Molly Weis: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Tuesday Talks Podcast, a live discussion series where we bring truth and shed light across the brand identity and communications industry. I'm Molly Weis, the VP of Marketing and Communications at Numeracle, and I'll be co-hosting today's session with our Senior Success Manager, Natalie Laferriere. Let's welcome her for her first time on our podcast. Hi, Natalie!
Natalie Laferriere: Hi. Thanks, Molly, it's great to be here!
Molly Weis: Great to have you today! I hope none of you out there miss Rebekah and Anis too much today, but we've got a full agenda packed with the frequently asked questions we see on our client engagement side. We're going to focus today's episode on digging into best practices for phone number management, namely, how to set your campaigns up for success by properly structuring them from the beginning to keep number hygiene in check as you go along.
Without further ado, let's go ahead and dive into our first question here about number procurement: When we're trying to decide what kind of phone numbers to use for our business, will local area code numbers generate a higher answer rate than toll-free? Does it matter?
Natalie Laferriere: That's a great question. There are many studies out there that will tell you that using a local caller ID will increase your contact rate, therefore increasing your total sales. While there's historically been some indication of an increase in people willing to pick up the phone if they see a local number versus an 800 number, I would suggest that there's a much more important factor at play these days that have shifted the scale, the biggest now being your brand reputation.
Molly Weis: That's a great point, Natalie. When it comes to that brand reputation, let's go into our next question: How can I improve my chances of preventing negative reputation and staying out of spam labeling territory?
Natalie Laferriere: Yes, let's talk about what's driving that labeling. Each of the analytics partners has its own algorithms for identifying nuisance calls and for blocking calls, so they each weigh factors differently in those algorithms. For example, one partner might rely heavily on call volumes, call patterns, and your list hygiene, whereas another partner may rely more heavily on crowdsourced information. Some partners even extract data from the FTC and the FCC databases.
This is all factored into those ratings, and it's their own secret sauce. It's not consistent across the partners. The same dialing strategy can result in different tagging or labeling across all the partners in the calling ecosystem. There's no standard and no consistency among those ratings. It's also important to keep in mind that algorithms are not human, so they dump your call into a scoring system and grade your number as spam or not.
Molly Weis: Let's talk some more about these patterns that we're seeing there. You mentioned these algorithms aren't human, I think that's a great point to keep in mind here. The next question is: How does my dialing strategy come into play here then? Are all dialers or dialer platforms created equal?
Natalie Laferriere: Good question. The way your dialing does come into play with how the algorithm will score you, hygiene can become tied to so many different things. Some of those include how often are you calling the same customers? Your abandonment rate that you set your dialer to? Are you max attempting your list and then letting them rest? We suggest 90 days between lists to make sure that those leads have an opportunity to rest.
How often are you contacting customers on the same day? We use a rule of thumb not to redial a number more than two or three times a day. Definitely not redialing numbers more than every three to four hours in the day. Are you dialing right before a time zone is closing? Are you keeping your dials consistent through the month? One thing that comes up a lot in the conversations that we have, and we always suggest that you keep the phone dials that you make on one line under 2,000 per day and under a max of 50,000 to 70,000 a month.
Now, some other things that we would suggest are don't just use one phone number for various departments or call reasons, make sure the number that you out pulse is a proper ten-digit number that can be redialed, and provide a consistent and accurate calling party name, that one is really important. Lastly, and I'd say obviously the most important one is to follow all the TCPA and the DNC guidelines.
Molly Weis: That's a really good summary, it's a lot to keep in mind as you're going here. So far we've been focusing on the call labeling side of things so let's shift a little bit to call blocking. Where is this call blocking actually happening? Is a phone number being blocked at that out pulse level, or is this happening at the originating number on that phone line?
Natalie Laferriere: That's a really interesting question. Historically, we have seen that the numbers were blocked at the originating number level, so the original number carrying the traffic. However, with the new onset of all these call blocking apps, we're actually seeing numbers being blocked at the out pulse number as well. So we're seeing it on both sides now, so that's really a good question that you ask them really important to keep in mind.
Molly Weis: When we're talking about prevention from getting phone numbers blocked, what would you say your recommendations for this would be?
Natalie Laferriere: You need to protect all the numbers, the originating DID, and the out pulse number to make sure you're protected on all fronts.
