Posts Tagged ‘Call-Centric Operations’

How to Leverage Data Quality to Improve TCPA Compliance

Recent trends such as the increase in households with mobile phones only and the rise of consumer lawsuits related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) have companies such as Uber and Facebook dedicating significant resources to ensure their contact data is as genuine, accurate and up-to-date as it can be to ensure compliance.

Originally passed in 1991, the TCPA was designed to safeguard consumer privacy by restricting companies from engaging in unwanted telemarketing communications practices. Over time, the FCC has closed loopholes associated with the act and imposed significant fines. Businesses who violate the TCPA can incur penalties by the FCC of up to $16,000 per incident.  Consumers can also sue for $1,500 per unsolicited call or text message, all of which can quickly add up to fines amounting to millions of dollars.

If your business is making outbound calls or texts to customers and prospects, you need to have the best data hygiene tools in place to ensure you are only contacting parties you have permission to contact.

In addition, confirming the line type each and every time you call is a must. You need to be aware, in real time, about any recently ported landlines hidden in your calling database. Even if you confirmed a landline two weeks ago, who’s to say that it hasn’t since ported it to a cell phone, or reassigned to a wireless consumer? This is why you need verification services that use continually updated phone data.

Implementing a phone validation solution can help your business determine such things as:

  • Line provider name, city, and state
  • Line type (landline, wireless, or VoIP)
  • Latitude and longitude
  • Phone number owner’s name, address, city, state, ZIP
  • SMS and MMS address
  • Date of number porting (LNP)

If you would like to learn more about the TCPA, watch our recent webinar featuring Geoff Grow, Service Objects’ Founder and CEO, as he discusses how your business can leverage data quality to be TCPA compliant.

Service as a Differentiator

Service quality is one of the most misused concepts in business. You can’t see it or smell it. It is hard to quantify except in hindsight, even though there are real live academic journals about it. If you look at company websites, they will all tell you that theirs is great, of course – often replete with pictures of smiling attractive people with headsets. But in real life, it is often one of the greatest differentiators between companies.

Here is a personal example. Once I purchased a laptop computer, in part because its manufacturer touted its service and replacement policies. This was important to me, given my frequent travel. But in reality, any service issues I had were met by indifference, bad answers, and “Sorry, the part’s out of stock. Dunno when it will be in.”

So in one of the great ironies of my career, I later visited a consulting client on the West Coast – an organization with an excellent service reputation – and discovered that they shared a parking lot with this laptop maker. And one morning I made it a point to come in early and watch everyone come in to work. My client’s employees were engaged and chipper, while the other company’s employees trudged in with their heads down like they were marching off to jail.

Now, back to my original point about service quality. This laptop maker had the same support automation tools as most people. They clearly had CRM systems and interactive voice response queues. And their support policies, at least on paper, were a cut above their competitors. But they couldn’t deliver what they promised. Clearly, at this company, support was a cost to be reduced as much as possible. And soon after they reduced their costs to zero, because they lost market share and exited the market.

So what really creates good service quality? A marriage of the right policies AND the right systems. When I managed a 24/7 tech support center, here were some of the factors that led us to have both near-perfect customer satisfaction scores and near-zero turnover:

  • Our team constantly educated itself. We devoted an average of over three weeks per year to product and skills training, versus an industry average of less than one week.
  • We constantly benchmarked customer experience. From the way people were greeted to the oversight we gave to inbound cases, we were constantly aware and constantly improving.
  • We measured quality first and productivity second. Did you know that service metrics often kill service quality? When an agent is measured for how quickly they resolve call, they will be quick, by golly – even if you get sent packing with bad answers. Our agents were rewarded for keeping customers happy and working as a team, and only coached for performance when it varied far from the norm.
  • We had service standards that met the needs of our customer base. From personal assigned support representatives to 24/7 access, we delivered what a high-end audience in a mission-critical environment needed.
  • We realized that service was delivered by human beings. Which meant that we went out of our way to keep employees happy, whether it was plenty of individual recognition and professional development, or a team hiring strategy that let people have a say in who joined “the club,” or annual best practices workshops where team input led to real policy change.

