Posts Tagged ‘Reverse Phone Lookup’

Phone Portability and What it Means for You

In the earliest days of the telephone, there was no such thing as a phone number: you simply purchased a separate phone and connection line to call each person you wanted to speak with. Later in the 19th century, switchboards and telephone networks ushered in the concept of a dedicated number.

Today, by comparison, there are an estimated 700-800 million phone numbers in use in the United States alone – more than two numbers for every man, woman and child living here. Roughly a third of these are mobile phones, and more than 99 percent of people age 18-29 use a personal cell phone. Perhaps most importantly, these numbers change frequently: over 100,000 wireless numbers alone are reassigned each and every day, and both business and personal numbers change frequently with things like moves, job changes and turnover.

So what does this mean for your telephone contact data? First, it means that the number you call today may have a different owner – or service provider – tomorrow. Second, it raises the serious issue of compliance risk. Both of these issues can have real financial consequences for your business.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the ways that phone portability can affect you – and more importantly, what you can do about it.

What kinds of portability are there?

There are many reasons why you need to validate your contact phone numbers, both at the time of data entry and at the time of use. Here are some of the major ones:

Device portability. This is where someone transfers their number to another type of telephone equipment, with the same or a different service provider – for example, transferring their home number from a landline to a mobile phone.

Why is device portability important? After all, doesn’t this number still belong to the same owner who opted in with you? It matters because in cases such as landline numbers being transferred to mobile phones, this may incur costs to the owner for things like incoming calls and text messages. Without fresh permissions, you are just a consumer complaint away from running afoul of the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), with stiff penalties for unwanted contact to mobile phones.

Service provider portability. Once upon a time, your phone number didn’t really belong to you: if you moved or changed service providers, you had to get a new one. In the US, this changed through Federal legislation that, as of 2003, allowed most consumers to take their phone numbers with them (with a few exceptions such as specific rural areas, or moving to another geographic region), and the same is true for many countries worldwide.

Why is service provider portability important? Because switching from one carrier to another may also result in increased costs for receiving marketing messages, again underscoring the importance of getting these clients to opt-in again before contacting them.

Reassignment to a new owner. Phone numbers aren’t like Social Security numbers – they can be reassigned to new people, and can have many different owners over time. People give up their old numbers for a variety of reasons: they move to a new state, drop their landline to save money, take over a mobile number from a family member, and more. Service providers typically “age” surrendered numbers for at least a 90-day period, and then release them for reassignment to new owners.

You clearly need to be aware of transfers such as these, and remove these numbers from your contact list. Unsolicited marketing to new owners of phone numbers is almost guaranteed to trigger consumer complaints and possible TCPA compliance actions.

How to protect yourself

There are clear risks nowadays from contacting phone numbers that may have been ported. Chief among them are the potential for compliance penalties from TCPA or other data privacy laws. Some well-known firms have been hit with multi-million dollar TCPA fines for making unwanted marketing contacts, with penalties in one case reaching nearly a billion US dollars – and worse, there is no longer an FCC “safe harbor” for making even one such call accidentally.

Beyond the obvious legal risks, unwanted telephone marketing contacts can also impact your brand reputation and customer image in the marketplace. We live in an era where consumers are less tolerant than ever about interruptive marketing, and having an engaged community of customers and prospects who want to hear from you has become an important competitive advantage.

Our DOTS GeoPhone Plus product is designed to protect you from all types of phone portability issues, as well as provide valuable data about your phone contacts. It combines real-time reverse lookup for over 400 million US and Canadian phone numbers with line type, contact information, porting status and dates, flagging of VoIP and prepaid phone numbers for fraud prevention, and more.

With API interfaces to major marketing automation and CRM platforms and industry-leading implementation support, GeoPhone Plus is a smart move for protecting your telephone marketing efforts. Want to learn more? Contact our friendly and knowledgeable technical team to discuss your own specific data quality needs – we’re here to help.

Note Codes in GeoPhone Plus

We recently published a blog that took a deep dive into our reverse-phone lookup service, DOTS GeoPhone Plus. That blog highlighted some of the ins, out and returns of our service, largely focusing on some of the returns in the provider and contact portions of the service.

To supplement that blog, we wanted to highlight the Note Codes and fields that the service can return and provide extra insights and information that can be derived from your data.

Below is an overview of these Note Codes and text descriptions, along with some insights from these pieces of information.

NoteCode NoteDescription Meaning
1 IsMailable Indicates that address in the Contact node can receive mail from the USPS. This can be helpful if you are trying to reach out to a contact through a physical mailing campaign. This address is typically more reliable to reach your contact if it is associated with a landline as opposed to a wireless or VOIP number.
2 IsConnected Indicates that the number is active and has an active subscriber associated. If you are trying to target leads who are most likely to respond, contacting numbers with this note code are far more likely to have someone on the other end of the number.
3 IsPorted The number in question has moved from one provider to another. This happens frequently with wireless numbers when subscribers switch carriers, but can also happen in switching a landline to a wireless number. If numbers have switched from a landline to a mobile number it can open up new avenues of communication towards clients like texting or utilizing the SMS or MMS address associated with a wireless number. If this field is present, it will be accompanied with a Date of Porting, which will indicate when the number was first ported.
4 IsWireless The number in question is a wireless number. As mentioned above, this opens up the avenue for SMS and MMS communications to the contact.
5 IsUnknownContact This code will let the user know that there was no contact information associated with the number. For these cases the service will still be able to return information in the provider node that the service returns.
6 IsUnknownProvider This is an older Note Code in the service and we don’t expect it to come up in a normal production scenario. We would generally consider numbers without provider information to be invalid, and as such the service will return an error for these cases.
7 IsTollFreeNumber This will come up for 800 numbers and other toll free numbers. If you are trying to target numbers where you have a higher chance of speaking to a person or business associated with the number then you might want to exclude these numbers from campaigns.
8 IsGoogleVoiceNumber Indicates that the given number is a Google Voice number. While there are a lot of legitimate Google Voice numbers, these can often be an avenue that fraudsters use, and many clients use this flag to avoid these numbers.
9 IsSkypeNumber As with Google Voice numbers, Skype numbers can also be used for fraudulent purposes more often than other phone numbers.
10 IsPossibleDisconnected This flag means that there is no registered subscriber associated with the phone number. This is generally a good sign that the phone number could be disconnected.
11 IsPortableVOIP The given phone number is registered to a phone carrier that provides phone number registration without a physical address. Some clients consider these numbers to more likely be associated with fraudulent purposes.
12 IsPossiblePortableVOIP As with the code above, this code also indicates that the given number may be registered with a carrier that allows for phone number registration without a physical address. Clients also generally consider these to be more likely associated with fraud.

