Ever wonder if your calls are getting through?

Outbound sales and lead generation call centers that aren’t adjusting their operations for increasing compliance regulations and call blocking measures had better wonder. Because chances are, a lot of calls are NOT getting through – and fewer will as time goes on.

You need to be prepared. You need to adapt to the evolving norm with new strategies.

In this third webinar on STIR/SHAKEN, learn from industry experts about STIR/SHAKEN and call blocking.

 

Watch the webinar in the video below.

Moderated by LeadsCouncil Executive Director Rob Seaver, our panelists include Michele Shuster [Founding Partner, Mac Murray & Shuster LLP], Ryan Thurman [Director of Sales & Marketing, Contact Center Compliance], and Bobby Hakimi [Chief Product Officer, Convoso].

 

What does STIR/SHAKEN mean?

 

STIR/SHAKEN, which stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information using toKENs, is a call identification, IP-based network. It’s designed to limit and hopefully eliminate the number of robocalls and spam calls made to consumers.

“The reason that STIR/SHAKEN is here today is because the FCC and consumer protection agencies identified illegal robocalls as one of the most important and critical consumer protection issues,” Shuster said. “It’s always at the top of the list of consumer complaints for the FCC, the FTC, and state AG’s, and so STIR/SHAKEN was the answer from those regulators to help combat those illegal robocalls.”

 

STIR/SHAKEN will have carriers validating calls with attestation ratings

When calls are placed on the network, carriers verify that they are being made by a legitimate source. They validate the entity calling, their right to make calls with that number, and the legitimacy of their caller ID. Carriers use the following attestation levels to show their confidence in each call’s validity:

  • A rating – As the highest attestation level, this rating means that the carrier is fully confident in the identity of the caller and their right to use that specific number and caller ID.
  • B rating – This means that the carrier knows who is making the call, but they aren’t sure if the caller is allowed to use that number or caller ID.
  • C rating – Also known as a gateway attestation, a C rating means that the carrier can’t validate the caller’s identity or right to use the number or caller ID.

STIR-SHAKEN Attestation Ratings

A call center might get a B rating if a secondary carrier is originating the call, Shuster explained. If you are using a number from AT&T on a Comcast network, for example, you could get a B rating. If you are using legacy equipment that could strip the attestation or making international calls, your calls may receive C ratings.

Though it was first discussed in 2016, STIR/SHAKEN wasn’t formalized until the Traced Act was passed in 2019. This act mandates that telecom carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN by June 30, 2021. Though calls are already being labeled and blocked by analytics companies, this regulation is a new factor that will help determine if your calls should be labeled spam or blocked.

 

How to prepare your contact center for STIR/SHAKEN

As you learn about and prepare for this new legislation, our panelists offered several suggestions for best practices and actions to take in the coming months.

 

Talk to your platform vendor

First, you need to ask if your provider has implemented STIR/SHAKEN. If they aren’t a carrier, you also need to know who will be signing your calls. If you can’t get your calls signed, you will likely receive C ratings, though you may be able to get a B at best. As you discuss ratings, you should ask how your provider will ensure that you will be able to get a B rating for your calls, at the very least, and what they require for A attestations.

Convoso, for example, is registered as a carrier and can rate their customers’ calls. They only give these ratings to customers they know, however, because they can be held liable for any ratings given to scammers.

“If there’s a phone call associated with it, you can also lose your access to the network, which obviously ends your business,” Shuster said. “So it can be pretty, pretty substantial.”

If you learn that your provider has not yet implemented STIR/SHAKEN, you need to know when they plan to do so. You should also ask how they are monitoring issues with call blocking and labeling. There are many applications that allow platforms to monitor the various combinations used for calls, so they should be using these tools to protect your calls.

At Convoso, Hakimi said, they are testing new call verification technology from Google that can show both the caller’s logo and the reason they are calling, one of many options that vendors can use. They are also working with T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T to see if their customers’ calls are being blocked and what the label is. This allows them to offer the best results for their customers as these regulations take effect.

 

Whitelist your numbers

Thurman recommends registering your numbers with the three vendors that are teaming up with carriers for STIR/SHAKEN. This can help you with your attestation rating as it shows that you are using your numbers as you said you would. Your call times, velocity, duration, and message all match with your pre-vetted use, so you won’t have as many problems.

Even after you’ve whitelisted your numbers, it’s important to continue monitoring your numbers and data. This monumental task is often too much to handle effectively, so he suggests hiring a third-party partner that can search for certain signals and bad traffic that mean trouble for your contact center.

“And that’s why you need to pair up with any sort of whitelisting registration servers,” Thurman said. “I usually recommend hiring a company because like I said, it’s a headache to do, but also because you want to pair [whitelisting] up with some sort of monitoring to make sure it’s working.”

