A Boon for Marketers: New Standards and Technology Reestablish Trust in the Phone Call

By Tracey Cash, Director of Solution Design and Support, First Orion Telecom Division

When the Caller ID service, pioneered by New Jersey Bell in 1987, was made available to customers in 1988, concerns about the service centered on privacy. Fast forward to today, when spam and scam calls are reaching all-time highs, that sentiment has shifted. Consumers now not only want to see the caller’s number on their phone display, but they also want to know that the caller ID on the phone display is who it says it is. 

That’s where the FCC’s STIR (Secure Telephony Identity Revisited)/SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) standards come into play. These protocols are designed to curb the flood of illegal spoofed robocalls. STIR/SHAKEN standards are a first step toward injecting trust back into the phone call. These standards also pave the way for implementing rich call data (RCD) technology, providing the ultimate in-call transparency. STIR/SHAKEN and RCD technology are pivotal for reestablishing consumer trust in the phone call, allowing marketers to once again more fully and successfully leverage the voice channel as part of their martech stack.

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Consumers received nearly 4 billion robocalls per month last year — and from June 2020 to 2021, they lost almost $30 billion to scammers. A new study by Juniper Research expects those losses to increase, reaching $40 billion globally in 2022. This study also predicts over 110 billion unwanted robocalls will be made globally in 2022 and “that emerging mitigation frameworks will combat fraudulent robocalls by creating an ecosystem in which brands and enterprises are verified before the call is placed.”

Scam and illegal robocalls are creating an almost universal consumer call avoidance behavior when an unknown number pops up – a behavior that is making it challenging for businesses and marketers to connect with their customers. In fact, recent research revealed that 87% of consumers rarely or never answer calls from unknown numbers.

STIR/SHAKEN standards established a framework for carriers to help identify, track, and mitigate the illegal spoofing of robocalls. In addition, the Traced (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) Act of 2019 makes compliance with STIR/SHAKEN mandatory for all voice service providers. 

As part of these standards, consumers will see a verification indicator or verstat such as a green checkmark or the words number verified or verified call. When consumers notice one of these indicators on their call display, it means that the phone call’s origin is authenticated, and the number matches the caller ID appearing on their mobile phone.

The evolution of STIR/SHAKEN includes innovative RCD technology that will go even further to legitimize the phone call. Powered by the STIR/SHAKEN framework, RCD allows information such as brand logo and reason for the call to be displayed on device screens after the network properly authenticates it. This brings a new level of transparency to the voice channel, elevating trust in this channel and making consumers comfortable answering their phones again. 

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A recent Brand Impact Report highlights the importance of legitimizing the phone call with this type of data. The report found that 85% of mobile subscribers surveyed consider brands who call using unidentified numbers as “illegitimate,” and 84% would feel more valued if companies utilized call enhancement solutions that provide branding and call intent.

For marketers, RCD will bring the phone call back into the martech stack as an integral strategy for establishing more trusted, meaningful relationships with consumers. When companies can display their logo and reason for the call, consumers will engage with them at a much higher rate than without a branded phone call experience, creating an uplift in every phase of the buyer/customer journey. 

RCD is still on the horizon with work to be done before it becomes integrated into the carrier ecosystem and widely deployed. However, progress is being made with T-Mobile recently demonstrating proof-of-concept of this technology. The carrier completed the first ever wireless call to combine authenticated Caller ID and Rich Call Data (RCD), powered by the STIR/SHAKEN framework and protocols. 

Marketers don’t have to wait for RCD to become ubiquitous to use the voice channel to create the trusted human connections customers want. Proprietary branded calling solutions available today provide a graphics-rich display that indicates a caller’s identity and reason for the call, providing consumers with the reassurance and protection that dramatically improves the odds they will answer their phone. Higher phone answer rates not only facilitate a human connection, but can help businesses drive revenues, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty and boost productivity.

STIR/SHAKEN standards laid a foundation for combating illegally spoofed robocalls and restoring trust in the phone call. Soon, RCD technology powered by these standards is expected to further legitimize phone calls as this technology is integrated into the carrier ecosystem. 

Today, marketers can add branded communications solutions to their marketing toolkit to reestablish trusted, human-to-human connections with consumers, once again making the voice channel touchpoint a viable part of effective marketing strategies that drive positive business outcomes.

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