Hopefully, the above notes and explanations for our GeoPhone Plus service will help you identify and target contacts in the most efficient way.

Each use case will be different, so if you have any questions about how to best leverage your reverse-phone lookup integration, please reach out to us! We are happy to help get you up and running with your implementation.

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.

Reverse-Phone Look-Up: A Deep Dive

Our DOTS Geophone Plus, a reverse phone lookup service, is our top of the line phone validation service. This article provides a guided tour of some of the most important data that this product returns.

First, Geophone Plus builds upon two other services: DOTS Phone Exchange and DOTS Geophone:

  • Phone Exchange covers phone provider information. What phone company owns the line? What is the basic area serviced by the line? Is it a Landline, Wireless or VOIP line? Has it been ported?
  • Geophone does the same but also adds basic contact data. Name, Address, City, State, Zip for Landline and VOIP numbers of the subscriber

Geophone Plus adds wireless contact numbers as well as aggregating a number of extra data sources and other features that will be described more thoroughly in this blog. Customers use this service to do things like clean up CRM, marketing automation, or other databases, validate web forms on the fly, append missing data, or help call centers more quickly identify callers. Now, let’s look at some of the key results from Geophone Plus.

Phone Provider details:

The provider information is basic information about the telephone company that services a block of numbers. All numbers in the US or Canada are organized into blocks of 10,000 numbers and assigned to various phone providers. Occasionally these are subdivided again into blocks of 1,000 numbers for smaller providers. The first 6 (or 7) digits tells you who the provider is.

This service names the provider that owns the block, the city and state it services, their latitude and longitude and the line type for the block (landline, wireless or VOIP). For a landline number, the city and state should be pretty closely married to the area where the landline is. However, for a wireless number, line owners are free to move around and the city and state would only represent where the user initiated the line and not necessarily where they are now.

In the case of a ported number (one that has been changed from one provider to another and even to different line types), the provider information will reflect the *current* provider and not the original: more on that in a later section. This means the line type should always be accurate and is very important to users that need to know if they are attempting to call a wireless number.

Phone Contact details:

The contact information reveals details about the phone line subscriber. Name can be a person’s name or a business name. Address, City, State and PostalCode are from the address tied to the line subscriber. PhoneType attempts to identify the phone number as belonging to a residence or business. Latitude and Longitude are the coordinates of the address specified in the contact.

For business contacts, we may also return an extended SIC code and description. SIC or Standard Industrial Classification is a system for classifying companies by industry. Service Objects returns a SIC code of 7375000 which refers to “Information Retrieval Services”. This could be useful for categorizing leads into industry verticals. However, the data is not always available via the phone records.

Finally, a quality score of HIGH, MED or LOW is returned. This score reflects how accurate Service Objects views the returned data. It is influenced by many things, such as last data verified, data source, collaborating data sources, phone type, and line type. We aggregate multiple sources together, and some of those sources indicate their own confidence level as well. Business data tends to be more readily available and of higher quality, while wireless contact data is the most difficult to both obtain and keep accurate. No wireless dataset is perfect, and not uncommon in any dataset to have inaccuracies.

Understanding the codes, notes and corrections returned

Notes are part of the miscellaneous data available in a GeoPhone Plus result and are very important.

They are True/False indicators that represent interesting things found during Service Objects collection and analysis of information about a phone number. They can be informational, or even trigger alternative actions for users consuming the service. A current complete list of notes can be found in our Developer Guide under Codes, Notes and Corrections.

Here are some of the more useful ones we currently provide:

  • IsPorted indicates whether a line has been ported to a different carrier or line type. This value would always be true if DateOfPorting was set, but a user might find it cleaner to do a search for IsPorted, instead of trying to analyze the date.
  • A quick identifier for toll-free numbers is IsTollFree. Toll-free numbers, while valid, would likely not be a good way to contact someone in particular and may just be considered bad numbers where contact-ability is important.
  • Notes fields also flag portable VOIP lines, which are numbers linked to carriers that do not require a physical address. There is opportunity for fraud with any portable VOIP line. The most famous of these are Google and Skype lines, which we identify with their own special notes (IsSkypeNumber and IsGoogleVoiceNumber). The more generic VOIP numbers will be flagged under IsPortableVOIP. Users may want to flag any number that is identified as any kind of portable VOIP line as potentially at risk.
  • Other interesting notes are focused on the connection status of a phone number. This service does not have a guaranteed way of knowing if a given number is active, but many indicators give a strong indication of validity one way or another. There a couple of note fields you want to take a look at:
    • IsConnected is tied to higher quality leads that have a high probability of being active.
    • IsPossiblyDisconnected is a number that has been marked at some recent point as deactivated. In some cases, false disconnected result may be due to a number being re-activated but not properly updated or being reassigned without contact data being updated.

Proper identification of disconnected numbers is a very challenging task; there are many offerings that offer partial solutions, but we have yet to see one that is perfect and it may likely be impossible. A new solution is being implemented for our Lead Validation service in the near future that may also find its way to Geophone Plus as well, so stay tuned!

SMS, MMS, tokens and Date of Porting

In addition to provider, contact and notes data there are several other fields available. These include SMS address, MMS address, tokens used and date of porting.

  • SMS and MMS address are email addresses tied to wireless phone numbers that can be used to send alerts and other messages to email. These emails generally have the format of “number@carriermailserver” but the service will describe the exact format for a particular provider.
  • Tokens are a feature available in Geophone Plus that allows users to pay based on the quality of data rather than just per transaction. They are not commonly used, but Service Objects would be happy to explain them more if desired.
  • Date of porting indicates the date that a porting event happened. Porting is very common among wireless users that may change providers every few years. But porting can also indicate a change in line type, which can be very important for companies focused on TCPA compliance. Phone numbers changing from wireless to landline or VOIP and vice versa can alter the strategy a company takes in contacting the owners of a particular line. In addition, a recent ported date can also signify a higher likelihood of a still active number.