Molly Weis: Once we're protecting all of these numbers from blocking and labeling, are there other ways for businesses looking to improve their strategy from end to end to further enhance this reputation and take it to the next level? Is there any other way to further increase the likelihood that calls are going to be delivered and answered more successfully?
Natalie Laferriere: One way you can help improve your brand reputation is actually to evaluate a branded calling strategy. Branded calling is the ability to display your logo and your call reason on customer handsets. It's often accompanied by a green checkmark. I don't know about you, but I'm much more likely to pick up the phone if I know it's a legal call, if it has a recognizable logo, and if it has a meaningful call reason.
Molly Weis: That's for sure. There are so many different reasons for this. A brand might be trying to connect with the consumer out there so some of this probably is going to come back to what is the intent of that call? Why are you as a business trying to reach out to somebody? Why would the consumer want to either answer that now? Would they prefer to see that you're calling, know that it was you, and call you back later? Do you think that the intent of these campaigns we're talking about does come into play at all when we're looking at the potential effectiveness of moving forward with a branding strategy?
Natalie Laferriere: I think branding is important all the time, but I hear your question, and there are certain industries where you might see an impact and where it might have more of an impact or less of an impact. For example, if you're in an industry like collections where consumers may be wary of answering your calls in the first place, the best way we'd suggest improving your contact rate is to avoid having your calls blocked in the first place. This is going to be equally, if not more important for a collections agency than trying to display a logo.
All the things we talked about earlier in the call, all the ways you can manage your dialing behaviors and your dialing hygiene are going to come into play here to help you before we even come to branding, just get your calls through, make sure they're not being blocked. That being said, a recognizable brand showing a legitimate trusted logo gives people that extra ounce of trust to be able to respond to the call, how they choose. If a call does get blocked, from our perspective, what I would say is that if your numbers are registered, your calls are not going to be blocked, so that's really an important factor here. We'll dive into that one in a little bit.
If a number is labeled, so now we're not talking about blocking anymore, we're talking about if the number gets a label on it like a 'spam' label or 'spam likely' label. Those numbers can actually be remediated with the carriers. There's a lot of footwork that goes into that but we actually have the ability to work with the analytics partners to have those labels downgraded. We work with them, and we sent through a request, and in that request, we provide a lot of context.
We verify and vet the business, and then we go through a remediation process working with the carriers back and forth until we can work with them to downgrade that rating. That's also really important to stay ahead of your number hygiene and constantly be proactively looking at what the labels are, remediating if you see any labels come up that are of concern, and keeping a consistent viewpoint into the ratings on all of your phone numbers so that we're consistently looking through and keeping them as healthy as possible.
Molly Weis: That's a great point because it's really not something you do once and then forget about it forever. There is that element of ongoing remediation and monitoring that is involved in this. Since we're talking about remediation, how long is that typically going to take once we identify that there's a problem with a phone number? What happens? How long does that take?
Natalie Laferriere: Good question. It can take anywhere from 24 hours up to about 36 hours. I'd say the average we're probably looking at 2-3 business days to reach out to the carriers, provide them a good summary, and get them the details they need. Once you're a verified and registered business and you're trusted through your registration, they are more likely to remediate that number pretty quickly.
And if there's ever a case where they are unable to remediate, we're finding out why and getting the information as to why that number isn't going through and what can be done to help improve the reputation of that phone number. We can always go back a couple of weeks later once we've improved the call hygiene and go back and ask for reconsideration again.
Molly Weis: Let's say we've gone through the process of remediation, the hygiene has been improved, the reputation is looking good, but then the dialing strategy totally changes and the business starts to use the phone number for something completely different. What do you think would be the likely result of that?
Natalie Laferriere: If it's within the same organization, you can definitely use a number for different purposes. Obviously, you want to have the right call intent associated with the call, and making sure that all the information associated with that phone number is correct, is really important. It's not to say that you can't do it, just make sure that the information that's attached to that number is correct.
If you are grabbing numbers that have previously been used by another business, this is when you could potentially have some bad data or dirty data come along with the phone number. It is really important to make sure that if numbers have come from another organization, or are shifting to a different part of the business with a different caller ID, or potentially have some historical bad reputation associated with them that those numbers have rested for a significant period of time and that the carrier has re-registered the new correct information for that number.
