Flagged, Blocked, Shaken, Stirred – What’s an Outbound Call Center to Do?
PACE AXC21 Panel Recap
Outbound call centers don’t have it easy at the moment. Increases in robocalls and changes to regulations have given carriers significant power to block and flag outbound calls. Legitimate businesses are getting caught up in this action, finding it harder than ever to reach leads and customers.
So, how can outbound call centers minimize call blocking and flagging and improve contact rates for their sales and lead generation campaigns?
At the Professional Association of Customer Engagement (PACE) ACX21 online event, Convoso hosted a roundtable discussion to analyze and address these issues. The panel for “Flagged, Blocked, Stirred, Shaken: What’s an Outbound Call Center to Do?” included Convoso CEO Nima Hakimi and Product Marketing Director Tyler Hinton, as well as Josh Stevens, Partner at Mac Murray & Shuster LLP, and Gabe Bletnitsky, CEO and Co-Founder of Call Trader, a Convoso customer.
Highlights from their conversation recapped below:
- How robocalling is driving increases in call blocking and flagging
- The real-life impact of blocking and flagging on an outbound call center
- Best practices and strategies to avoid being blocked or flagged
Watch the full panel
Robocalling on the Rise
Any discussion of call blocking and flagging can’t go without addressing its context and root cause: the huge number of robocalls being placed in the US. From 2016 to 2019, the number of US robocalls soared from 29 billion to over 58 billion. And although this tally dropped in 2020, likely due to the pandemic, the industry is expecting the number to go back up in 2021.
“The big issue is,” said Hinton, opening the discussion, “roughly half of these robocalls are fraudulent. So, that’s why you’re seeing carriers taking a lot more time to flag and block numbers. And why you’re seeing action at both the federal and state levels of government.”
And all this activity is having a big impact on legitimate businesses. “You’re now having to deal with problems that didn’t exist before,” said Hakimi. “The number one challenge for any outbound call center today is to be able to get in touch with customers, even when they have asked for you to reach out to them and given their consent.”
Gabe Bletnitsky provided insight on just how challenging things have been for his business. “At the beginning of 2021, we started to see our contact rate plummet,” he said. After an extremely profitable lead spend in 2020, suddenly Call Trader was in the negative in Q1 of 2021.
“These were [leads] who raised their hands and wanted a phone call from us,” Bletnitsky said, “but because of a mechanism outside of our control, we just couldn’t get to them.” Ultimately, the team needed to head back to the drawing board and devise strategies to mitigate the adverse impacts of this industry-wide issue.
Call Blocking vs. Flagging
Before discussing those strategies, Josh Stevens called attention to an important distinction in how blocked and flagged calls are treated by regulators.
Because flagged calls—or those labeled as “telemarketing” or “spam likely”—still go through to their recipient, the FCC has de-prioritized addressing the issues this causes for businesses. With call blocking, the FCC takes a different approach. According to Stevens, they give carriers broad discretion to apply their analytics frameworks and determine when they think a call is likely illegal. They’re able to do this as long as they have a redress mechanism that allows callers to dispute calls blocked in error.
“But that [redress mechanism] is retroactive—it’s after the injury has already occurred and only trying to stop it from occurring again in the future. So, it’s much more important for call centers to try to come up with strategies to reduce the blocking on the front end, and meanwhile hopefully reduce the labeling as well.”
Best Practices to Avoid Being Blocked or Flagged
When it comes to these proactive measures that combat call blocking and flagging, Nima Hakimi says there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. “There are a lot of different things and best practices you have to implement. [Using] just one of them won’t necessarily solve the problem.” Some of the best practices that the panel covered include:
Use smarter dialing strategies
According to Hinton, one of the things carrier algorithms look for is patterns in businesses’ dialing habits. Breaking up these patterns can lead to greater success.
“We like to say ‘dial smarter, not harder.’ So if you have a dialing cadence where you’re re-dialing leads that don’t pick up every two hours, that creates a pattern [that carriers might pick up on.] Instead, for example, you can follow up with the lead after two hours for the second attempt, and then maybe spread it out to four hours for the third attempt.”
Monitor your call volume across DIDs
Convoso recommends spreading your total call volume across a greater number of caller IDs to lower the likelihood of getting flagged. “You need to monitor and manage your call volume on a consistent basis,” Hakimi said. “We recommend [limiting calls to] something like 50 calls per day, per caller ID.”
Pay attention to reporting
Bletnitsky says his team pays very close attention to their contact rate by lead cohort and data source. “Not every source is created equally,” he says. If you use sets of DIDs with exclusive lists, knowing how that source is performing can help you determine the right strategies to reach those leads, rest that list’s DIDs, and more.
Use omnichannel outreach
Supporting your outbound dialing efforts with texts and emails is a must. Including outreach via these other channels gives you more opportunities to reach customers, and it can also improve your success over the phone. For example, Hakimi recommends using texts to let a customer know who you are before you make a call.
Know when your numbers are labeled or blocked
A solution like Convoso’s ClearCallerID can show you which numbers have been flagged or blocked, and by which carriers. Hakimi says that this added transparency is key to taking action—before blocking and labeling affects the bottom line.
Tune in to the rest of the panel session
While there’s plenty to take away from the key moments outlined here, the panelists dug deep into a range of other issues during their session.
Watch the event in full to hear more of their thoughts as they field questions on issues like STIR/SHAKEN and omnichannel call center strategies. Meanwhile, you can stay tuned to Convoso’s omnichannel contact center blog for more expert insights on how to boost performance at your outbound call center.
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