Hopefully, this blog provides a deeper understanding of our reverse-phone lookup service, Geophone Plus, and gives some insight to the inner workings of the service, as well as a bit more depth on how to use some of the results. Please contact us if you have more questions!

Text on blue background - Frequently Asked Questions

Reverse Phone Lookup APIs – Differences Between GeoPhone & GeoPhone Plus

A phone number is more than just a way to contact someone: with the proper tools, it can be a gateway to a rich set of information that can power your marketing, customer service, fraud prevention, or compliance efforts. We have two powerful products that let you choose the right level of capabilities – and costs – for making the most out of your telephone contact data assets.

Both of these products are based around reverse phone lookup: you give us a phone number and we will tell you everything we know about it. This blog explains the differences between these two products, together with some sample use cases.

Comparing your reverse phone lookup options

Our two products for reverse lookup and data verification for phone numbers are DOTS GeoPhone and DOTS GeoPhone Plus. Here is a quick summary of their capabilities:

  • GeoPhone is a low-cost, basic reverse lookup product that provides the carrier, line type and provider latitude/longitude information for a given phone number, along with contact information for non-wireless phones, using a continuously updated database with over 230 million residential numbers and 40 million business listings.
  • GeoPhone Plus adds a wealth of additional information about phone numbers from an expanded database of over 400 million US and Canadian numbers, including 170 million wireless numbers:
    • Contact information for all phone number types, including wireless numbers
    • Latitude and longitude information for contact addresses
    • SIC business categorization for business numbers
    • SMS/MMS address information for wireless numbers
    • Whether a number has been ported, including date ported

The basic GeoPhone product gives you the power to validate phone numbers and gain greater insight about your customers and prospects, while GeoPhone Plus adds deeper contact information, including mobile data, business intelligence and compliance data from an expanded data set. Let’s look at how you can put each of these products to use.

Sample use cases

Some of the applications for our basic GeoPhone capabilities include:

Validation. Verify landline and business numbers for legitimacy and accuracy.

Geotargeting. Use provider latitude and longitude data to learn more about where your customers and prospects may be located.

Market segmentation. Create custom business logic for residential, business or government phone numbers.

Basic GeoPhone is often a cost-effective choice for doing contact data validation with businesses, which still largely use either landline or voice over IP (VoIP) numbers.

GeoPhone Plus adds the data you need for important applications such as:

Fraud prevention. Check phone numbers against other order data, and flag the possible use of fraudulent or “burner” phone numbers from orders using stolen credit data.

TCPA compliance. The expanded wireless number information from GeoPhone Plus, including porting dates and information, let you know if your phone contacts have changed hands or been ported to wireless phones – helping you avoid potentially strict penalties for marketing to wireless phones under the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Gathering expanded contact information. Get full contact information from your wireless, landline and VoIP phone data, allowing you to validate these numbers against your existing contact database. SMS and MMS gateway information also gives you the ability to port email contacts to text messages on wireless phones.

Improved market targeting. SIC code and geolocation data give you the ability to more finely tune your telephone-based marketing efforts to the right kinds of businesses.

Pro tip: GeoPhone Plus also gives the ability to control your costs by choosing the level of output data it returns, ranging from Basic level with landline, toll-free and carrier data to the Full level including all wireless and contact data. Our extensive developer guide can give you more specific details.

Try our reverse phone lookup products for free

It is very easy to discover the power of GeoPhone and GeoPhone Plus for your own business applications. Our product web pages linked above let you try these capabilities live with sample numbers, and see for yourself what kinds of outputs they return. And for a deeper dive, you can request a free trial key good for 500 of your own transactions – which lets you implement and test these capabilities on our nickel.

Have more questions? Our friendly technical staff are ready to assist you any time. Let us help you explore how to get the most out of your telephone contact data assets.

Lead Validation: The Core Components

How good are your leads? DOTS Lead Validation, Service Objects’ most popular composite service, is designed to measure lead quality – helping our clients reduce fraud, increase conversions and enhance incoming leads, web orders and customer lists.

Lead with Certainty

Lead Validation blends the strengths of our Name, Address, Phone, Email and IP Address validation services to provide authoritative details and return a Certainty score from 0-100. Marketing teams can use the results to assess the quality of incoming leads in real time, sales teams can prioritize their leads based on quality, and companies, in general, can make sure their CRM and other customer databases are kept clean, accurate and as up-to-date as possible.

Lead Validation verifies leads in real time for the United States and Canada. Our DOTS Lead Validation – International service works in a very similar fashion, adding the capabilities of validating global leads to the mix while including the strength of our core services for validating leads from the US and Canada. In this blog, we are focused on the components of Lead Validation and how it helps our clients.

Our Lead Validation service contains six primary components:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Email
  • IP address
  • Business

Each of these components are discussed in greater detail below.

Name component

The name component is built on the strength of our DOTS Name Validation service to validate names, verify accuracy, parse out name components, return gender information and more. It gives you insight into the name, looking for similar names and nicknames to improve matching, and flags questionable things like names that seem to contain vulgar words, match well-known celebrities, or appear to be fabricated garbage names such as random keystrokes. Name Validation also has access to names from all over the world, giving it the ability to handle leads with names that are less common in North America.

Lead Validation compares the name to other data points such as the phone number, email and address to determine how the name connects to the rest of the lead. Red flags found, such as those listed above, factor into the scoring,  returning a quality score that indicates the reliability of the given name, both by itself and as part of the lead. Unusual or unknown names are not necessarily failed. Generally, names can be considered good, unknown or bad. However, to get the “bad” designation, we expect to see that the name fails in at least one of the red flag categories mentioned above.

Address component

The address component uses DOTS Address Validation – US, DOTS Address Validation Canada, and DOTS Address Detective to correct, standardize and validate addresses in the United States and Canada, as follows.

  • Address Validation – US uses our top of the line address validation engine and the USPS dataset to validate the given address, identify it as a business or residence, and determine if it is a mailable location, among other things.
  • Address Validation – Canada parses, cleanses and validates Canadian addresses in English and French.
  • Address Detective uses tools to deal with extremely messy addresses, from address information all appearing on a single line to jumbled inputs such as the street address being assigned to the city or the state being assigned to the postal code. Address Detective also has access to addresses not available in the USPS dataset to help with more challenging address inputs.

