How Caller ID Works

By Angela Morris

Federal regulations require telemarketers to transmit accurate caller ID information, including the caller’s name and telephone number. Using the name and telephone number of the seller on whose behalf the calls are made is also permitted.

But how does caller ID really work? Caller ID is one of most frequently misunderstood aspects of telecommunications within the call center industry. When a call center has the correct understanding of how caller ID numbers and names are displayed and what triggers the display, the call center can then harness the true power of caller ID.

I recently interviewed Dean Garfinkel, chairman of Call Compliance, Inc., regarding how caller ID works and some best practices for ensuring the phone number and name are properly displayed.

Q.     How are most call centers deploying caller ID for their outbound calls?

A.       Most companies either display the phone number and name of the seller (the client), or they display the phone number and name of their own company (the telemarketing company). For companies that have the ability to send a different caller ID on a per campaign basis, we’re seeing a trend toward displaying the seller’s phone number and name. In addition, we’re seeing more companies that have multiple seller phone numbers with names, which are targeted to different geographic regions or cities within the US.

Q.     Why would a company want to have a specific caller ID phone number and name for a specific geographic area?

A.       Many companies use this tactic to target a specific audience within a specific market. When a consumer sees a local number, or at least one that originates from an area code that is in their region, they are more likely to answer the call. In fact, we see an increased answer rate of about 15 percent.

Q.     There seems to be a lot of confusion in the marketplace regarding how the caller name is ultimately displayed on the caller ID box.

A. Yes, we do see a lot of confusion in the marketplace. Here’s how it works:  Unlike caller ID where the telephone number is pushed or transmitted, name display for the most part is not pushed or transmitted; it is retrieved. The caller’s name is retrieved by the called party’s telephone carrier and transmitted to the called party’s equipment (caller ID box or phone handset).

Although some call centers utilizing PRI technology can push or transmit a name, this method will only display a caller’s name to a called party who also utilizes a PRI. PRI (Primary Rate Interface) T1s support twenty-three channels of voice and are used to support business phone systems – not consumers.

Q.      What should a call center do to ensure that the desired name is displayed on the called party’s equipment?

A. The call center must transmit the desired telephone number with each outbound dialed call. This means that call centers either have their dialer push the telephone number (which can be a different telephone number for each campaign) or have the call center’s telephone carrier push the telephone number for all calls made from the trunk group at the central office level.

Q. Then what happens?

A. The telecommunications provider of the telephone numbers that are being used for caller ID must insert into the National CNAM (calling name) database the call center’s desired “display name” for each of these numbers. Only the registered provider of the telephone number holds the rights to update the CNAM database. When the consumer’s telephone number is called, the consumer’s telephone carrier will dip into the CNAM database to retrieve the stored name, and then the carrier will transmit that information to their customer’s equipment (caller ID box or phone handset).

Q. I’ve noticed that many companies use a third party to help manage this process for them. Why would a call center use a third-party caller ID management solution?

A. Telephone carriers are not set up to dynamically provide a rotation of numbers and the updating of desired display names to meet the needs of the contact center industry. Many third-party solutions providers have begun to provide caller ID phone number with name solutions, and this helps call centers ensure caller ID compliance and help increase answer rates on their telemarketing campaigns.

Q. What other considerations should call centers be aware of?

A. There are several:

  • The CNAM database will only accept a fifteen-character name, including spaces.
  • 8XX numbers cannot be stored in the CNAM database. (Technically, they can be stored; however, no carrier will dip for an 8XX number.)
  • Not all consumers subscribe to the caller name display feature with their telephone service.
  • Not all telephone carriers utilize or dip into the same CNAM database.
  • Most telephone carriers will automatically store the directory assistance listing name as the CNAM name as well.

Q. Several states prohibit persons from inserting false information into a caller ID system for the purpose of misleading, deceiving, or defrauding the call recipient. How does a call center ensure complete compliance with both federal and state caller ID laws?

A. To be compliant, make sure that the consumer can easily understand who is calling (i.e., the displayed name is accurate), the displayed phone number is answered during normal business hours, and the consumer can make a Do Not Call request if they desire to do so. Sending different caller ID phone numbers and names for different client campaigns, different sellers, or for a specific geographic region is allowed, unless there is evidence of malicious intent to defraud the consumer.

Angela Morris is president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions and QCS At Home and serves the call center industry as an ATA-SRO auditor.

Dean Garfinkel is the president of Quality Voice & Data, Inc. Well-known within the telecommunications and teleservices industries, Garfinkel has more than 30 years experience in a wide-range of technologies, including TDM, SS7, IP, WIFI and Wireless, and specializes in value-added solution development.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2010]

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