Molly Weis: Let's tie in reputation as it relates to the branding. We also see questions coming in on how the two play together. Is branding the same thing as labeling? Do they all happen in the same place? I think it's important to mention here that a reputation strategy is going to be a very vital strategy to the success of branding as if you develop a bad reputation on a phone number that you're trying to brand on, that reputation can show instead of that branding. It's really crucial to not just try to jump straight into branding and really level set the baseline on the reputation itself. Natalie, is that what you guys are seeing as well?
Natalie Laferriere: Yes and that's always the approach we take. The first thing we always work with customers on is working on getting the reputation on the phone number clean, getting all of the labeling removed, getting the calls that may have been blocked cleared, and continuously monitoring that effort. When we know that that effort is working and is good, we layer on the branding. The branding adds an extra layer of protection to those phone numbers. The branding adds that extra trust in a consumer when they see that number come through. But you're right, you don't want to just go ahead and jump into a branded strategy without making sure that the hygiene on your numbers is already in good shape.
Molly Weis: It really depends on what the outcome of the branding is anyhow. I think increasing trust, increasing that consumer recognition in your calls is a great expectation to have with branding. Some folks think it's all about the contact rates, and I know we've got another question queued up specifically about contact rates. Something interesting that we've found is with the branding, it's not always going to have a direct correlation to increase live answer rates.
It could be that you see more callbacks coming through because that branding is also going to be sitting there in that missed call log. Even if a person knows exactly who it is that's it's calling me and they're calling me right now. I just can't answer right now. I do want to talk to this business, though.
Now, I know that it's exactly who that was. I have that trust to call them back later knowing that it's the real them. There are always multiple things to think about anytime you're looking to structure improvements. I'm wondering if you might agree with this, there's more than just the answer rate,
Natalie Laferriere: Absolutely. We're talking about how your brand is seen out in the entire calling ecosystem in a customer's mind when they look at their phone and they look in their call history and they either see your number ten times, it might have some negative labeling attached, or it might just have the business's name.
Or you look in your call history and you see that the numbers called you a couple of times and they've had a really good dialing strategy, so they haven't over dialed you, and on top of that with the branded calling, they now have the green check mark displayed. You know, it's a verified, legitimate legal call.
You absolutely are right, Molly. There's a lot more than just looking at if they are picking up the phone the first time I call versus the long term strategy of have I improved the overall reputation and trust in my brand?
Molly Weis: If I was somebody who was focused on connect rates, contact rates, and improving this now, I've got a question to stick in here, because we hear this one absolutely all the time: What if we just want to increase our contact rates? That's what we want to do.
There are probably a million different ways to accomplish this, but if we're asking Numeracle and asking you some of the things from our perspective that would be huge drivers of this, what would you say some best practices would be that you could share for the folks listening out there to avoid developing a negative reputation and getting blocked with the interest of improving, increasing, maintaining those contact rates?
Natalie Laferriere: That's a great question and we hear this question all the time. There are so many factors at play when it comes to improving your contact rate. I'll give a bit of a summary, but it's really important to understand that good hygiene starts with a good dialing strategy. I spoke earlier in the call and I gave a list of all those things you can do to look at your dialer and make sure that the settings are set accurately.
A lot of people forget that they actually have the ability to see those settings on the dialer. If you're using an automated dialer I might ask people what their abandoned rate is set, they often say they don't know what their abandonment rate is. With almost every dialer out there that I've ever seen, all of these are settings. You can go in and talk to the dialer management team, look at the settings, and make sure that you're not abandoning a high level of calls. Make sure that the answer rate is set appropriately, make sure that there's enough time between calls again to help with that abandonment rate, and make sure that your max attempts are set accurately.
With all the things we talked about earlier in the call, you can actually go in, and most or a lot of those things can be managed through simple dialer settings. It's really important, though. People sometimes seem to think that they just need to push the dialer harder to get a higher contact rate but that's absolutely not accurate information. You really need to be careful. That will not only decrease your contact rate in many cases, it will really damage your brand reputation as well.