Lead Validation uses the results of these services, along with comparisons against other results like phone number and IP address, to build a component score that reflects both the quality of the component and its relation to the lead as a whole. Other Lead Validation specific tests look for things like hotels, prisons, intentionally bad data, post office boxes, CMRAs and more that also influence the component score.

Phone component

The phone component uses primarily DOTS Geophone Plus to gather contact, provider and location data for up to two phone numbers. Other important pieces of information are also collected. Is the number a landline, wireless or VOIP line? Is it a residential or business number? Does it appear to be a Google or Skype number? Is it connected? Can we detect patterns in the number that might signify that it is just randomly typed in numbers?

Lead Validation compares the resulting contact and location data back to the initially given name, business name, address, email, and IP address inputs to determine any connections that can be made between data points. These influence the component score along with the basic question: does it appear to be a good number?

The additional data points collected from the phone number also provides additional insights. Did a business lead provide a residential phone number, a personal email address or was a wireless line used? Dozens of tests create a component score that reflects the quality of the given phone number and its connection to the lead. If two numbers are given, the analysis is done on both numbers and the better fit for the lead is chosen as the primary one for comparison purposes.

Email component

The email component uses our DOTS Email Validation service to perform a step by step process that attempts email correction to fix common mistakes, syntax checks to make sure the address is both syntactically valid for email and that it conforms to the rules of the given domain, a DNS check to make sure the domain exists, an SMTP check to find the presence of a valid mail server and other various integrity checks. It tests that an email server is operational and accepting mail as well as if a specific mailbox is valid. Other data points collected include; if the email seems to be bogus, vulgar, garbage, disposable, an alias, a spam trap, is associated with a bot, is a free or business email and more.

Lead Validation compares email to other data points like name, business name, IP address and phone number to see if they can be connected. That combined with whether the mailbox is good, seems to be connected to the user and considerations for any red flags found while testing the email, lead to a component score that considers how valid the email address is and its likelihood of being a part of the lead.

IP address component

The IP address component uses primarily the DOTS IP Validation service to identify if the IP address is a good one, its country of origin or more accurate location, whether or not it belongs to a known proxy and if it appears to belong to a mobile device. The service can identify harmful proxies to determine if the lead is attempting to hide their location or check if the IP address has been linked to malicious behavior. Other pieces of information are returned as well to identify the internet service provider (ISP) or link the IP address to a business.

Lead Validation will compare IP address to address, phone, email and business to determine if any positive or negative connections can be made. Lead Validation will assess any high-risk countries along with the consideration of malicious and proxy IP addresses to determine the quality of the IP component and how it fits in with the lead.

Business component

The business component is unique from the other components. While the other components work for all leads, the business component is designed to work only with leads designated as business leads. This designation is controlled by TestType (i.e. TestType=business or TestType=businessonly) as users can decide if their leads are business, residential or perhaps a bit of both. This component also does not rely on existing services to gather core data.

Lead Validation performs its own internal tests and checks against our business datasets. Data points found can be compared to business names, addresses, IP addresses, phone numbers, and emails to look for connections. Other checks look for red flags in the given business name such as vulgarities and potential bogus submissions. All of these checks combine to create a business component score that reflects its validity and how it fits in with the lead as a whole.

Conclusion

Each of the components described above return their own 0-100 certainty score and a quality recommendation (i.e. Review, Review or Reject). Generally, high scores indicate the component score itself is good, while a low one indicates that it is bad. However, each component also has scoring based on cross-comparisons built in as well. For example, a given phone number might be perfectly valid but during the cross-examination phase, we find that it seems to belong to a person not indicated by the input lead. This would likely lead the phone component to a poor score because while the number is technically a “good” number, it is not good for the lead.

Hopefully, this gives you a strong overview of our Lead Validation service, as well as provide some insight into how the components are tested and how they relate to the overall lead. If you would like to learn more about Lead Validation, please visit our product page and developer guide.

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.

 

Will Omnichannel Someday Die Out Because of Big Data?

You probably know what omnichannel means, but a quick definition is always helpful. It refers to the various touch points by which a business/organization can reach a customer. The idea — and the ideal — is to get the offer in front of them at the time they’re most likely to be interested. Typically in the modern business ecosystem, omnichannel refers to:

  • Website
  • Brick and mortar locations
  • Social media
  • Other digital efforts
  • How you come across on mobile
  • Face-to-face interactions between customers and employees

There is more you could group under omnichannel, but that’s a good start. Unfortunately, in a few years from now, we may need a different approach entirely.

Why?

OMNICHANNEL AND THE RAPID SCALE OF BIG DATA 

Consider this: in 2020, it’s possible 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created for every person on the planet every second. If you do the full math on that, the total volume of data globally in 2020 might be around 44 zettabytes. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This is somewhat because of “The Internet of Things” — connected devices and sensors — which should have an economic value of $3 trillion by 2025. Internet of Things tech alone will be 3-6 zettabytes of that total.

Now we know the rapid scale of Big Data. It’s actually arriving in daily life maybe faster than even mobile did. What are the repercussions?

THE REPERCUSSIONS FOR OMNICHANNEL

As noted in this post on Information Age:

Companies hoped “omnichannel experiences” would enable them to anticipate customers’ needs to provide them with a personalised response, which meets or even exceeds their expectations. And this effort is based on the company’s ability to mobilise the necessary data to deliver.

But what happened?

Today, these same companies struggle to draw together all the information required to give them a unified view and appreciation of their customers’ needs. The result is a mixed bag of omnichannel initiatives, many of which result in failures. In the retail sector, for example, only 18% of retailers claim to have an engagement strategy, which covers all channels.

The sheer math looks like this: 44 zettabytes of generated data in 2020 is 10 times — yes, ten times — what we are generating now, three years earlier. Companies are already struggling to manage data properly towards better customer experience. What will happen when 10 times the data is available in 33 months or so?

WHAT’S THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR OMNICHANNEL AND CX?

