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October 2nd, 2018

2018 PACE Washington Summit: Who Wins in the Battle of Legitimate Call vs. Illegal Robocall?

With a theme of navigating contact center regulation and privacy, there was a lot to discuss at the 2018 PACE Washington Summit. Neustar’s James Garvert, VP of Product and GM of Caller Identity, participated in a robocall panel discussion, “Know Your Customer”, along with Linda Vandeloop of AT&T, Kevin Rupy of US Telecom and Chris Oatway of Verizon.

These industry experts shared their perspectives on the challenges businesses face when engaging customers in an age of robocalling. They also discussed what they are doing to understand outbound calling behaviors, and how they distinguish between legitimate and illegal calls.

In 2017, the Boston Consulting Group reported that 88% of business calls go unanswered. And it seems that since then, the problem is only getting worse. Contact centers report a 20% decrease in contact rates from 2017 to 2018. A recent ACA International survey shared that 78% of credit and collections companies report their calls being blocked and 74% report their calls being mislabeled as spam.

The main culprit is robocalls. It’s a unifying problem where almost everyone including consumers, carriers and brands are victims. With the dramatic increase in robocalls, consumers no longer trust incoming phone calls. Regulators have stepped in to mandate ways to protect consumers. And while blocking calls before they reach consumers, or replacing the Caller ID with a “Scam Likely” or “Fraud Alert” tag is well-intentioned, many legitimate calls are being inadvertently blocked or mislabeled as spam.

Winning this war on robocalling is not easy. As Vandeloop pointed out, “we are not going to block our way out of this problem”, and Rupy added “no single tool will solve the problem”. Overall, restoring trust in answering the phone is the goal for everyone. However, there are different sets of data, so-called “walled gardens”, and many ways to analyze the data to distinguish between a legitimate call and an illegal call.

Garvert shared highlights from a cross-industry pilot program Neustar is leading to prove out solutions that improve the call experience. The pilot program brings together all players in the calling ecosystem: mobile and fixed operators, leading Caller ID mobile app providers and big brands like SiriusXM. Neustar provides the centralized platform for enterprises such as SiriusXM to register and manage their phone numbers. This information is distributed and used by all to determine legitimate vs. illegal calls and provide more insight to the customer about who is calling them.   

Another factor that should help win the battle is the future of call authentication. This is where calls are digitally verified as a trusted way to communicate, similar to the way websites are verified. Many groups such as the PACE Communication Protection Coalition support the deployment of STIR/SHAKEN call authentication standards as a way to mitigate illegal robocalling.

On Sept. 18, ATIS announced the formal launch of the Secure Telephone Identity Governance Authority (STI-GA) as the industry-led effort to support the timely deployment of the STIR/SHAKEN protocol and framework on the recommendation of the FCC’s North American Numbering Council (NANC). Vandeloop is the Chair of the STA-GA. Neustar is a co-author of the STIR standards and the exclusive host of the ATIS Industry Robocall Testbed

With the pilot and adoption of standards underway, there is hope of a win for legitimate calls. In the meantime, check out these 3 steps to improve the way you connect with customers over phone that you can put in place now.

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