August 9th, 2021

Branded Calling Customers See Benefits Beyond Answer Rates

As moderator of the panel discussion, Beyond the Checkmark, How Branded Calls Transform the Call Experience, at the SIP Virtual STIR/SHAKEN Summit this past July, I had the opportunity to discuss the benefits of branded calling with Shaan Katyal, vice president sales enablement, First Orion – with whom we partner closely. The panel also included Neustar VP Product Management, MaryBeth DeGeorgis, and two of our customers who’ve seen significant benefits from implementing our Branded Call Display (BCD): Program Leader, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt - Program/Portfolio Management, Process Improvement, Bin Zhu, of Medtronic, and Senior Epidemiologist, Seth Levine, from the VA Department of Health

Read the press release Neustar Partners with Virginia Department of Health to Optimize COVID-19 Contact Tracing Operations.

A key takeaway from the discussion is that while the main goal of branded calling is to protect consumers from robocalls and call spoofing by leveraging STIR/SHAKEN call authentication, it also offers enterprises a way to improve customer engagement by making the phone call part of the omnichannel digital experience. In addition to increased answer rates, branded calling helps extend call duration, improve conversions and retention – and even improve NPS scores. Here’s a recap of the session.

Read the blog: Juniper Research Report Identifies Impact of Negative Call Experiences – and Evaluates Solutions.

Why branded calling?
Today, there’s a gap in the omnichannel customer experience. While we focus a lot around robocalls and spam in our industry, there’s a higher view to all of this. The digital experience has dramatically evolved, but not so much for the phone. That’s all changing now. Branded calling protects consumers, but it also transforms the customer experience. Part of what we’re facing today–because of robocalls―is that customers don’t know who’s calling or why. Sometimes it’s the wrong name, sometimes legitimate calls are mislabeled, and they show up with some variation. Or they’re blocked. With call spoofing, customers see calls with your name but it’s not you. That results in both a negative brand and customer experience. 


Ain’t nothing like the real thing.
Because showing is better than telling, Shaan and I jumped into a successful live demo of how branded calling works – from an iPhone to an Android, and across carriers. Shaan first placed the branded call to my phone, where the First Orion logo showed up clearly, along with the verification notification. The call could also be seen, with the logo, in the call history log. 

On my iPhone, the call showed up as a full screen display. But Shaan, who was using Android, had a slightly different experience. In this case, T-Mobile verified the call, so it was run through the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication process. Then, we did the demo in reverse.

MaryBeth added, “We’re an ecosystem here through great partnerships like ours with First Orion. Today, we have a 225 million device reach. That’s not trivial. And it’s across multiple carriers - we’re working with the largest operators out there. We anticipate that to increase to 325 million devices, and growing, in early 2022. We’re also getting distribution across smaller apps too – so that reach will continue to increase. As far as RCD goes, we see it as a technology. We can deliver with or without RCD. It’s about how carries set their rules and what gets sent to their consumers. We support multiple technologies in getting branded calls to consumers.”

STIR/SHAKEN vs branded calling.
The panel then discussed how there can be some confusion over the need for, and differences between, STIR/SHAKEN and branded calling. MaryBeth said, “STIR/SHAKEN is about authentication of the Telephone Number, not about the identity of the caller. It’s purely to prevent spoofing. Now, with BCD you can show content and context about the caller. We are showing you calls in the production environment between multiple carriers. But there’s so much more you can do to bring trust back to the phone. It’s really exciting news for enterprises to assert their identity in a secure, vetted manner. The results we’re seeing are beyond our expectations.”

Shaan noted, “Today, the end consumer is familiar with what a brand looks like vs. the purpose of STIR/SHAKEN. Providers are being pushed to be STIR/SHAKEN compliant but until the customer understands what the checkmark really means, it’s a good idea to put the brand at the forefront so they know who’s calling. That will eventually merge with the visual experience of the checkmark and the brand. We need to partner with Apple and Google so that all customers are putting that out to the customer.”

MaryBeth said, “The output from STIR/SHAKEN is another input to existing analytics engines. Carriers want to give customers the best experience. Luckily, with STIR/SHAKEN, there’s one platform to come to, to ensure the analytics engines know who you are, and verify that those calls are digitally signed.”