This is obviously hard to predict. In times of great complexity, though, sometimes sticking to the basics — i.e. The Five Customer Experience Competencies — isn’t a bad idea. A strong base almost always beats an all-over-the-place strategy.

In my mind, this is what needs to happen:

  • Companies need a good handle on what really drives their business now and what could drive it in the future.
  • This involves products/services but also types of customer and platform they use.
  • Once that picture is mostly clear, senior leaders need to be on the same page about the importance of customer-driven growth.
  • “Being on the same page” also involves, ideally, vocabulary and incentive structures.
  • If the customer-driven plan/platforms and senior leadership alignment are there, now you need to make sure the work is prioritized.
  • No one should be running around on low-value tasks when great opportunity is right there.
  • Kill a stupid rule, etc. Basically move as many people as possible to higher-value work, especially if lower-value work can be more easily automated.
  • It’s all been important so far, but let’s bold this: You don’t need to collect all the data. You need data that relates to your priorities and growth. 
  • That data should be analyzed and condensed for executives. You may need “data translators,” yes.
  • Decision-making should come from relevant information and customer interactions.

This flow is hard to arrive at for some companies, but essential.

Phrased another way: trying to be “omnichannel” in five years and looking at an Excel with trillions of touch points/data on it? That will just burn out employees and managers alike. You need a prioritized, aligned plan focused on customer-driven growth and well-articulated goals. That will get you there post-omnichannel.

Reprinted from LinkedIn with permission from the author. View original post here.

Author’s Bio: Jeanne Bliss, Founder & CEO, CustomerBliss

Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first-ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Reporting to each company’s CEO, she moved the customer to the strategic agenda, redirecting priorities to create transformational changes to each brands’ customer experience. Her latest book, “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” (Wiley) was published on June 15, 2015.

Phone, Mail, or Email Marketing? The Pros and Cons

There has always been one eternal question in marketing: what is the shortest path between you and your next paying customer?

We already know the right answer to this question: “It depends.” But a better answer is that effective marketing is very context-dependent. So let’s look at the pros and cons of three of today’s key marketing approaches – phone, mail and email marketing.

Telemarketing has practically been with us ever since Alexander Graham Bell first solicited his assistant Watson from the next room in 1876. Its key advantage is that it is the only one of these three approaches that builds an interactive personal connection with a prospect – one that allows you to qualify him or her, ask questions, and respond to their needs. Big-ticket products and services, particularly in a business-to-business environment, are often sold as the result of a sales process that begins with a phone contact. Conversely, large scale telemarketing often is a key ingredient of selling consumer products and services in large volumes.

Telemarketing also has numerous drawbacks. It is labor-intensive, time-bound, and requires a good telecommunications infrastructure when used on more than a small scale. Perhaps most importantly, it requires the right business context. If you are selling an airliner or high-end financial services, those prospects may expect an initial phone call, while carpet-bombing consumers with telephone sales pitches at dinnertime may provoke mostly negative responses. Moreover, unsolicited calls to consumer wireless phones can lead to large fines under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Direct mail marketing gives businesses an opportunity they do not have with phone or email: the chance to deliver content-rich information in print or even multimedia form. (For example, anyone who belongs to Generation X or older remembers those ubiquitous AOL CDs that were a fixture of the 1990s.) Anyone with a valid mailing address is a potential prospect, it is a medium that lends itself well to A-B testing as well as demographic targeting, and there are few if any regulatory roadblocks to targeting consumers with a direct mail campaign.

Drawbacks of direct mail include its expense per prospect, in terms of time, content costs, and mailing costs. This is particularly a disadvantage for smaller businesses, given the economies of scale that reduce per-unit printing and mailing costs for those who can afford very large campaigns. Response rates are generally low and can vary widely, and the accuracy of your contact data is a critical factor in your costs and profitability.

Email marketing is, relatively speaking, the new kid on the block – even though it now has its own decades-long track record. It has one towering advantage over the other two approaches: a much lower cost per contact that only minimally scales with the size of your prospect base, once you have a list that opts in. Email also gives you the opportunity to include rich media content, or make “warm call” introductions to individual prospects as a precursor to telephone contact.

Disadvantages of email include being the easiest mode of contact for people to ignore – particularly as the inbox sizes of busy people continue to expand – as well as the need to have accurate contact information from people who have opted in to hear from you, to avoid consequences for spamming from your internet services provider.

A common thread through each of these marketing approaches is data quality. Inaccurate, incomplete or outdated contact information will cost you in time and marketing expenditure at the very least, and in the worst cases could subject your business to substantial penalties. And in a world where up to 25% of your contact data is bad, and up to 70% goes out of date each year, a data quality strategy is absolutely necessary for effective marketing.

The best marketing strategy? As we said earlier, it depends. But with the right approach to data quality, you can get the maximum ROI from any approach that fits your business.

Mother’s Day 2017 – Estimated Spending to Reach $23.6 Billion

While Mother’s Day is all about the Moms in our lives, it’s an even bigger day for retailers. This year the National Retail Federation estimates Mother’s Day spending to reach an all-time high of $23.6 billion; roughly $10 billion higher than 2010. The traditional gifts of jewelry and flowers, along with personal services are predicted to contribute the most to this increase. Needless to say, with Mother’s Day only a few days away, businesses are experiencing a busy week, especially in ecommerce.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 30% of Mother’s Day shopping is to be done online this year. Most ecommerce sites have already experienced an influx of orders over the last few weeks. With an even bigger rush coming in now from typical procrastinators (like myself) who will take advantage of two-day delivery from retailers like Amazon. Online shopping has become even more convenient with the addition of mobile shopping. With thousands of easy to use mobile apps offering gift cards for anything from dinner to spa treatments, redeemable right on the recipient’s mobile device, digital sellers have definitely made Mother’s Day purchases easier than ever…even for the most ardent procrastinators.

Unknown to most, data quality solutions are quietly working behind the scenes contributing to a smooth and happy Mother’s Day for businesses and celebrants alike. Data quality solutions have made processing increased online holiday orders, restaurant reservations, and mobile app purchases more efficient and safer than ever. By leveraging tools like our Address, Phone and Email Validation services, our clients ensure that their customer contact information is complete and accurate while also identifying malicious fraud before transactions are completed. Our data quality tools give businesses more time to focus on providing memorable experiences for their customers and achieving their revenue goals on the busiest of holidays, including Mother’s Day.