All of these mechanics – most of which never show up on a company’s website – are why service leaders like Disney, Southwest Airlines or my former employer deliver a very different service experience from their competitors. Making it happen requires planning, execution, and a mindset that steers people away from whatever is cheapest or most expedient in the moment. Above all, it is one of the most powerful and cost-effective business strategies an organization can adopt.


Editor’s Note: Service Objects was founded around many of this author’s service principles. From the expertise of our staff, to our fanaticism to 99.995% uptime, to our 24/7 customer service, we invest in strategies that lead to a tangible difference in customer experience.

Author’s Bio: Rich Gallagher is a former customer support executive and practicing psychotherapist who heads Point of Contact Group, a training and development firm based in Ithaca, NY. He is the author of nine books including two #1 customer service bestsellers, What to Say to a Porcupine and The Customer Service Survival Kit. Visit him at

The Cost of Do Not Call Defiance: Dish Facing $24 Billion in Fines

Dish Network Corp., a company with a market capitalization of about $22 billion as of last month, could be fined $24 billion for making illegal telemarketing calls in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

According to the Denver Post, U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough has already determined that Dish and its contractors made at least 55 million illegal calls using recorded messages or to consumers on the Do Not Call Registry.

Now that the judgment has been made, Judge Myerscough must determine how much Dish will have to pay in fines. There are several stakeholders pushing for hefty fines including:

  • The Department of Justice is seeking $900 million
  • Ohio, Illinois, NorthCarolina, and California are pushing for fines in excess of $23 billion

These calls took place nearly ten years ago, and Dish has already been held accountable for these violations in most states. Dish settled claims of unfair and deceptive sales practices in violation of the Do Not Call Registry with 46 states in 2009, agreeing to pay nearly $6 million. Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, and California filed their own claims, which are part of the current trial.

Consequences beyond DOJ and state penalties

As if $24 billion in potential fines weren’t devastating enough, Dish is already taking a serious hit on Wall Street. Dish opened the year at $56.11 on January 4th. As of February 10th, its stock had fallen to $39.71.

According to The Motley Fool, Dish isn’t really arguing its innocence during this trial, but rather balking at the excessive nature of the fines. In a motion filed with the U.S. District Court, Dish proclaimed that the proposed penalties are “a shocking amount far in excess of any penalties that the federal government has sought or obtained from any other entity for telemarketing violations, and for which the United States provides no factual support.

The Motley Fool suggests that Dish will ultimately settle somewhere in the low millions range. However, it also expects that Dish’s stock will continue to suffer until the case is resolved.

What you can learn from dish network’s do not call violations

Penalties for violating the Telephone Consumers Protect Act can add up quickly — and wipe your company out. Compliance is essential, and it doesn’t need to be overly difficult or expensive.

Worried your company could face similar fines? Check out Service Objects’ Phone Validation APIs. Our real-time phone number validation APIs can quickly identify wireless numbers, which you definitely want to avoid calling, as well as mismatches between a phone number’s account holder and the phone record you have on file. Make sure you know exactly who you’re calling and whether or not doing so is a risk.

How FCC’s Ruling Affects Your Call-Centric Business

Did you know that text messages are now considered phone calls, at least according to the FCC’s ruling on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)? Earlier this year, the FCC issued a ruling clarifying several points of contention surrounding automated calls. The new rules expand the definition of “calls” to include text messages and restrict the use of autodialers. They also provide greater protections for consumers and allow telecommunications provider to use robocall blocking technologies. In all, 21 petitions were addressed by the FCC, making this ruling one of the biggest changes to the TCPA since the creation of the do-not-call list.

