U.S. consumers have become overwhelmed with the volume of unsolicited robocalls and fraudulent phone activity, and as a result, they’re no longer picking up.

That’s depressing news for businesses that rely on the phone as a key communication line into their customers. Consumer trust toward businesses is declining due to the activity of those operating unwanted robocalling or phone scams. The volume is astonishing: 93.7 million robocalls were originated every day in August 2017.

While everyone is at risk, fraudsters increasingly exploit vulnerable targets — such as going after the senior community while posing as a trusted establishment like a bank, insurance or real estate firm. The recent IRS calling scam is a perfect example of their ability to target just about anyone, exposing consumers to phony demands for cash. Or by threatening hurricane victims that their flood insurance payments are in arrears, and they will lose the ability to file claims unless they pay immediately. Or criminals will let their phone call ring once, and then hang up in the hopes that the consumer calls back this ‘missed call’ number, a.k.a. a premium number, where they are charged an exorbitant amount for every second they are on the line.

Unsurprisingly, people are frustrated to the point that they no longer answer calls from numbers they don’t recognize. The impact to businesses is a loss of trust, an increasingly difficult time reaching customers, reduced brand sentiment, and ultimately lost revenue and a shrinking customer base, as people turn to other options.

Trust is a valuable business currency in our current environment, in that businesses gain or lose that trust based on customer experiences. Even just one bad experience can cause a consumer to look for another brand. Trust directly impacts the opportunity to build long-term relationships with loyal customers.  

So how can trust be restored and guarded? It’s a challenge that is especially important for businesses, hospitals and schools that need to contact customers, patients and students with important and time-sensitive information. Consumers can easily disregard these types of important calls by accident:

- Healthcare providers must rely on phone calls to relay urgent and private information. When patients don’t pick up their call or listen to voice mail, appointments are missed, costly resource time is wasted and patients’ health is put at risk.

- Teachers and school administrators need to get a hold of parents to share important and sensitive information about their child’s education, health and well-being. When parents don’t respond to their calls, their children will miss out on valuable support.

- Pharmacies need to let customers know their prescription is ready and provide vital advice on taking medications safely. When customers don’t answer these calls, they don’t get their needed medication right away or the recommendations they need to stay healthy.

- Delivery and installation appointments are often scheduled weeks ahead of time. “Same-day” phone calls to confirm time, availability and location are important to provide a smooth experience. Often customers don’t recognize the number of the driver or delivery person so they don’t answer the call. This means a disappointed customer when the delivery or installation is delayed and a huge cost for rescheduling another appointment and truck roll.

The communications industry is working overtime to provide solutions that combat illegal robocalling and caller fraud. Early initiatives by operators and mobile apps to block suspicious calls and identify potential spam and fraud calls are affecting legitimate calls getting through. Clearly, continued focus and work is needed. Check out this blog for more background on what is being done for robocalling. And this blog for more insight on call blocking.

For now, here is what businesses can do to improve the call experience and reduce the negative impact of robocalling and caller fraud and ensure their calls get through to customers:

1. Ensure an accurate, consistent caller identity is displayed for all outbound calls. This gives customers confidence in who is calling and helps them make the decision to answer. While most businesses publish a few main phone numbers to contact, they often have many other numbers they use to contact customers. These internal phone extensions and corporate mobiles may not display the correct caller information. Begin with an audit to understand how your caller ID is displayed to customers.

2. Identify your outbound calling phone numbers and those numbers that never originate calls. As phone companies begin implementing call-blocking services to protect consumers, legitimate business calls are getting tagged as spam, or worse, are blocked in the network so the consumer is unaware the call was even attempted. Get your phone numbers marked as verified business numbers to prevent accidental blocking or inaccurate spam tagging. Ensure you can get through to customers with important information. And help to protect your customers by letting operators know to block calls from your designated inbound-only or internal extensions. As any outbound calls from these numbers are not legitimate.

3. Ensure caller identity works for all phones: landlines, cable, VoIP AND mobile phones. Although it is clear that communication is becoming mobile, be aware that your customers use a wide variety of phone technologies. Deliver a consistent and accurate display no matter how or on what your customer answers your call.

4. Stay educated and get involved to protect your customers and your business versus illegal robocalling and call fraud: Participate in local or industry advisory groups. Stay tuned to changing regulations. Help test robocalling solutions.

Neustar helps businesses restore trust with their customers by providing a more secure, consistent and reliable way to communicate. As the trusted, neutral provider of real-time information services with the largest authoritative database of identifiers to address online and offline connections, Neustar helps businesses authenticate identity and apply insights from the real-time data to certify customer connections. With Neustar Caller ID, businesses get their brand accurately and consistently displayed on all calls to increase the chances of reaching a live customer. Gain a more reliable and efficient way to contact customers by letting them know it’s you calling and save significant time and resources in reaching out. Protect, manage and control your business identity and brand reputation.