Whether our clients are experiencing or still preparing for a busy Mother’s Day, our data quality solutions will be running smoothly in the background for them the entire time. If your business needs any assistance now or before the next major holiday contact us.

Cold Calling in an Election Year

This election year has already had its share of surprises and upsets, and it’s just getting started. Political parties and individual campaigns alike are scrambling to reach out to as many members of the community as possible. Networks of volunteers are cold calling voters while robocalling systems are dialing numbers at an astounding rate. One metric given by an unnamed party estimates the number of calls to be around 50,000 per day within one party’s headquarters alone.

That’s a lot of calls being made. Imagine 50,000 calls per day until November 8th.

That’s roughly 12 million phone calls, and that estimate is for just one political party.

As a phone validation expert, we question how these massive lists have been prescreened to ensure compliance on a number of issues.

For example, robocalling systems are prohibited from dialing wireless phone numbers. With most phone numbers being ported from landline to mobile, this leaves a much more condensed pool of potential voters to be accessible — at a time when political parties and campaigns are under serious pressure to get out the vote. By current estimates, the total available landline numbers in the United States has shrunk from 175 million to roughly 65 million active phone numbers.

Many wireless numbers are unidentifiable by contact name — even with Caller ID — unless that number has previously registered by an opt-in site. In order to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, political telemarketers need to perform some sort of phone validation on their massive lists in order to track local number portability and identify wireless and VoIP phone numbers.

Compiling a massive list in such a short time would require access to lists which may contain numbers that have since been ported or disconnected. Thus, campaigns and their robodialers may be dialing numbers that they believe are landlines, yet are really mobile phones. They may also be wasting valuable time and resources dialing disconnected numbers. Phone validation software both identifies wireless and VoIP numbers and scrubs lists for disconnected numbers.

As the race to gain key electoral votes continues, many parties are feeling the pressure to ramp up efforts to swing votes in their favor. This sense of urgency is likely enticing political organizations to seek fresh contact leads, and knowing whether it is legal to contact someone thanks to real-time phone validation would be of utmost value. Compliance is essential, and easy to accomplish with our real-time phone validation API which instantly identifies whether a phone number belongs to a landline or wireless phone.

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.

Data Validation In Real Estate

The real estate industry can gain a competitive edge with data validation

Data-based marketing, outreach and lead generation isn’t only for cutting-edge B2B companies anymore. Data runs the world these days and successful businesses in every industry can benefit from using verified, validated data in smart ways.
Working with generic data isn’t enough, either. It can be inaccurate and out of date, making it as useful as no data at all—worse, even, if you’re relying on this information. That’s why smart real estate organizations—from large firms to independent agents—are investing in data validation services.

Data validation verifies that the information you’re working from, whether about a specific lead or regional demographics, is accurate and up to date. Validation can be as simple as verifying correct names, phone numbers and current addresses, or can be as nuanced as geo-targeting, IP address validation and reverse phone lookup discovery. No matter the level of data verification, the results are the same: correct information can help you make better-informed decisions and accurately target your audience.

Clever and industrious people in the real estate industry can benefit from just about every type of data validation; it’s all about keeping an eye on trends and getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

Address validation

This is simple but crucial for real estate agents, who still spend a considerable amount on direct mail marketing. Getting a personalized mailer in the hands of the right person is important. RealTrends found that targeted direct mail pieces had a 2-5 percent response rate, versus the 1 percent rate when real estate agents mailed the piece to everyone without specific targeting.

Address Validation before a direct mail send can help ensure that you have the resident’s correct name (“Current Resident” makes the piece seem extra promotional and impersonal), the correct gender salutation, and helps make sure that the target actually lives at that address.

Or Current Resident Edit
Image via Evil Mad Scientist

Using a data validation service that has access to the USPS National Change-of-Address database can help further refine outreach. If a new family just moved into the address you’re targeting, they’re probably not looking to move again soon, so strike that address off the list for now.

Taking address validation a step further with geocoding validation can help real estate agents get a jump on hot trends and growing neighborhoods. Cross check a list of addresses against a trending neighborhood’s longitude and latitude to make sure the addresses you have really are in the hot spot. People currently in this neighborhood might want to capitalize on the new demand and sell their home at a profit, making them prime contacts for savvy real estate agents. Extend your validation and outreach efforts to the surrounding neighborhoods to get a leg up on the competition.

Reverse phone lookup

Reverse Phone Look-up enables companies to put a name and current address to a phone number. This is particularly useful since many people now move but keep their original cell phone number. This trend makes phone numbers alone a hard way to target people, especially with the declining use of landlines. According to Time, 41 percent of homes were landline-free as of 2014 and 60 percent of adults ages 30-34 exclusively use a mobile phone. With the average age of first-time home buyers currently sitting at 31 and expected to climb to 32-34 in the coming years, this makes reverse look-up validation an invaluable resource for real estate agents.

This type of validation will tell you if the people on your list of phone numbers truly do live in your territory. Plus, it will give you their most current address and name. National real estate companies can use this validated data to send location-specific messaging to everyone on their list, based on the person’s current location.

Demographic validation

A core premise of marketing, no matter what industry, is “know your audience.” Demographic data validation can help real estate agents get an accurate and intimate understanding of the areas they work in. Gut instincts are essentially gambles, whereas using validated data ensures you have reasonably accurate and updated information. By working with US census validated demographic data, real estate agents can change and target their messages based on location.

  • Spanish-language ads can be placed in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods
  • First-time homebuyer messaging can be sent to areas with a high concentration of young adults reaching the pivotal first-time homebuyer age
  • Direct mail pieces discussing downsizing can be targeted to areas with mostly older adults
  • Target small business owners in the area about property opportunities in the up and coming business district

SuburbsUnderstanding the population make-up of a particular area can also help influence how you market properties. Areas that are mainly suburban are likely to connect more with family-oriented messages while urban areas probably want to hear more about high-end home features and nearby amenities. By using a combination of demographic validation and geocoding validation, agents can perfectly target each area.

This level of data also provides insight into the average income and spending of nearby households, which is helpful when pricing houses and projecting commissions.