We really strongly suggest starting with a good dialing strategy and then the key to preventing the blocking and labeling is maintaining a healthy phone number reputation. So monitoring the phone numbers and the reputation that comes along with them. Algorithms are dynamic, they're changing all the time. You can't expect that because this week your numbers are clean, based on the dialing that you're doing over the next couple of weeks, that that rating won't change.
Constantly having some insight into what those labels are and making sure that if there is a label that there's a remediation process in place to go back and get that label removed would be key. Once you've got your reputation in check and you're adding branding to your calls, it's really important to enhance consumer trust in your calls. Start with a really good dialing strategy, make sure your numbers are not labeled or blocked by using a reputation management program, and then now that you have that in check, make sure that if a label does happen, there's a remediation process in place.
Now that you have that baseline set, add on the branded calling to enhance that trust. And again, you're always going to be wanting to monitor any negative reputation just in case someone else might be potentially spoofing your phone numbers. Some people ask why they would register their inbound phone numbers if they're not making outbound dials on that line.
We've come across instances where customer phone numbers are actually spoofed so you don't know that your inbound phone number is actually being used by somebody else to make outbound phone calls. Again, another really important reason why we might want to have all your numbers, inbound and outbound, registered.
Molly Weis: This is a great topic right now. I'll also share that we just published a white paper on this very subject of what to do about spoofing. How do we know if there is a bad actor out there who's stolen my brand name and is calling people pretending to be me? The industry is working hard to protect against spoofing but if people are able to continue to evolve more quickly than the technology and are out there stealing your numbers now, there are monitoring solutions in place to find these people and at least be able to get some evidence of all the ways that people are misusing my brand like some scripts of the ways they're calling people and leaving voicemails.
Then things like that can be used to help the Traceback Group find the source of these and look to get shut down. It really is an end-to-end strategy with a whole lot of things going into it. There's no one silver bullet solution answer to 'what's the best way to increase my contact rates?' but there are a lot of different things you can do, which is great news. I think, Natalie, you've shared a ton of insight around some super baseline strategies to start the process and get everything healthy so you can then start to experiment and see what exactly works just right for your business and what you're trying to do.
I think we should shift over to some questions from the audience. What should I do when an agent says that all of a sudden their caller ID is coming up with another company name or getting blocked more often?
Natalie Laferriere: That's a good question. As you know, it's really not uncommon for call center associates to hear this feedback from their customers; we hear it all the time. There are two things we need to consider here, it's kind of a two-part question. The first we'll talk about is the blocking mentioned, and then we'll talk about the caller ID. Regarding the blocking, the question really is this: Is the number being blocked by analytics or not? If your numbers are registered, you should be able to rule this out. Your numbers will not be blocked by the analytics partners if your numbers are registered.
Now, the thing to ask yourself is whether or not the number is actually being blocked or is it anecdotal feedback from the reps because they've seen a decrease in contact rates? The dialer should be able to identify this for you and if the number is in fact being blocked and the number is registered, you can follow up with your service provider as this would likely be a network issue and not related to the analytics. You should be able to do some testing, or the carrier should be able to do some testing, to identify where that breakdown is occurring.
If your numbers are not registered, you can't be certain that your calls will never be blocked. You can absolutely implement all the strategies we talked about on the call today and this will definitely help improve your chances of not being blocked, but as we mentioned earlier in the podcast, the analytics partners are not standardized in the way that their algorithms work. They don't share the secret sauce with us so you really cannot guarantee if your calls are not registered and you put all of the dialing strategies in place that we talked about today, you still can't guarantee that you won't be blocked.
And again, you might be blocked with one carrier and not with another. It could be the CPaaS provider that you're using, if you're using a vendor to do your phone calls with, etc. There are so many factors out there which is why we recommend that your numbers be registered in the first place. That's the first part.
Regarding the other company coming up on the caller ID, caller ID is a very interesting topic. Each wireless carrier is treating caller ID name display with a little different flare in terms of what they are and what they're not displaying, and what the subscribers on their network has to do in order to receive caller ID name display. In most cases, cell phone users actually have to subscribe to enhanced caller ID to see the name displayed.
A lot of the time we get feedback saying they don't see the name coming up or that they've heard that the name is not coming up. Well, in a lot of those cases it's because the subscriber, the person who owns that cellphone, actually doesn't subscribe to the enhanced caller ID name display. That's oftentimes the reason why a name might not be displayed.