Speaking of vetting.
Vetting, or Know Your Customer (KYC) was a hot topic at the SIP Forum. And it’s no surprise.  Without vetting, consumers couldn’t fully trust branded calls. Vetting Services enable enterprises to verify, monitor and update their entity, business purpose, intent of calls, and ownership of telephone numbers across the entire calling environment so they’ll always be recognized as a legitimate call originator for the numbers they call from. And more importantly –customers can safely answer their calls.

MaryBeth said, “Vetting is foundational to all that we do. It’s part of our Trusted Call Solutions (TCS) platform. We have several hundred customers on our platform who must go through stringent vetting through a methodology we’ve perfected with partners.”

BCD customers see benefits beyond answer rates.
It’s been a busy year for Seth Levine who co-leads the VA DOH’s Covid-19 contact tracing efforts. For every contact, Seth said, it takes a minimum of three calls to interview and collect demographic information, and provide educational information to limit the spread of Covid-19. “The Commonwealth of Virginia has seen over 685,000 cases and 2.5 close contacts per case,” said Seth. "On top of that, many of our investigators were working remotely so the agency’s area code didn’t match the location, making it less likely that people would answer the phone." 

However, after reaching out to Neustar in early 2021, by February, both Caller ID and BCD were in place, to address spam tagging. “I feel strongly that BCD was an important enhancement to our Caller ID, since showing our logo and information added a new level of trust and verification to our calls," continued Seth. Some stats: 

  • Virginians weren’t answering these important calls: VDH initially had a low answer rate of 30%. 
  • After partnering with Neustar to deploy branded calls, VDH saw answer rates rise to a high of 61.5% during one month, which is an impressive lift of 105%. Over the past three months, the average answer rate has settled to 50%, which is still impressive improvement (lift) of 67% compared to the base answer rates. 

“If they don’t answer, we can’t help them or collect data to learn more about diseases and conditions", said Seth. “It’s very straightforward. We’re looking to stop the spread of Covid 19.”

 “Answer rates are very important to businesses like Seth’s,” added Shaan. But there’s more organizations can do. “If you introduce branded calling as part of a total outreach, one that includes email, and other outreach, the phone call can generate a prompt. We see massive increases in phone calls from that. Ask yourselves, are the people you’re trying to reach call you back? You must look at the omnichannel experience. We’ve seen 40% increase in callbacks that can be attributed to branded calling.”

Bin, who focuses on marketing and sales improvement for Medtronic’s diabetes division in San Antonio, Texas, faces the same challenges in reaching out to customers as Seth, but from a commercial vs. government perspective. “In April, we took a baseline with none of our calls receiving treatment,” said Bin.  “After testing BCD in May and June we saw a 6 to 9 % increase in answer rates.” That translates into a 35-50% lift.

“This drives our revenue and helps us reach patients,” he continued, “We will definitely continue.” 

But, the improvement goes beyond answer rates.  “We didn’t have a good way to figure out if it was actually the patient answering, or not,” continued Bin. “With BCD, you can tell if there is a live person answering on the other end. Now it takes us fewer calls to reach patients. That helps from headcount perspective too.” 

Shaan added that he recently met with an enterprise and discussed call durations. They felt that 3-minute calls were the ideal for customer engagement, but only 3 percent of their calls actually lasted that long. When they introduced branded calling, that rose to 10%, and that translates into real revenue gains.

For some of branded calling customers, answer rates didn’t go up, but conversions did, and that’s often tied to the increase in call duration. That means your engaging customers better, and maybe the customers you really want to reach.

Shaan also noted that First Orion was getting a lot of feedback from executives about retention rate being tied to NPS.He said, “While it may sound like a reach to tie retention to the phone, we see increase in NPS when BCD trials take place.”

The possibilities for branded calling are endless, concluded MaryBeth. “At Neustar, we have a very full roadmap. For example, leaving a post-call message, like a promise to pay or click to visit, to get engagement results in significant uptick. We have a long list of capabilities we intend to incorporate into our solution.”

Shaan gave this parting advice, “Rising tides float all boats. The sooner we all get an understanding to the end user as to what branding calling is, the better.”

Learn more about Branded Call Display (BCD)


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