Competitive edge

Many real estate agents work independently and cannot afford to waste time, resources, and money on misguided marketing and outreach efforts. This is where a commitment to clean data and consistent data validation can provide a competitive advantage. Committing to using validated data as a key business tool can help real estate firms accurately focus efforts and spend smartly with better response rates.

Data can be intimidating, but with good data validation the return on investment is well worth it. Look into the different features and options offered to begin cleaning up your data and deciding which level of data-based targeting will work best for you. Go beyond just address validation and get creative if you want to pull ahead of the pack.

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.

Cutting the Cord… But is the Cord Really Cut?

The great migration from traditional landline continues. After all, nearly everyone has a cell phone, and many families have multiple cell phones. In addition to competition from wireless phones, the traditional landline also faces competition from VoIP services such as Vonage and Skype. Meanwhile, cable companies now bundle phone service into their television and Internet packages. With numerous alternatives available, the cord cutting trend appears to be stronger than ever… but is the cord really cut?

Not everyone is cutting the cord on their landline. Some have migrated their existing landline phone numbers to alternate platforms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regularly tracks US phone use. While this data and other research documents the migration away from traditional landlines, other telephone validation insights suggest that the trend may have reached its peak.

For example, in the last 10 years we have found:

reverse-phone-lookup-stat

Not everyone migrated: 35 percent of traditional landlines have been disconnected. There are a number of reasons why subscribers might disconnect phone service including moving to a new location, death, or even a preference to simply be left alone. According to the CDC, about 3 percent of homes do not have any phone service whatsoever.

cutting-cord-statistic-3

Business and homes move to cable providers: 17.6 percent now use cable carriers such as COX, Comcast, and Charter for their phone service. Cable providers regularly offer bundled packages that include high-speed Internet, cable television, and phone service — often with unlimited nationwide long distance and other advanced calling features.

cutting-cord-statistic-4

About 6 percent of numbers have been ported to VOIP services like Vonage, Skype, and Google Talk: VoIP services route calls over the Internet and are generally offered at lower prices than traditional landline services. VoIP plans often include either nationwide or international long distance, making them particularly attractive to those with geographically dispersed family members or businesses with large long-distance bills. 

cutting-cord-statistic-5

Cutting the cord but keeping the number: Nearly 5 percent of landline numbers now directly ring to cellphones. So, while they cut the cord per se, these users have kept their original phone numbers. Local number portability rules went into effect in late 2003, helping to make this an option. The customer of record for a landline or mobile phone number has the ability to reassign the number to a different carrier. Thus, if you want to keep your landline number but cut the cord, you can port that number over to a cellphone.

cutting-cord-statistic-6

No change here: About 37 percent of landline owners have kept their landlines with the original provider. That’s a hefty percentage, comparable to the number of disconnections. When looked at this way, you’ve got just over a third who have kept their landline, roughly a third who have disconnected (maybe they died or moved away?), and about a third who have officially chosen an alternative such as a cable carrier’s phone service, VoIP, or wireless. It makes you wonder, is the cord really cut?

From mobile phones, VoIP, and bundled cable phone services to plain old telephone landline service, today’s telephone subscribers have more ways than ever to connect — with or without the cord. Due to telephone number portability issues identifying phone service types is critical for establishing trust and for complying with federal laws.

Service Objects has several reverse phone lookup products that can determine a phone number’s service type (landline, VoIP or wireless) with near perfect accuracy. Contact us for details.

Or start a free trial today!

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Why Does a VoIP Line Show My Old Address?

The good old days: You’d move, get a new phone number, and your utility records would show your correct address. Though it wasn’t necessarily ideal, address accuracy pretty much took care of itself. Today, we have VoIP and telephone number portability. Modern and convenient they may be, however, address changes no longer take care of themselves. For example, it’s not unusual to perform a reverse phone lookup and find an old address. Why is that?

voip-reverse-phone-lookupThe problem has a lot to do with how Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers work compared to traditional land lines. Rather than being physically installed at an address, VoIP phone numbers are virtual and routed over the Internet. As such, you can make and receive VoIP phone calls at your home, your office, or even a hotel room when traveling. When you move, simply plug in your VoIP device at the new home and you’re good to go.

Say that’s all you do. Now perform a reverse phone lookup. Your VoIP line still shows your old address. Here’s the short answer: You forgot to tell your service provider that you have a new physical address.

Since your VoIP line is not anchored to a single address or physical location, the phone service provider doesn’t automatically have a means of knowing the correct address. Most VoIP providers rely on their users to update their location information. 

This information isn’t just important for the sake of accurate reverse phone lookup data. It’s vital in terms of VoIP 911 service. After all, if your reverse phone lookup information shows your old address, emergency responders will be routed to your old address. 

According to the FCC’s Consumer Guide: 

“…VoIP customers may need to provide location or other information to their VoIP providers, and update this information if they change locations, for their VoIP 911 service to function properly…”

The FCC requires each service provider to obtain the customer’s physical location before activating new service so that emergency responders have an accurate initial address for 911 calls. However, changes of addresses remain largely the customer’s responsibility. The FCC requires service providers to “provide one or more easy ways for their customers to update the physical location they have registered with the provider, if it changes.”

Changing your physical address with most VoIP providers is usually a simple matter. If you’ve noticed that a reverse phone lookup has the wrong address, take matters into your own hands by updating your current address with your VoIP service provider.

Because the onus is on customers to update their addresses when they move, VoIP lines are often considered unreliable when it comes to identifying where a caller is located. This leads to complications in Emergency Response Services and can sometimes be exploited by prisoners on parole, but those are topics for another time.

To learn more about Service Objects’ reverse phone lookup service for VoIP, wireless, landline VoIP and toll-free telephone numbers, click here!

Or start a free trial today! 

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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.

Reverse Phone Lookup: Token-Based Pricing Helps You Keep Your “Pot of Gold”

What do St. Patrick’s Day and a reverse phone lookup service have in common?

If the reverse phone lookup service is GeoPhone Plus from Service Objects, the answer is: a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Pot of Gold

An advanced reverse phone lookup service, like GeoPhone Plus, gives you the ability to identify detailed contact information for landlines, VOIP, wireless and toll-free numbers for both residences and businesses – all from a supplied phone number.