The carriers use a variety of sources like CNAM databases, they use registration information, they use all sorts of sources to identify what they're going to push out as the caller ID. If a number is appearing with a different business name, you may want to follow up with the providers you obtained your numbers from. It's ultimately the carrier's responsibility, and your service provider can submit a CNAM update on your behalf as well.
If you're using a BPO or cloud platform to do your dialing on and they rotate numbers, you have to keep in mind that sometimes those numbers are rotated frequently. I mentioned this earlier in the call, but if you receive a number that was recently rotated out from another partner or another client, you might have their brand reputation associated and you're now using these phone numbers to dial with. We see that often, so when you procure new numbers, it's really important to make sure, and I said this earlier, that those numbers have rested for at least 90 days. Make sure to ask the BPO or whoever you're preparing your numbers from, make sure to ask them that those numbers are clean and have rested.
The other thing to keep in mind is to make sure that when you're using a cloud-based service, the numbers they are using to dial from are also registered. You want to make sure that all phone numbers are registered. Sometimes they provide you with a phone number, but on the back end, they're actually using a different number to make the phone call from, so we have to register all the numbers that could potentially be in the chain to make sure that your numbers are free of blocking.
Molly Weis: That's interesting, too, because we talk about registration in terms of trying to reset the baseline or clearing out negative reputation, but this might be a little-known fact that registration also goes towards cleaning out whoever's name used to be associated with it as well. This might be something that folks out there aren't thinking about, especially if they're not focused on a caller ID name strategy whatsoever.
If you're not thinking about how your name is showing up and you don't know, then it could almost be anything from whoever was using it at any point in time until the number gets registered to reconnect who you are now with this phone number that is now within your authorized users.
Natalie Laferriere: Yeah, absolutely.
Molly Weis: It's also an interesting thing to think about in terms of what the expected outcome is of attaching a caller name or a brand name to an outbound call. We were talking a lot about CNAM, but even when we're talking about the new caller ID technologies for call branding, you've got to think about the people that you are calling, what devices they are on, and what networks they are on.
Because it's still not one centralized technology that you push your brand name out of and everyone out there on every different type of cell phone and on every different network is going to see. It's still not there so you've really got to put the strategy in place around who you are trying to call, what are your expectations around the technologies, understanding that there will be nuances in different ways that things will be displayed, maybe there's a logo, maybe there's not a logo. It really does depend down to the device level, too.
Natalie Laferriere: Yes, and right now with branded calling, you can go out and you can work individually with everybody across the entire calling ecosystem or you could try to work with an aggregator to make things simpler and who has the experience in getting your branded calling out there. But you're right, if you go out to one provider and you work with them on branding, you're only covering a small portion of the calling ecosystem.
As branding evolves and as branding becomes more prevalent, hopefully that becomes a little bit more centralized. Right now there are so many different places that you would be going to get your branding in check, so you're right, you need to have your branding established across the entire calling ecosystem by working with an aggregator who can do that for you. As the branded calling evolves, you'll start to see that that, over time, will start to be a much more prevalent issue than what we've historically seen with bad data being attached to old phone numbers. So that's the good news.
Molly Weis: We continue to get many questions and about branded calling all the time so we'll continue to use platforms like this to spread awareness around what all is capable out there. Natalie, maybe you'd like to come back with us in the future and we could talk more about how branding is tied into a great number management strategy as we get even more data to back up what we're seeing with some of the early adopters out there who are moving and grooving on branding and seeing some really cool things happening as a result.
Natalie Laferriere: Absolutely. It would be a pleasure.
Molly Weis: I want to thank you, Natalie, for joining us. It was really awesome to have you on here today. Thanks for everybody who's on the line listening as well. We were really excited to be able to get together today to do a deep dive into the world of number reputation management, something that's obviously very near and dear to our hearts here at Numeracle. We love to have the expertise in from our client engagement team, so thank you, Natalie, for being with us.
Natalie Laferriere: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Molly Weis: We hope to see everybody back again for our next live session. This is going to be on Tuesday, June 21st. We're going to have Kevin Rupy back again from Wiley Law to talk now about the new regulatory decisions that are coming out impacting call delivery. Thanks again, everybody, and take care.