call whomever you're trying to call on their wireless phone? Make sure that you're compliant with the TCPA and all state regulations. I think that's the starting point. From there, it becomes tactical. Make sure you're working with robust carriers that have good reputations. Make sure that you're not overly concentrating caller IDs, and consider branded calling.
The low quality carrier piece is big. If you actually started pulling statistics of calls that are actually getting blocked, it's pretty staggering (or marked as labeled). A service that Numeracle offers is related to the number hygiene, where they will actually be looking at your caller IDs to make sure they're not inappropriately being marked as spam and scam, and then you can either take that number out of rotation to put a rest on it or whatever action you choose to take will increase your performance. So it is a small investment that is worthwhile.
Sarah Delphey: I agree with you. From my perspective in my past on the carrier fraud side, I would give a very similar answer, which is, yes, of course you need to make sure you're accomplishing your legal basics and obligations in terms of the consent that you need to collect.
Then it's about that value proposition and controlling for what you can control and taking advantage of items like branded calling. When it comes to how you track that ROI and those metrics for branded calling, how do you recommend that folks track those? Let's say they have different carriers that are offering branding solutions, and each one is reporting back to you. How do you cut through that noise and really figure out what the value is of branded calling?
Frank Pettinato: That's an excellent question. A lot of it has to do with the use case, of which there are many. Let's take the most typical use case, which would be an outbound telemarketing call, which is most likely the highest volume. There's a cost, and if you're in a business where you're doing a lot of attempts, you may choose not to brand every single attempt in order to optimize your cost structure. The other part is, is the recipient expecting a call from your specific brand?
Because, you could actually de-incentivize someone from answering the call if they're not expecting a call from your brand or in some cases, who don't even know your brand. But the opposite is true. If it is a well known brand or a brand that the recipient is perhaps interested in speaking to or expecting, then your ROI may be very positive you're going to get highly engaged, motivated people answering the phone.
Sarah Delphey: Frank, that's one of the most simple thoughts and I saw so many nodding heads when you mentioned that at the conference who really hadn't put it together. Which is simple, right?
If folks know you and they want to talk to you, branding your communications adds so much value. I think about my experience when telling somebody this the other day, that when someone calls me, I hear my phone go off, but it doesn't give me any indication of whether or not that's anything I want to see.
The first indication I get is when I look at the caller ID and I make that decision. I'm somebody that does not like to answer the phone live; I am not a live talker unless I know you. I'm just going to let you go to the voicemail most of the time. But, you're exactly right. I'm somebody where, if I know you, I want to talk to you because I have a relationship with you. It makes all the difference in the world as to whether I'm going to pick it up.
Frank Pettinato: I think there are other high value transactions that branding, in this case, assuming you did everything else right like you've got your consent/your non-consent, you've got your caller ID, hygiene, then we can talk about branding here. If there are high value transactions where you absolutely need to get a hold of a patient or a member like of an insurance company, especially our older population who are basically told not to answer the phone if they don't know who's calling, this is where branded calling on a wireless network really makes sense.
The value there is high not only for the brand, but it also gives comfort to the recipient that they're talking to their own insurance company, or talking to their doctor's office, or the nurse is calling them. Or think about another brand, like your cable company is calling you, it's awesome, you love my cable company and you can't wait to talk to them.
Sarah Delphey:Not my experience, personally.
Frank Pettinato: Well, it's wishful thinking, right? What we found is when we listen to a lot of phone calls from the early days to try and understand what the reaction was both at the agent level and the consumer level, we generally found that if someone is interested in answering the call because they see the brand, the call starts off very positive. That initial block I have when I don't know who you are and I have some distrust goes away.
Then, it's a favorable interaction which benefits both the consumer/member/patient as well as the agent and there's a lot of satisfaction, where typically the outcome of those calls is closer to being a net positive. They're positive interactions, therefore they end positively. The opposite is if someone chooses not to answer the call because they're not interested in speaking to the brand, they've basically saved you a little bit of time, theoretically.
Hence, the reason why I often like to rotate caller IDs or branded calling on and off is because you may get somebody to answer the phone when it's unbranded and then you have an opportunity to give them the pitch. We don't want to preclude someone listening to an awesome offer to buy some amazing service simply because we branded it with a brand that they may not be interested in speaking to at that moment.
Sarah Delphey: They see it and they go, I don't have a current account so this must be a sales pitch. It makes sense and I think that drives back around to thinking it's circular in the other direction as much as complaints drive poor call metrics, and it makes it even more the snowball effect that happens in the opposite direction. If you start out positively, you create those positive interactions which are reflected in the call records and in a lack of complaints and long talk times and all of these things drive to positive reputations, which lowers your likelihood of being spam rated.
This is another thing that I think really resonated at the conference is thinking about the fact that carriers are people too. They absolutely do not want to block legitimate phone calls that their subscribers want to receive. So, there was a lot of frustration from folks of saying, "Why would they do this? My calls are legal. How could they do this to me? Why won't somebody stop them?"
But, I think you and I are both of the same mindset where there's so little information that somebody in that position has when they're trying to make a decision that it's really mostly driven by complaints and it's driven by call metrics. If you don't give that an opportunity to be a negative factor for you in the way that you've described, then it's only going to service you even better and feedback into those positives as well.
