It’s Time We Do Away with Band Aid Solutions for Getting Calls Answered
By Krishna Korlepara, Director of Product Management at Sevis Systems
When was the last time your call center agents had a consistent string of consumers pick up the phone? My guess is a long time ago--perhaps before caller ID or when we still used corded landlines. The reality is, more than 90% percent of unrecognized phone numbers go unanswered, and that behavior costs U.S. call centers $685 million daily. Consumers are tethered to their cell phones, yet most calls they receive are ignored. The primary reason calls are not answered is no longer because the consumer is “away from their phone” or too busy to take the call. No, today’s consumers are uncertain of what is waiting for them on the other end of the line, and that uncertainty has massive operational and financial costs on the call center and enterprise.
Consumers have been burned. As we’ve seen the number of spam, robo and fraudulent calls increase year over year, consumers are done picking up that unrecognized number just to hear that the “extended warranty” they did not purchase is expiring on the car they do not own. The relationship between consumers and incoming calls is damaged. It’s time we offer proper solutions to begin healing those burns.
Experts estimate robocall numbers to top 51 billion by the end of 2021, an increase of just over 5 billion from the year prior. Despite that, we need to reassure consumers that not all unrecognized numbers are untrustworthy.
Financial, healthcare and insurance industries all regularly cite phone calls as their primary medium of connecting with its customers. Phone calls maintain the privacy needed to carry more delicate or pressing conversations when meeting face-to-face just is not possible. And when a consumer misses one of those calls, it is usually a big deal. Whether it’s test results from the doctor, a fraud alert from the bank or a notice of coverage expiring from the insurance agency, some calls are too important to miss.
The federal government recognizes the need to reinsert trust in phone calls and took steps toward doing so in the Federal Communication Commission’s recent STIR/SHAKEN regulations that went into effect June 30. Under STIR/SHAKEN, the FCC requires telephone carriers in the U.S. to flag potential spam callers on their networks. Calls deemed “safe” will present on a consumer’s phone with a verified checkmark.
These regulations merely level the ground for which we must continue to build protections against unwanted calls. Unfortunately, STIR/SHAKEN cannot handle all areas of concern, and it leaves vulnerable areas behind that will continue to allow these unwanted calls through. One being, for example, that STIR/SHAKEN will take many years to be fully implemented. Experts suggest the timeline for its adoption will be similar to when carriers were working to achieve local number portability—which took 10 years for carriers to implement.
Another area of concern is the FCC’s inability to regulate calls that come from outside of the U.S. STIR/SHAKEN places the burden of verification on the origination side of the call, meaning that the carrier that initiates the call must be the one to determine if the call is valid. That leaves out international sources, and it’s hard to say how or if it would be possible to rope those carriers into this type of call verification system.
A third blind spot is the amount of trust placed on carriers and devices. For STIR/SHAKEN to work, all carriers will have to be fully compliant, from large carriers to small and from telecom carriers and networks to mobile ones. Without complete compliance, there will be areas left open and without proper identification and flagging, bad actors will continue to find ways to get those unwanted calls through.
In regards to devices, STIR/SHAKEN relies completely on the device to display the verified checkmark, as flagged by the originating carrier. Nowhere are devices required to provide that service, and without legal obligation to continue that service, there is no guarantee that consumers will be able to reap the benefits that STIR/SHAKEN could provide.
Some carriers, devices and solutions providers have attempted to remedy these concerns by offering verification tools that are specific to that carrier or device. However, those services and verifications do not translate from device to device or carrier to carrier, leaving even more potential for bad actors to land a scam call.
Band Aid solutions that only address a small sector or regulations like STIR/SHAKEN that leave vulnerable holes can appear acceptable in times of need—like as we experience this year of increased scam calls—but should in no way be considered our ace in the hole. We can do better, and we need to do better for the sake of not just consumers, but for our call centers and enterprises that are in desperate need of getting their good calls answered.
The call center and enterprise need to take care of themselves and consider solutions that are both carrier and device agnostic. A carrier and device agnostic solution takes out the concern of a call not being verified if the consumer’s network or carrier is not the same as where it originates. Regardless of where the call originates or lands, it will present itself as a verified call. Only with a carrier and device agnostic solution will we begin to restore the burned relationship between consumers and unrecognized numbers, and only then will call centers finally resort back to handing calls, rather than dialing and redialing unanswered ones.