A Brief History of the TCPA

The TCPA dates back to 1991 when it was first passed to amend the Communications Act of 1934. The TCPA restricts telemarketing along with the use of autodialers, prerecorded voice or artificial messages, and fax machines. The Do Not Call Registry Act of 2003 and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule are closely related.

In 2013, the FCC updated the TCPA to restrict SMS text messages, require an automatic opt-out mechanism for robocalls, require prior written consent for wireless calls, and eliminate the “established business relationship” exemption among other changes.

According to the FCC’s press release on the new ruling, “complaints related to unwanted calls are the largest category of complaints received by the Commission, numbering more than 215,000 in 2014.

The FCC’s Recent Updates to the TCPA

The new updates attempt to address these complaints, and they’ll likely prove challenging to call-centric businesses. Among the nearly two dozen changes include updates that:

  • Allow telecommunications service providers to use robocall blocking technologies to help stop unwanted robocalls
  • Allow consumers to revoke their consent at any time, in any reasonable manner
  • Clarify that text messages are considered calls and subject to the same rules
  • Prevent a consumer from “inheriting” a previous subscriber’s consent to receive calls
  • Clarify what an automatic telephone dialing system is and that human intervention (like clicking a button) is not sufficient to overcome this a system’s status as an autodialer
  • Clarify that Internet-to-phone text messaging technologies are considered automatic telephone dialing systems
  • Address reassigned numbers, requiring companies to stop calling a reassigned after one call
  • Address third party consent, clarifying that people in another person’s contact list have not given consent to receive robocalls from applications downloaded by that person

How the FCC’s New Ruling Affects Your Call-Centric Business

If your business uses automated dialing systems to call or text consumers, you must comply with the TCPA and this new ruling or face hefty penalties. At a minimum, you will need to be prepared to:

  • Promptly remove consumers who’ve revoked their consent from your list.
  • Treat text messages as if they were phone calls and ensure that your texting practices comply with the TCPA.
  • Avoid soliciting your customer’s acquaintances using autodialers. You can still ask for referrals and make personal phone calls, but don’t use an autodialer and definitely do not continue calling if the referral asks you to stop.
  • Identify recently reassigned numbers and remove them from your list promptly. If your customer has moved and changed his or her phone number, using phone validation software can help prevent calls to the new subscriber.

These recent changes are widely considered good for consumers but challenging for businesses who use autodialers. Learn more about the new FCC ruling at the FCC’s website.

The Benefits And Uses Of Local Number Portability

Local Number Portability (LNP) was introduced to the telecom industry as a means of fighting the monopolistic practices of phone service providers. Prior to LNP being developed, switching telecom carriers required obtaining a new phone number. This inconvenience allowed vendors to lock-in clients who did not wish to change their current number. With the advent of wireless telephones, Local Number Portability has proliferated as a feature that consumers expect to be available. It has since become a mandated requirement by the FCC for all landline and wireless common carriers as of November 2003 to be LNP-capable.

Mode of operation

Phone numbers that have been ported are registered in a Number Portability Database (NPDB). A typical routing scenario with a ported number begins with an initiating subscriber (A) placing a call to the terminating subscriber (B). Subscriber (A) contacts their Local Exchange Carrier which subsequently issues a query to the NPDB to determine the Local Routing Number (LRN). Subscriber (A) then communicates via Signaling System 7 (SS7) to determine the servicing Local Exchange Carrier of subscriber (B) using the obtained LRN to alert subscriber B of the impending phone call.

Porting scenarios

There are several scenarios for which a number can be registered as ported. These scenarios include inter-carrier/competitive, intra-carrier, and number pooling. With inter-carrier porting, a number typically moves from one carrier to the next. This can happen for a number of reasons including upgrading phone device or saving costs associated with the previous carrier. Intra-carrier porting registers a phone number with the National Portability Administration Center (NPAC), however the number remains with the same carrier. This typically happens when moving a customer from Digital (2G) to a Next-Generation (2.5G) network, or vice versa. In the US, numbers are pooled in blocks of 1000 and assigned to a new provider to create an inventory of unassigned numbers. These blocks are registered in the NPAC.