Frank Pettinato: Sarah, a couple of points come to mind, or what we'll call surprises, that we found using branded calling. One is customer-initiated return phone calls. Someone may be busy or away from their phone, but now it's branded, so they actually see the name of the company on their phone and they redial, so we get a lot more inbound calls, which is awesome because I love when people call us versus we calling them.
Another amazing statistic is an increase in Net Promoter Score. Many brands do post-interaction Net Promoter Score surveys, and the customers that received a branded call had an interaction, positive or negative in the sense that it was either successful or unsuccessful, ended up giving a wildly higher Net Promoter Score, perhaps because they were brand advocates to start. But that one metric has been proven over, at this point a year plus, of collecting data; it's very consistent. Net Promoter Scores have increased when a recipient gets a branded phone call, so we're excited.
I was going to give some context via a use case that I like. Many of us on the phone have pets and from time to time, and it's unfortunate, pets do get lost whether they run away or for whatever purpose. Typically, pet recovery companies try to put a microchip in your pet so that a vet office, police station, or shelter can read that chip, contact pet recovery service and say, "Hey, we found Fifi. Please call the pet parent and tell them that we found them." That's a pretty important phone call that the pet parent should be expecting because they really want their dog back. The brand typically uses an 800-number, which is innocuous, and I wouldn't expect anyone to remember the 800-number of their pet recovery service.
Sarah Delphey: I would not remember.
Frank Pettinato: When we started branding it, we saw a lot of amazing things happen. The time it takes to get a pet back to their parent has decreased significantly, we saw a 25% increase in unique contacts, so that means we contacted 25% more people and saw a 15% increase in live answer rates.
But it was the call recordings that were the amazing part. People literally said on the phone call, "I would have not answered this phone call unless it was branded. Thank you for finding my pet." People were in tears; you could just imagine the emotions. This is the magic of a simple aspect of a use case for branded calling that is so high-value. I think we can all understand it if we were in that situation.
We get so many phone calls that I don't know who they are, but cutting through the noise on an important phone call is critical. And you can apply this to anything - insurance company calling members, medical practice calling patients, whomever.
Sarah Delphey: Or I have one of these four hour windows for the delivery of my furniture where I have to sit and wait around. If that company calls and I see their logo, I'm going to pick up immediately so I can finally schedule for them to come by and deliver it. When it's an expected wanted communication, it creates all the value in the world.
Frank Pettinato: Visiting nurses is another one because the nurses have to call the patient to let them know they're on their way. If they patient is not familiar with the number, they may not get a hold of somebody. It just drives a lot of efficiency.
Sarah Delphey: Well, I do want to leave some time right at the end for a live question and this is a good one for you, Frank. The ease of implementation for branding, do you have any recommendations for that? Can you talk more about how do you put that together? Is it complicated, especially if you're using multiple different processes?
Frank Pettinato: That's a great question. The market has evolved quickly over the last 24 months and it's a bit fragmented in the sense that each carrier has to be touched independently. A company like Numeracle has built those relationships up, and more importantly, has consolidated some of the reporting and Smart Branding that allows your customers to take a look and, in real-time, see exactly what's happening.
I'd say the implementation process is not incredibly complicated. There's a lot of compliance, documentation for making sure that you have the authority to use the brand, which totally makes sense. Once all that information is provided, Numeracle will send that off to all the different carriers and their carriers' partners, and get that set up. It's all done out-of-band at the network level, so very little or, if any work, needs to be done on your own telephony platform.
You may choose to use the branded calling on some caller IDs and not; you may use alternate caller IDs to rotate it on and off. I mean, those are things that can be managed at the dialer level, but since it's all out of network on the cloud, once you register the caller ID that is going to get a treatment, it happens. Then the reports that come back vary by carrier; some come back with some very rich data, including number of calls that are blocked or basically flagged. You'll see that once you start branding that number and the amount of those calls goes down.
But I would say it's a matter of preference; I'm a big advocate of not branding every single call. At least now I think there's a maturity cycle in the marketplace where consumers need to get more comfortable in understanding branded calling, but from a cost mitigation standpoint, it's a good strategy to kind of consider judiciously, and look at the ROI and then continue to manage your investment appropriately.
Sarah Delphey: I want to say thank you, Frank, for joining and for sharing your expertise, we will certainly be hearing more from you, and thank you to everybody for joining us for another episode of Tuesday Talks. If this topic resonated with you, you can check out our Master Classes which are available online. If you can't get enough of Sarah and Frank and you need to hear more from us or from others on our Sales and Marketing teams, you can access those on the website and in the shownotes section of this episode anywhere you're streaming it.
Keep in mind, there's not a one size fits all solution for this, but the class has some more information with more visual aids on everything that we've covered today, and a deeper dive on how how you can empower your team with a customer centric approach in mind, which we do love, on how can we create value and drive those wanted expected communications.
Just keep in mind, our next live episode is going to be Tuesday, June 6th, so be sure to register to join us live. We hope to see you there and thank you again, Frank, for joining us.
Frank Pettinato: Thanks, Sarah. Thanks everyone for joining.