Posts Tagged ‘Phone Appending’

What Can Phone Validation Do For Your Business?

What can phone validation tools do for you? If you do any telephone or SMS-based marketing or customer contact, they can do plenty, including:

  • Open up more valid telephone leads
  • Protect your customer reputation and brand image
  • Keep you out of trouble with regulatory compliance
  • Protect you from fraud

In this article, we’re going to explore how automated API-based tools can do this and more, along with some best practices for using them properly.

Getting more leads

For starters, it is hard to do telephone marketing without a phone number. That’s where our DOTS Phone Append product comes in. It is a real-time API that cross-references US and Canadian name and address records to append missing business and consumer phone numbers.

You give Phone Append the name and address of a contact, and it will match this data against proprietary databases of over 800 million US and Canadian phone numbers. In addition to returning a number, it will let you know if it is a business or residential number, whether it is a landline, wireless or VoIP number, and validated address data. It’s a quick and easy way to add more marketing power to your contact data assets.

Protecting your reputation

Unwanted marketing contacts, particularly by phone or text message, make your company look clueless at best – and when it happens regularly, it can hurt your brand reputation. And one of the most common causes of these lapses is when phone numbers change hands.

The cure for this? Good business practices, combined with a little automation. In the former case, it is essential to re-verify your phone contact before every campaign to make sure that your contacts are still, well, your contacts.

And a great tool for verifying this is our DOTS GeoPhone Plus product, a reverse lookup tool that verifies a number’s contact information, tells you whether it is a landline, wireless or VoIP number, and more importantly in this case, lets you know if the number was ported to another owner and on what date. Armed with this data, you can market with the confidence that good data hygiene provides.

Staying out of trouble

Of course, there is a lot more at stake than your reputation when you make unwanted telephone or SMS contacts. In the United States, the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protects consumers from invasive telephone marketing practices, with particularly stiff penalties for contacting wireless numbers that did not want to be contacted – up to $1500 per call. In fact, several well-known corporations have faced multi-million dollar judgments as a result of being careless about TCPA compliance. And even stricter potential legislation is now in the pipeline.

The same GeoPhone Plus capabilities give you the confidence to know that your phone contacts are the same ones that originally opted in to hear from you, and additionally flag wireless numbers for special attention.

More important, the porting information this service returns help you stay within TCPA’s 14-day “safe harbor” for inadvertent calls to numbers with new owners. Combined with a strong opt-in process, this kind of verification is inexpensive insurance against a problem that is often just a consumer complaint away.

Protecting yourself from fraud

Finally, not every telephone contact is a good one to have on your lists. Fraudulent orders or marketing contacts often use “burner” numbers such as portable VoIP and prepaid phone numbers. GeoPhone Plus flags these numbers so you can review or take action about these contacts ahead of time.

Best practices for telephone data hygiene

Tools such as Phone Append and GeoPhone Plus fit well within a broader approach to contact data hygiene, including address validation, lead validation, optional demographics, and more. This process starts with good data intake and opt-in procedures, to ensure the right contacts get on your list in the first place. Then, as mentioned previously, re-verifying data at the time of use helps protect you from changes and compliance issues.

Our tools are based around API interfaces that let you build validation capabilities directly within most of the popular call center software, CRMs and marketing automation platforms. And we make it easy to test-drive them ahead of time, with on-line documentation and live demos right on our website, and a free sample key that lets you test your implementation on us. Combined with our friendly and knowledgeable technical team, we can make phone validation capabilities easy – and profitable – for your business.

The Evolution of Service Objects’ Phone Service

Since 2001, Service Objects has been building and providing data validation services for mid to enterprise level businesses. One of our first data quality products focused on phone numbers and the services we could supply around them, including validation, look-up and reverse look-up services.  Over these 17 years, our data quality products have evolved considerably.  Whether this is in response to changes in technology, legislation, internal desire and (especially) customer needs, our products are much better for it.

We thought it would be fun to take a quick walk down memory lane and see where we started and ultimately how these services have evolved.