Routing and rate deck

Phone service providers generally provide rate schedules based on the 6 digit combination of Area code and Prefix, referred to by the industry as the NPA-NXX. The NPA-NXX is the address of the switch which serves the telephone number. With Local Number Portability this method is no longer accurate in determining the rate to place a call. If a number has been ported, the NPA-NXX of the 10 digit LRN is used to determine rate.

Line type determination

Previous attempts at determining line type relied heavily on the NPA-NXX of a phone number. With the advent of LNP, a phone number can be moved from switch to switch, thus is no longer an effective method of determining line type.

Penalties and consumer protection

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 limits the use of automatic dialing systems, artificial and prerecorded voice messages. This legislation provides compensation for subscribers up to $1500, or recovers actual monetary loss for each violation. This includes SMS text messages and fax machines.

With Local Number Portability, an organization could unknowingly be in violation of this legislation through communication sent to a phone number that has been ported to a wireless carrier. It is strongly advised to prescreen phone numbers for LNP before initiating any type of automated campaign which could be in violation of the TCPA.

Stop the Hate: How Customers Can Learn to Love Telemarketers

It’s a joke everyone knows: people hate telemarketers. But when telemarketing is part of your business plan, you need to know how to do it. The last thing your business needs are annoyed customers. Use the tips below to help your customers appreciate your calls.

1. Set expectations

Obviously, warm calling is easier than cold calling because you already have an established relationship, but your existing customers may be caught off guard by your calls. One way to overcome this is to let them know what to expect when you ask for their phone numbers. For example, if you regularly call customers a few days before you have technicians visiting their neighborhoods, let them know you’d like to call them when you’ll be in the area as a courtesy. If you can frame it as a benefit, even better. Likewise, when collecting information from prospects, set expectations such as “a representative will call within one business day with a quote.”

2. Verify phone numbers

Use a phone validation service to ensure that you have the correct phone number for your customers and prospects. Even if you’ve just recently collected the phone number, validation is important to weed out bogus entries, inadvertent typos, and out-of-service numbers. If you’re working off of a list where you have not obtained written permission to call the consumer — a must when calling mobile phones, phone verification can identify whether the phone number is wireless or not. Verifying phone numbers helps you to avoid calling the wrong people, wasting time, and giving consumers yet another reason to hate telemarketers.

3. Provide value when you call

You know what’s in it for your business when you launch a telemarketing campaign, but what’s in it for your customers? Are you just playing a numbers game or is there real value in your outreach? What can your customers get from being on your telemarketing list that they can’t get elsewhere? How can you make them look forward to your next phone call? This goes back to point number one, setting expectations. Remind them why you’re calling (for example, “I’m calling because you asked us to call to offer early access and exclusive discounts to our clearance sale”).

Setting expectations, verifying phone numbers and providing value when you call are three essential steps you can take to stop the hate.

Telemarketing and the Benefits of Telephone Data

As you likely know, telemarketing is subject to numerous laws and regulations, some of which can cost a company a lot of money if they don’t comply. For instance, the largest Do Not Call settlement to date resulted in a $7.5 million civil penalty payment. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is the primary legislation impacting telemarketers. This act established the national Do Not Call registry in 2003 and has since been updated to address robocalls and mobile phones.

Since the updates, it’s not just the Do Not Call list that telemarketers need to be concerned with; telemarketers also need to steer clear of calling wireless telephones unless they have express written permission. Fortunately for telemarketers, data products exist that can help them comply with these regulations. Below are a few of the benefits of telephone data for telemarketers.

