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October 30, 2017

Guide to Cell Phone Blacklist Compliance

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Over the last few months, the apparent acceleration in the adoption of cell phone blacklist services and applications has caught the attention of contact center leaders. The concern over blacklists is understandable since a blacklisted number could make it more complicated to reach a customer. This, in combination with the fluid regulatory environment spanning the TCPA, CFPB, and FTC, is compounding the challenge of cell phone outreach.

So, what do contact center leaders need to understand about cell phone blacklists? Are they having an actual impact? How do you manage your operations with them in the mix? As the saying goes, knowledge is power, so here are some key points about blacklists you should know, as well as tips on how to work with them in your contact centers.

First question to ask, “What are the various types of blacklists?”

Blacklisting can happen to a phone—meaning the device itself-—or a phone number. 

When a device is blacklisted, it’s either because the phone has been reported lost or stolen or its account has an unpaid balance. This works via a numeric identifier most phones have called an international mobile equipment identity number, or IMEI. If the phone doesn’t have an IMEI, it most likely has an alternative number called an electronic serial number, or ESN. 

When the phone is turned on and connects to a network, the IMEI is transmitted to the carrier, which then does a cell phone blacklist check. If the phone is blacklisted, it won’t be able to connect to the network at all. If the IMEI checks come back clear, calls can be made and received as normal. You can find out if your phone has been blacklisted by running your number through a blacklist checker or by calling the carrier.

When a phone number is blacklisted, it’s because that number is known for making unwanted or spam calls. Calls from that number will be blocked or sent directly to voicemail, either by the recipient’s phone carrier or a third-party app. 

Both of these blacklisting situations can cause problems for companies that are trying to reach customers. 

Now, we’re going to quickly look at three types of blocking methods and blacklists:

  • The FTC ‘Do Not Call’ Data List 
  • Mobile blocking services
  • Mobile phone blocking apps

The FTC ‘Do Not Call’ Data List 

The Federal Trade Commission posts files on a daily basis (M-F) containing the phone numbers reported by consumers that have made an unwanted/SPAM call. The focus of the FTC Do Not Call (DNC) Reported Calls Data List is to provide carriers and developers with up-to-date data about phone numbers that have been reported by consumers as undesirable. This ‘blacklist’ data contains information including the phone number, time and date of the call, location of the consumer and the subject matter. The FTC reported call lists data can be found here: The FTC Blacklist Data

Mobile phone blocking services:

There are several types of cell phone blacklists.

The next level of blacklisting type is a carrier or third-party provided service facilitating call blocking. These services can combine with an on-device application to leverage crowd-sourcing capabilities that generate “blacklists” shared with/by other users. They can provide notices on the incoming call screen with the caller’s information and the ability for the consumer to designate how to disposition the call.

Service carriers compile blacklists for these services through a number of sources including:

  • FTC managed blacklist data
  • Local phone contact list comparison
  • Basic CNAM database comparison

The mobile carriers may offer these blocking capabilities at no cost or for a monthly fee.

Mobile phone blocking apps:

On-device phone number blocking apps have been around for a while. These apps may not be nearly as impactful as the blocking services, but they still provide cell phone users with additional options to choose from. These applications use various methods to limit or block the calls the consumer receives. Some simply send any inbound call that is not tied to a specific contact in the consumer’s address book straight to voicemail. Others allow the user to designate specific numbers in their address books that should receive the ‘direct to voicemail’ treatment when such calls come in.  

The next, and perhaps more important, question to ask is: “How is this impacting contact center performance?”

To determine the potential impact of “blacklisting,” LiveVox analyzed our real-time contact center connection data across our clients. Knowing that Blacklist apps and services mainly send calls directly to voicemail, one would anticipate a notable decrease in connect rates.

After extensive analysis comparing data over the past 18+ months, our data shows little, to no, reduction of connection rates across all of our clients, meaning the impact of the FTC list and blocking apps for our clients remains minimal. Other businesses not on LiveVox may have lower connect rates and be impacted by blacklists to a greater degree.

Although there is minimal impact to performance, having a number shown as “likely spam” on a consumer’s phone is still not the greatest from a public relations perspective.  We have recommended to our clients that, should this happen, they have a standard talk-off piece for agents to explain this description on the consumer’s phone.

As the concern over blacklists is still a relatively new factor, we will continue to closely monitor contact and connect rates for our clients, while watching for any broader trend changes for this critical metric.

Final question: “What does the future hold?” for Cell Phone Blacklists

LiveVox performs proactive reviews of client caller ID packages to actively prevent landing on cell phone blacklists.

In the near term, contact centers should monitor the FTC-managed blacklist data for their own numbers and adjust accordingly. This includes having a strategy for managing affected numbers within specific call center operations. LiveVox actively monitors and analyzes the FTC-managed blacklist for our clients to minimize the potential impacts of these listings. In addition to supporting caller-ID rotation, LiveVox performs proactive reviews and management of our clients’ local caller-ID packages. We also rotate and manage our clients’ 1-800 #s should they be flagged. 

Over the longer term, as service carriers continue to integrate blocker apps into their overall “blacklist” services, LiveVox believes the individual blocker apps will decline in usage, and service carriers will have a centralized location of flagged numbers. Additionally, the industry as a whole continues to make strides towards the management and impact of blacklists through strategic initiatives such as potential “whitelists” and the “SHAKEN and STIR” initiative for call authentication. A “whitelist” would comprise industry numbers that have a legitimate business purpose. SHAKEN and STIR are initiatives to set industry policies for service providers in regard to call authentication and certificate standardization.

As this situation evolves, LiveVox will continue to keep clients informed of its progression. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding the blacklists and strategies to manage their impacts, please reach out to us and our Business Consultants will set up an appointment to discuss these items with you.

How LiveVox can help with risk mitigation 

LiveVox is a leading cloud communication provider helping businesses meet their evolving omnichannel, CRM, and WFO needs. Our leading-edge risk mitigation and security capabilities help clients thrive in a rapidly changing business environment. With new updates released quarterly, we’re always seeking out new ways to help our clients engage their customers and maximize their performance. 

We pride ourselves on being an industry pioneer and staying on the cutting edge of communications advancements. That’s why we make it a priority to help our clients properly implement the STIR/SHAKEN framework. When you’re in compliance with STIR/SHAKEN and have the technology to incorporate it into all of your customer interactions, you’ll have a much lower risk of ending up on one of the blacklists we discussed here. From managing multichannel consent to embedding risk-mitigation functions directly into agent workflows, LiveVox makes staying compliant second nature. Our global headquarters in San Francisco are supported by our seven other locations around the world to power more than 14 billion interactions a year. Learn more about LiveVox here or visit our news and events page to stay abreast of our latest developments.

Cell Phone Blacklist FAQ

What are the various types of blacklists?

The FTC ‘Do Not Call’ Date List, mobile blocking services, and mobile phone blocking apps.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 700 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit livevox.com.

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit www.livevox.com or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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