Early years…

We got our start with compiled phone data sets.  These lists were compiled by buying and aggregating lists of phone data from third parties. These data sets allowed us to translate phone numbers into exchange info, and return information on the provider and consumer, including; provider or contact name, city, state, zip, and line type.  Obviously, this aggregated list data worked but we found that the data quickly degraded and grew stale.

Once we saw the issues with this static, compiled list approach, we moved into scraping various sites and aggregating fresher data. The scraping helped to supplement the ever-aging compiled data sets. This newer approach provided fresher phone data than straight compiled data but was still prone to errors.

The Landline era…

Having had success early on, we were able to invest in relationships with Telecoms and companies that work with Telecoms. This provided us with accurate and up-to-date information surrounding landlines.  At this point, landline data was common and most businesses were guaranteed to be listed using landlines.  On top of that, a large portion of the residences still owned landlines.  Having data for the two markets allowed us to cover a large majority of the Telecom space. With only landlines to consider, it was simpler to provide a solid landline only service, which we called Geophone.

The move to mobile and VOIP…

With the wide-spread adoption of cell phones, there has been (and continues today) a significant shift away from landlines for residences to cell phones. The same came be seen with businesses and their adoption of voice-over-IP (VOIP). In both cases, data for these has been more challenging to attain. Early on, mobile device information was very hard to come by and we were required to take a step back data-quality-wise to precompiled sources for some of the alternative phone types.  It was a challenging time for us to provide the most accurate and update contacts around these types of phone numbers. We did our best and with the addition of these new phone types and our Geophone Plus service(GPPL) was born,  built as an extension of the functionality of the original Geophone web service.

Ported numbers…

More recently, porting has also become more common.  Porting telephone numbers simply means maintaining your number across carriers and line types. Mobile carrier to mobile carrier is common but in some cases, even landline to wireless carriers. During this era, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was initialized. The threat of harsh TCPA penalties for calling mobile numbers created the need to know, with confidence, who companies were calling and on what phone type. From this need, our Geophone Plus 2 (GPPL2) was born. The data, like carrier info, phone type, subscriber name and ported date made the service highly desirable. Not only for companies looking to adhere to the TCPA regulations but also for business looking to gain competitive advantages in their respective industries.

New challenges…

As technologies progressed, new forms of phone types emerged. Identifying Google numbers, Skype numbers and other portable VOIP providers became more important. These new technologies brought along with them new potential for fraud. Users could easily sign up for VOIP numbers and use them maliciously or fraudulently and then abandon them. In addition, the identification of fax numbers, robo-callers and prepaid phones have become more important. To address this growing need, we upgraded our Phone Exchange product to Phone Exchange 2 (PE2).  It was built upon the existing functionality of our Phone Exchange service and extends the service’s capabilities to address these new Telecom technologies, as well as detecting and validating international numbers

Going forward…

Every day, we strive to add new data sources to enhance our phone and contact data sets and help identify other potential fraud sources. Our commitment is to keep providing these excellent services and features while accurately appending new data points that link names and addresses to their phone numbers. Some of the extended features are currently being worked into the Geophone Plus 3 web service that we will be launching in early spring. This includes features such as demographics information about locations and people, emails, and business information.

In addition, we will continue to respond to our customers’ needs, advances in phone technology and new legislation as it comes down (like the EU’s upcoming GDPR legislation) to help further improve our products.

Service Objects Improves Phone Data by 200%

Service Objects works with multiple data sources to provide the most accurate, complete and up-to-date telephone number services for our clients’ needs.  Our product development team is constantly researching and adding new data sources in our on-going commitment to improving and enriching our services.  Recently, we integrated a large data source that significantly improves our phone and contact validation services, making them broader, deeper and stronger than ever.  This new data improves many areas of our phone products, whether it is our reverse look-up services that return contact data from a telephone number, appending a phone number from contact data or using the new phone data with our composite services like Lead Validation to perform complex comparison validations.  All will ensure that businesses have the tools they need to streamline their data quality initiatives.