This is a great solution but where GeoPhone also excels is its pricing model.

In standard pricing models, you would pay the same “per transaction” fee for each reverse phone lookup attempt, regardless of whether or not detailed contact data exists for that phone number. But all phone numbers and the data available are not created equally. With “token-based” pricing, you pay only when a successful match is made for the phone number. The amount of tokens charged per transaction depends on the level of detail and the quality of contact data available for that phone number.

For example:
A major grocery retailer is using GeoPhone Plus to perform reverse phone lookup on phone numbers provided by their customers. They use the detailed contact data (name, address, etc) to have a better idea of where their customers are coming from to help make decisions about targeted marketing efforts and potential locations for future stores. Each time their software service requests information on a specific phone number, GeoPhone Plus hits multiple data sources to find detailed contact information for that phone number. GeoPhone Plus returns contact information on all types of phone numbers such as landlines, VOIP, wireless and toll-free. The type and level of contact data available varies depending on the type of phone number.

In standard pricing models, you would pay the same “per transaction” fee for each reverse phone lookup attempt, regardless of whether or not detailed contact data exists for that phone number. But all phone numbers and the data available are not created equally. With “token-based” pricing, you pay only when a successful match is made for the phone number. The amount of tokens charged per transaction depends on the level of detail and the quality of contact data available for that phone number.

Contact us for more information on GeoPhone Plus and token-based pricing.

Businesses Gain Marketing and Customer Insight by Appending Contact Info to Phone Numbers

You can learn a lot from a phone number. On my home phone, my caller ID let’s me know who is calling: my Best Friend or the National Survey Calling Center? With this info, I can make a split-second decision on what to do. To answer or not to answer.

For businesses, the customer’s phone number offers a different sort of intelligence. And I am not talking about your mom’s caller ID. Reverse Phone Lookup Services like DOTS GeoPhone Plus offer businesses critical data regarding customers and prospective customers. With a service like this, a phone number can provide a business with the following information:

– Residence or Business
– Residential Contact or Business Name
– Associated Address
– Telephone Provider Info (Carrier, City, State and Latitude and Longitude)
– Line type (wireless, landline, VOIP or toll free)

So what can a business do with this data? Here are just a few examples of how some of our customers are using this information:

Online Retailer

Use phone number and appended information to track potentially fraudulent transactions by comparing the appended information with the user-entered address information.

Phone/Mail Order Catalog Call Center
Auto-populating CRM and Contact Center databases: Auto-populating customer contact data reduces the chance of human error and typos while increasing the efficiencies of call center operators.

Laser Eye Surgery Center
Analyzing address and location data to determine future marketing and media spend. Having this detailed information about callers allows marketers to know where their customers and prospects are coming from to determine where to put their money for direct marketing campaigns, tv, etc.

National Grocery Chain
By collecting customer phone numbers at Check-Out, national grocery chains gain valuable insight on a store-by-store basis regarding where their customers are coming from. This helps to inform decisions about future store locations as well as targeted marketing campaigns.

How would having this level of contact information improve your business operations?

Phone Validation Made Simple

Businesses know Phone Validation makes business sense, but how do you use it to your best advantage?

There are several things to consider when trying to validate a telephone number, and in this blog we have broken down the process for you step-by-step. There are many ways to validate a telephone number, and many variables within the number to validate:

  1. Is the telephone number valid?
  2. Is the telephone number a landline, wireless, or VoIP?
  3. Is the telephone number disconnected or not valid (e.g. area code 999 does not exist)?

Service Objects offers the following telephone validation options:

DOTS Phone Append

  • A multi-database Web service designed to provide the most accurate lookup of landline telephone numbers available
  • Updated daily
  • 72% match rate for consumers, 63% match rate for businesses
  • Coverage for the US and Canada

PhoneAppend Diagram

DOTS Phone Exchange

  • Point-of-entry validation
  • Instantly recognizes if a telephone number is valid and acceptable by verifying the first seven digits of the number
  • Returns line type (landline, wireless, or VoIP)
  • Telephone data compiled from over 2,600 US and Canadian telephone service providers
  • Returns telephone service provider information (carrier, city, state, latitude, longitude)

Phone-Exchange Diagram

DOTS GeoPhone

  • Reverse-lookup of residential, business, and government telephone numbers
  • Comprised of daily feeds from over 2,600 telephone companies across the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico
  • Over 190 million telephone listings
  • Dynamic access to a variety of public, private, and proprietary telephone data
  • Determines contact name and address
  • Determines telephone type (business or residential)
  • Determines line type (landline, wireless, or VoIP)

DOTS GeoPhone

DOTS GeoPhone Plus

  • Combines 3 of our powerful DOTS telephone validation services (DOTS GeoPhone, DOTS GeoPhone Wireless, and DOTS Phone Append)
  • Compares a 10-digit telephone number to our database powerhouse of over 300 million records
  • Determines contact name and address
  • Determines telephone type (business, residential, Government)
  • Determines line type (landline, wireless, VoIP, or toll free)
  • Returns telephone service provider information (carrier, city, state, latitude, longitude)

DOTS GeoPhone PlusI hope that I have helped in answering your telephone validation questions.

Thanks,

Ryan M.

What’s New at Service Objects?

The development team here at Service Objects is always hard at work supporting, enhancing, and building new Web services. For this blog, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk to you about two new and enhanced Web services, that we will be releasing in the near future!

DOTS GeoPhone Plus is a new composite service that builds on upon a few of our current Web services, DOTS Phone Exchange, DOTS GeoPhone, and DOTS GeoPhone Wireless.DOTS GeoPhone Plus rolls all of these services into a one-stop shop for telephone number information and validation.

In the past, clients may have purchased up to all three of the previous telephone Web services in order to efficiently access the full range of telephone number information and contact data.Now, clients can access all of same the data with just one transaction of DOTS GeoPhone Plus.

Another new service we are rolling out is DOTS Demographics Plus.In addition to the normal zip code level information returned by the older service, DOTS Demographics, new low level information is also returned.Instead of a zip code, an address is now used as the Web service input. The returned output fields provide resolution down to the block level (about 50 people).Data available at this level includes age, income, and race distributions.

These new services will be available soon and we have many new interesting Web services in the works as well.

Stay tuned!

Jonas S.