National Do Not Call Registry Compliance 

The FTC makes Do Not Call registry telephone data available to telemarketers at its website. You must register with the national registry in order to view this data and import it into your dialing software. You must update your Do Not Call database every 31 days. Third party data providers also offer telephone data verification services to ensure that your database is kept current with the National Do Not Call registry as well as state registries and even the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service Listing.

The Importance of Mobile Telephone Data Verification  

While compliance with all applicable Do Not Call registries is an absolute must, these Do Not Call lists don’t necessarily address calling wireless phones — unless the wireless subscriber placed the wireless number of the appropriate lists.

With the Do Not Call list, people are expressly opting out of being called by telemarketers without consent. With wireless phones, they do not need to opt out. Rather, the telemarketer must have prior written consent before making robocalls or autodialed telemarketing calls to mobile phones. This FCC rule went into effect in late 2013. The tricky part for telemarketers is figuring out whether a phone number that’s not on the Do Not Call list is fair game or not. If it’s a mobile number, telemarketers need written consent.

So, how do you figure out if a phone number in your database is a landline or a cell phone? With telephone data from Service Objects. Not only can our various telephone data products validate phone numbers, they can also help telemarketers see whether a phone is a cell phone or a landline. 

Use Service Objects’ phone validation APIs in conjunction with National and State Do Not Call lists to ensure that your database contains only those phone numbers that you can call without running afoul of telemarketing regulations.

Can You Afford a $75 Million Telephone Consumer Protection Act Mistake?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 TCPAlimits the telemarketing industry and its use of automated telephone systems. Among its many restrictions, telemarketers are prohibited from using automated dialers to call cell phones (or other phone services where the recipient is charged for the call) without consent. In August 2014, Capital One and three debt collections agencies (Leading Edge Recovery Solutions LLC, AllianceOne Receivables Management LLC, and Capital Management Services L.P.) agreed to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that these companies violated the TCPA by using autodialers to call cell phones without consent.

Over 21 million distinct cellular phone numbers were allegedly autodialed. While the plaintiffs claimed that these calls were in violation of the TCPA, Capital One argued that the automated calls were allowed for in its customer agreements.

According to Telephone Marketers Beware! Market to Wireless Numbers and Face Fines, a Service Objects whitepaper, companies bear the burden of proof when consent disputes occur. The company (or advertiser) “must prove that it provided a clear and conspicuous disclosure and that the consumer unambiguously consented to receive these telemarketing messages to the number the consumer specifically provided.”

Multiple mediation and negotiation sessions later, Capital One and the three collections agencies agreed to settle the matter — to the tune of $75.5 million. Capital One has agreed to pay about $73 million into a settlement fund with the three debt collections agencies kicking in a little over $2.4 million combined. Each class member with a valid claim is expected to receive between $20 and $40. Up to 30 percent of the settlement fund is allocated for attorneys fees and other costs.

Note that this is the largest TCPA settlement on record, and it is more than twice the amount of the prior record of $32 million from Bank of America.

According to an article by Marc Roth and Becca J. Wahlquist from Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, the anticipated payment of $20 to $30 per class member is nowhere near the typical $500-per-call TCPA penalty often sought. The parties indicated that the “core relief” of the settlement is Capital One’s agreement to change its business practices. As part of the settlement, Capital One has modified its autodialers to prevent dialing cell phones unless it has prior express consent from the recipient.

An article about the settlement published in The National Law Review noted that Capital One’s TCPA settlement involved informational calls, which are not subject to the heightened “prior express written consent” requirements.

Consumers who received an autodialed credit card debt collection call on their cell phones placed by Capital One (from January 18, 2008 through June 30, 2014) or one of the other three defendants (from February 28, 2009 through June 30, 2014) have until November 26, 2014 to file a claim.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act affects telemarketers, call centers, and any business that reaches out to consumers and prospects over the phone. It is a complex, ever-evolving act with hefty penalties for non-compliance. Recent changes to the TCPA impose new burdens on businesses, one of which involves the ability to identify wireless numbers to avoid inadvertently placing an autodialed call to a cell phone. Avoid hefty fines by being aware of, and complying with, the laws that affect your industry. If you use a call center or any form of automated telecommunications equipment, make sure to read our Telemarketers Beware! whitepaper on recent updates to the TCPA.