With this new data source, contact record append services such as DOTS Geophone and DOTS Geophone Plus now have more contact records than ever before.  DOTS Geophone, which is limited to Landline/VOIP numbers only, gets the largest boost, appending about 50-60% more names and addresses.  DOTS Geophone Plus, which already boasts an industry-leading 80% return on contact names, has increased to over 85%.  Overall, address details for contacts grew from about 50% to 75%. In addition, wireless contact data, both names and addresses, should be significantly more accurate as wireless numbers are the biggest additions to our data sets.  These additional records also increase our address match rates. Users will see a significant rise in ‘High’ quality leads with the new data.  (Our services include a quality rating for each result of High, Medium or Low quality).  Finally, the new data source leads to increased redundancy and better performance, which ultimately results in even greater reliability.

Phone number append services such as DOTS Phone Append will see multiple benefits as well. Users will see that the number of contact numbers has increased by 200% with the new data, with match rates heading toward 80%.  The biggest boosts to the Phone Append service are the ability to return wireless phone numbers and the streamlined calls to the consumer and business data sets. As with the previous services, users will experience improved performance and reliability.

Composite services, such as DOTS Lead Validation, which make use of all the aforementioned services, benefits from the increased match rates and accuracy, further empowering the comparison algorithms and providing more accurate lead validation and lead quality scoring results.  These results will lead to more informed decision-making, as lead scores will more clearly move both farther up and down the quality scale, resulting in fewer leads being tagged for “Review”.

Service Objects is excited to share these new services with both existing and new clients.  If you have any questions or would like a demo of any of the products mentioned, please feel free to contact us.


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.

Time Warner Cable Has A Huge Fine To Pay – Avoid Paying The Same One

In early July, a federal judge held Time Warner Cable accountable to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The judge penalized Time Warner Cable a whopping $229,500 for placing 153 robocalls to a wrong number — a cellphone belonging to Araceli King. King repeatedly notified Time Warner Cable of the error, but the calls continued, forcing King to file a lawsuit to stop the harassing phone calls meant for someone else. Even then, the company continued to call King — 74 times after the lawsuit was filed.

As smart as autodialers are, they rely on human input at some point. In the case of King versus Time Warner Cable, it appears that no one bothered to tell the autodialer to stop dialing this number. Thus, while the company knew about the lawsuit, the number wasn’t purged from the autodialer. This problem could have been avoided with phone validation software.

What You Can Learn from Time Warner Cable’s Mistake

Violating the TCPA can be costly. Time Warner was fined $1500 per call for a total of $229,500. Few businesses can afford to throw that kind of money away.

Violating the TCPA can harm your reputation and relationships with consumers. Though the initial call to King may have been an honest mistake (Time Warner Cable’s original customer was the previous owner of King’s phone number), each subsequent call became an annoyance, then a harassment. King herself, as well as friends and family, may never become customers of the company again. The negative press surrounding the lawsuit certainly didn’t help, either.  

Using phone validation can help you to avoid calling the wrong people.

Phone validation software can quickly validate a phone number to determine if it belongs to the person you believe you are calling. Our phone validation API compares a given number to a database containing current, accurate contact information for more than 400 million US and Canadian records. It returns key information including the phone number’s contact name. Had Time Warner Cable validated the phone number, it would have discovered a mismatch between its customer’s name and the phone number’s new owner. Thus, the autodialer could have immediately rejected the number, saving the consumer frustration and saving the company over $200,000. 

Using phone validation can also help you to avoid calling cell phone numbers.

Phone validation software can also identify the line type of any given phone number. This is important because recent updates to the TCPA forbid using an autodialer to call a wireless phone without prior express consent.

If you use an autodialer to place phone calls without validating phone numbers in real time, you’re at risk of running afoul of the TCPA. People change phone numbers frequently, so even a previously valid phone number can become invalid overnight. Mitigate the risk and ensure that you’re calling who you believe you are calling by using phone validation in real-time.

