Caught in the Cross Fire: Contact Rates Continue to Decline



By Dean Garfinkel

A recent initiative launched by the FCC called Robocall Call Processing (RCP) was intended to combat illegal robo-calls. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of RCP is the accidental blocking of legitimate calls from companies trying to reach their customers via an outbound phone call. In fact, as an industry, we’re seeing an approximate 30 percent decrease in outbound call answer rates within the last nine to twelve months.

What Outbound Call Centers Should Know About RCP

I recommend a more tailored approach called “personalized calling strategies.” These are program-specific strategies intentionally designed to mitigate the effects of RCP and maximize answer rates Click To Tweet

The RCP initiative gives carriers the power to “block or label” any call on their network that they believe to be unwanted or a robocall. Carriers rely on data provided by unregulated third-party analytics companies to identify these types of calls on their network. The practice of blocking or labeling occurs when a carrier opts to block a call from ringing on their customer’s phone or replaces the caller ID name display with an arbitrary label, such as “Scam Likely” or “Robocaller.”

The RCP initiative does not require transparency from carriers, which means you’ll never know, or receive notification, when an outbound caller’s calls are blocked or potentially mislabeled. In some cases, carriers are returning false busy signals and network congestion signals or even routing calls directly to a recipient’s voicemail.

RCP does not hold the carriers and analytic companies accountable. So with a mislabeled or incorrectly blocked call, it’s impossible to pinpoint the provider responsible, since most calls involve multiple carriers: the originating carrier, the transit carrier, and the terminating carrier. In addition, it’s not feasible to get your caller ID numbers correctly labeled or unblocked, since there is no designated point of contact.

In addition, the FCC has given carriers and analytics companies unwarranted discretion over what constitutes an unwanted or robocall without requiring standardization. This often results in mislabeling or blocking important calls from companies trying to reach their customers, as well as significant inconsistencies across carriers.

These unfair practices cost outbound contact centers significantly, especially when you consider the time and resources spent by agents redialing numbers that get the same result: a busy signal.

What Outbound Call Centers Can Do to Protect Themselves

In the new era of RCP, the old tactics used by outbound call centers are even less effective, such as rotating or swapping out numbers in wholesale. The old tactics don’t address the technology that is driving RCP and therefore, they don’t offer protection.

To address this, I recommend a more tailored approach called “personalized calling strategies.” These are program-specific strategies intentionally designed to mitigate the effects of RCP and maximize answer rates. When implemented correctly, they offer the best protection I’ve seen.

Briefly, a good personalized calling strategy contains four steps:

  1. Evaluate how many phone numbers in your outbound call list are in each state or area code. Try to minimize the number of dials to a single area code or calling area when possible. Analytics companies look at the volume of calls you’re placing to an area’s telephone subscriber base.
  2. Look to see if your caller ID numbers have any complaints. Complaints to the FCC, FTC, or state agencies, as well as negative postings on social media, are public information and can be used against you.
  3. Make sure the phone number you’re using for caller ID is a real phone number. It seems basic, but it’s something you should double-check. Be sure you answer the incoming calls too; this will help minimize complaints.
  4. Look at your outbound calling pattern and minimize retries to the same phone numbers within a short period of time. The best practice is to establish a maximum attempt rule by day, by week, and by campaign.

Work to Establish a Fair Playing Field

Until we agree upon a universal definition and approach to nuisance calls, RCP will continue to foster an environment where inconsistency across carriers and significant errors are inevitable and acceptable. PACE (Professional Association for Customer Engagement), a leading force behind the Communication Protection Coalition (CPC), hosts quarterly meetings dedicated to combating robocalls.

CPC meeting attendees represent all industry stakeholders, including carriers, analytic companies, relevant associations, and contact centers. While representatives from the FCC continue to attend these meetings, they do so simply as observers. As an industry with so much at stake, we need to continue to proactively work through the CPC to ensure that our voice is heard.

For more information, visit http://www.paceassociation.org/coalition.

Dean Garfinkel is the president of Quality Voice & Data, a leading enhanced telecom solutions provider to the telemarketing and call center industry. Dean’s passion for creating value-added solutions for his clients has resulted in numerous solutions that are industry-standard and used by most Fortune 500 call centers and their call center vendor partners. Reach Dean at dean@qualityvoicedata.com or 516-656-5115.