4 Benefits to Customer Outreach Through SMS

As a consumer, what do you consider to be the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to have a message delivered to you? Postal mail is slow and costly; phone calls can be quick and simple, but are not always convenient; email is instantaneous and more accessible now with smart phones, but only about 26% of all emails are ever opened.

Today, text messaging is a dominant form of communication, with 6.3 billion messages sent per day in the US alone. Considering that more than 99% of all text messages are opened, this could be an extremely effective way for your organization to communicate with its audience. Keep in mind that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), detailed in our whitepaper, requires businesses to obtain prior written consent before contacting consumers on their wireless devices.

Is it worth it to ask permission of your customers to send them text messages regarding your business offerings and updates? With customers’ prior authorization, businesses of all industries can email through the SMS gateway to deliver their message as a text message 90% of which are opened within 3 minutes of delivery. A reverse phone lookup API can easily provide the corresponding SMS addresses for approved wireless phone numbers, to which you can send a short email to arrive as a text. This allows for mass communication that is brief, immediate, and direct, making it a powerful way to grab users’ attention.

Consider these 4 cases in which authorization to communicate via the SMS gateway would be extremely beneficial:

    1. Make spur-of-the-moment offers to your customers.
      As exemplified in the figures mentioned above, a much higher percentage of text messages are opened and read as opposed to emails. If you want to promote a limited time offer, emailing through the SMS gateway is a cost-effective way to spread the message, and is more likely to generate returns.
    2. Reminder services help save both the business’ and the customer’s time.
      When consumers make appointments or order deliveries, many may appreciate the option to receive SMS reminders as the appointment or delivery time approaches. The urgent and direct nature of a text message makes it a fitting reminder service, and is bound to decrease the number of missed appointments, postponed meetings, and undelivered packages.
    3. Notify your users of emergencies or warnings.
      Many organizations can make use of emergency communications with text messages. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, many students and faculty opt in to the UCSB Alert Notification System. The system immediately alerts participating community members, via text message, of any crime or suspicious activity on campus and in the vicinity, spreading awareness and helping safety and security efforts. In another instance, if you are putting on an event and the parking lot becomes full, a text message may be the best way to notify attendees and direct them to another parking area.
    4. Save paper with digital receipts.
      Emailed receipts are becoming more commonplace, but depending on the business and commodity, texting customers their receipt through a messaging service or the SMS gateway could be another option for digital receipt delivery. With the proper technology, businesses using digital receipts save paper and ink.

As with postal mail and email, choose wisely and sparingly when communicating through the SMS gateway so as to avoid having your messages classified as junk mail or spam. Emailing to a large amount of recipients’ cell phones is an easy way to market to your audience, enhance customer relationships, and even increase business efficiencies. DOTS GeoPhone Plus 2 is a reverse phone lookup service that appends SMS addresses (along with more contact information) to your database of customer cell phone numbers. Don’t forget about the TCPA, and make sure to acquire permission from your customers before reaching out to them on their cell phones. You can then email to the approved SMS addresses in your database, achieving massive reach and immediate contact.

Addition of 103 Million Contacts Improves Contact Validation Accuracy

New Enhancement Will Improve Your Contact Data Accuracy for Reverse Phone Lookup and Lead Enhancement and Scoring.

Traditional consumer data sources such as Directory Assistance are offered by typical industry vendors to lead aggregators, retailers and company’s dependent on contact information, as a way to improve match rates and viability of collected contact information. This way of improving contact data is becoming less and less of a viable solution by the day. These Directory Assistance dependent sources suffer from weak, incomplete and missing contact data (see examples below). The problem continues to worsen due to the ongoing shift in land line vs mobile phone usage, long update time-frames for carrier client data, and limitations on use of carrier client data.