Why Phone Exchange Data is Like a Crisp Apple

bad-appleSmart bakers agree, fresh ingredients are the key to success. If the ingredients are bad, no baker, no matter how skilled, can make a great pie. The same is true with data services. No matter how good the support, sample code, and documentation; bad data-in means bad data-out. Bad apples mean bad apple pie.

Over the last 13 years or so, we’ve established loyal, long-term relationships with the industry’s leading data providers. These relationships ensure we get early access to the best contact data out there. Our underlying goal is to have the most accurate address, phone and email data, period. Last week, however, we discovered some bad apples. While the rest of America was
watching football, we ran an analysis on a new dataset from a provider and derived some interesting information.

As a general rule of thumb, phone service providers self-report which exchanges are assigned to landlines, wireless or other services. A phone exchange is the first seven digits of your phone number. So if your phone number is 805-966-3655 then your exchange is 8059663. It is possible to link an exchange with a line type (such as a landline or wireless) and location. For example, we know the exchange 8059663 is a landline number assigned to Verizon in Santa Barbara. Knowing the exchange type and location is an important element is detecting fraud.

OK, so here is where this gets interesting. We maintain exchange information for 1.7 million exchanges in North America. We’ve suspected that AT&T has been incorrectly reporting the details of phone exchanges in Connecticut, Maine, and Illinois. Today, we know this is true! We’ve found at least 150 exchanges assigned to AT&T reported as landlines that are actually wireless numbers. Each exchange contains up to 1,000 individual phone numbers. This means that potentially 150,000 phone numbers have been incorrectly categorized by AT&T! Phone calls made to these numbers in good faith by marketers could result in fines and legal ramifications, since they are actually cell phone numbers.

The root of this issue goes back 30 years ago when the great break-up of the telecommunication companies occurred. The theory back then was that more phone companies would be better for consumers than fewer phone companies [1]. When the break-up happened, consistent reporting of exchange information went out of fashion. No one had the time, nor the need to verify exchange assignments for Southern New England Telephone, Bell Atlantic, USWest, Sprint, CellularOne and hundreds of others.

Fast forward to today when there are fewer phone companies: mainly AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Exchange data is generally more accurate except for a few hundred exchanges that were incorrectly reported years ago. Exchange data is now a critical element for any business to decide how to route inbound calls, what offers to provide, to identify fraud, and most importantly, to assist with compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Stay tuned: more on news on TCPA compliance to come.

Having new insight for these 150 AT&T exchanges improves most of our data quality web services and is one more example of our obsession for finding the most accurate data available. Our exchange data is shared by our lead validation, order validation, and all our phone services. Having fresh exchange data is like have fresh apples for a pie. It makes life easier.

AT&T we forgive you — no sour apples here.


Dialing for Dollars – Accurate Phone Number Appending Makes the Difference

DOTS Phone Append 2 At a time when people are burdened with an overstuffed inbox, a telephone call can represent a golden opportunity in which to engage personally with your customers. Once you have a contact or potential customer on the phone, you can answer questions, address concerns and overcome objections — an ideal sales situation.

Telemarketing is the only marketing method that allows you to shift selling tactics midstream in direct response to customer feedback. According to The Direct Marketing Association 2012 Annual Response Rate Report, “telemarketing and direct mail surpass digital channels in generating the highest conversion.” Telephone marketing has a nearly 13% response rate (compared with only 0.12% for email marketing). Telemarketing is about building relationships and delivering personalized customer service with a human voice.

If you’re looking to expand or enhance your telemarketing methods, you can automatically append phone numbers to your customer and contact records. A feature-rich phone number appending service with a high match rate accuracy will save your outbound calling team countless hours of manual searching or dialing wrong numbers.

Remember: Every positive customer experience can increase business and bring in new sales. Your customers will appreciate the phone call, and your business will grow because of it — a win-win for everyone.

Give DOTS Phone Append 2 a try for free. This service allows businesses to enhance and complete missing consumer and business phone numbers and address information from their existing records, plus append additional details such as validated address, address type and phone line type for more targeted marketing.

(Read the June 26, 2013 Press Release on Dots Phone Append 2 launch.)