If you are considering whitelisting your numbers, however, be wary of companies that can’t guarantee continued protection without additional payments, he said. You should never have to pay to call your customers.

 

Vary your contact strategies

Limiting the robotic nature of your calls and messages can also help you; by varying your actions and the timing of your communications, your platform can help you mimic human-led interactions for your customers.

“What we need to start moving to is building a cadence where we mix text messages, phone calls, and emails in a way where it’s more like a human,” Hakimi said. “Don’t call the same lead every hour, every half an hour, even though that’s the most favorite thing [for call centers to do].”

This rhythm also makes interactions feel more personalized. Rather than making multiple calls in a day, you can send a follow-up text that lets the customer know why you called. With these new strategies, you can reach out in a more human way that encourages interaction and limits your risk.

“So things like that will help keep everybody happy. And that’s what a lot of people need to move to,” Hakimi said. “Treat the customer like it’s a business. Don’t annoy them. And using that, you’ll start seeing that there’ll be less blocking, less complaints.”

You can also partner with your provider or other services to look over your strategy, technology, and call data. The industry is learning about these changes together, so look for companies that can offer insider knowledge to help you succeed.

 

Call blocking and why your calls may not connect

 

There are many other factors contributing to your calls not getting through. Carriers have implemented analytics software or hired analytics companies to look at their call logs and find potential spam callers. 

They use multiple data points, such as the amount of calls placed by a specific number and if consumers are rejecting or flagging these calls. If the data they find meets the algorithm’s standards, this number is then blocked or labeled as spam. Unfortunately, poor AI and machine learning have led to valid calls getting blocked and labeled. The FCC only requires “reasonable analytics” to support these decisions, an undefined term that has caused critical problems.

“I don’t know if you guys noticed, but I’ve gotten calls from the bank, and it says spam,” Hakimi said. “I don’t even know if I should pick up on it anymore or not. So that future’s really not working.”

This can have both frustrating and dangerous consequences, Thurman said. During the wildfires in California, for example, auto-recorded messages were sent to people who were in immediate danger from approaching fires. Analytics algorithms determined these alerts were robocalls and blocked the calls, leaving people unaware and in danger of losing their lives.

 

Contact rates and flagged caller IDs

Along with these deadly situations, faulty analytics can hurt call centers. If your caller IDs or numbers have been flagged, it can significantly affect your contact rate.

“You might see your call connectivity decrease. You can start getting a lot of busy signals, a lot of excess no-answers, voicemails,” Thurman said. “And you know you haven’t changed anything, you’re using the same technology, same lead source, but you’re using the same caller ID numbers or numbers that basically have come with some baggage.”

 

Other ways calls are getting flagged and blocked

There are also third-party analytics companies that use consumer complaints to flag calls. If a consumer is tired of receiving legitimate calls from debt collectors, for instance, they can report these callers as spam and get the calls blocked.

 

What to do if your calls are blocked

If your calls are already blocked or labeled, you have a few options that can help you shed your negative reputation.

“One is, you change the behavior, change the amount of dialing, the velocity, the cadence, you even things out, you rotate new numbers in that are clean,” Thurman said. “But sooner or later…that’s gonna catch up to you pretty quickly. And you’ll have these campaigns where you got a new lead coming in, newer phone numbers, and all of a sudden, they’re being blocked quickly.”

If changing behavior doesn’t work, you’ll then have to do more intensive work, including ensuring ownership of your numbers and analyzing your data. You can also search your data to see what else could be causing the issue. 

When spammers steal a number or spoof a caller ID, the additional traffic can cause the false label. Some companies have tried to solve this by working with their carriers to track their data and show that they are using the number legitimately. Since every company has its own database, however, you have to do this with multiple entities, an intensive and impractical task for most businesses.

STIR/SHAKEN offers accountability to number use, Hakimi said, but there are still many issues that are being resolved. While he hopes the registration process will be less intensive and intrusive, he said, only time will tell.

 

 

What’s next for the call center industry?

 

STIR/SHAKEN is only one of several regulatory issues that are currently being addressed. In the coming months and years, we may see regulations loosen in some areas and tighten in others. One thing is for certain, Shuster said, Congress is always going to work to limit nuisance calls.

For call centers, that means staying proactive and aware of all potential changes.

“I have been encouraging the industry for years that self-regulation is really something that’s got to be a part of all of these strategies, above and beyond what the laws and regulations are requiring,” Shuster said. “So I don’t know where the end is. All I know is that it’s going to continue, and people are going to continue to market to consumers. And we’ll continue to adapt and find ways to conform with those regulations to make sure that we still can reach our customers.”

 

Boost contact rates up to 3X AND support compliant dialing