What can you do?

Service Objects offers a number of web service based products that utilize numerous public and proprietary data sources containing over 400 million phone records, and utilize a proprietary scheme of cascading logic to resolve caller identification data as a way to maximize match rates and contact data accuracy.

We now take the next step in helping you improve your contact data.

Service Objects has improved the accuracy of DOTS GeoPhone, DOTS GeoPhone Plus, DOTS Lead Enhancement Plus and DOTS Lead Validation web services with the addition of important new name and address data. These services are now utilizing a proprietary database of verified consumer records with enhanced and alternate name and address information. This new database contains 103 million contact records.

This new database allows Service Objects DOTS Web Services to enhance phone lookups by accurately overlaying missing elements such as name and critical address fields such as apartment, suite, floor, and unit numbers, onto partial contact records.

This important addition of data greatly improves the completeness and accuracy of contact data information. See the example below.

Example of Enhanced Contact Validation Using Expanded Data

Example: Improved Accuracy and Completeness

Without the enhanced data providing expanded and verified name information and the addition of the actual apartment number this contact data is confusing at best and probably useless for the purposes of lead creation, retail shipments, postal contact or any application that needs name and contact data integrity.

These DOTS Web Services enhancements are now an integral part of the products as of May 2011 and available for you to enhance your contact data.

Email to Phone: From your Email Server to SMS Gateway Servers

Beware — sending emails to wireless devices has its pitfalls

More and more people are using cell phones with SMS features these days. In fact, text messaging is becoming the number one means of electronic communication in the United States. This may seem like a ripe opportunity to reach out to people via their hand-held devices and put your products or services at their fingertips, but for businesses, it may not be the right thing to do.

Although the concept of emailing your campaigns to mobile phones is alluring, unless your contacts have specifically asked to receive messages this way, you may be putting your company at risk of getting blacklisted, fined, or perhaps worse, alienating customers and prospective customers.

For one thing, it’s the recipients that get billed for your messages; they may find this not only annoying, but costly, escalating annoyance and provoking them to contact their mobile phone service providers to complain. If you systematically send out unsolicited emails via SMS gateways, and mobile phone companies receive enough complaints, you may be prohibited from accessing their networks in the future.

For another thing, the FCC has strict guidelines within its CAN-SPAM Act1 , mandating that all emails, whether bound for email inboxes or wireless devices, must have a feature that allows recipients to easily opt out of future mailings. While Smart phones recognize live links, other phone types don’t, putting your company in violation of a federal law and potentially exposing you to up to $16,000 in fines for each violation.

Don’t fool yourself: If you think that everyone would gladly pay to hear about your latest and greatest, the coolest and the newest thing, think again. One major Mobile phone company learned this the hard way, when in 2005, UCAN2 brought a case against it for spamming its customers and then charging $.10 for each message.

You can prevent violating CAN-SPAM regulations, avoid potential penalties from consumer protection agencies and protect your reputation by simply cleaning your email list and removing SMS gateway email addresses. In fact, isolating SMS gateway addresses is a good idea even if you’re not worried about getting blacklisted, fined or irritating people, for the simple reason that many cell phones can’t display html (formatted) messages.

There are hundreds of domain names (and growing), specific to cell phones and pagers, that email marketers should avoid. How do you spot them? Use a real-time Web Service like DOTS Email Validation that continuously updates its database of wireless domain names, and flags email addresses that are known to use SMS gateways. To test a few email addresses on this service, go to DOTS Email Validation Lookups and see for yourself.

If you’d like to test a list of email addresses, try our free-trial batch processing or sign up for a live XML free trial key that lets you integrate the service into your own system and try it out for 30 days. See the table below for just a few known SMS domain names to look out for:

1Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act
2Utility Consumers’ Action Network, non-profit, pubic interest consumer advocacy