In: Telemarketing News

Businesses are increasingly receiving reports of flags on their numbers. While this can occur for a variety of reasons, it generally means your calls are not being answered by your customers or prospects.

While the overall goal of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) STIR/SHAKEN protocol is meant to reduce the number of spam or spoofed calls that consumers receive, caller ID flags, such as spam, scam likely, and others directly pose a threat to legitimate businesses.

Flagged phone numbers can harm your business by eliciting lower call response rates, which can lead to lessened productivity. This can increase your costs as you try to reach customers and potential leads, as well as potentially increase the bias towards your organization due to your call response rates.

So, let’s take a look at why numbers receive flags and why customers flag certain numbers. Then, we’ll review what these flags mean.

Why Are Phone Numbers Getting Flagged?

Have you recently received a flag on one of your numbers? Consumers may flag numbers they don’t know (or that they feel are harassing) in various ways, such as:

  • A called party uses an app to manually block your number.
  • A carrier identifies your number as one that’s made too many calls matching current spam reports and profiles.
  • A called party mistakenly flagged your number.

So, what happens when carriers or recipients flag your numbers?

When a recipient flags a number

You can have every best practice in place, but ultimately it’s still up to the recipient how they feel about receiving your call. Some of which is entirely out of your hands.

Since the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN, and even prior to this legislation, apps for blocking calls are abundant, simple, and user-friendly. If you just happen to catch someone off guard, at an inopportune time, or mistakenly dial a wrong number, not much can keep your calling number from getting flagged.

However, it’s still best to continue with outbound dialing best practices and ensure your agents use some type of script to keep calls on track.

When a carrier flags a number

Most carriers’ monitor best practices such as calling thresholds. The carriers monitor numbers in hopes they can weed out those that are used for disreputable purposes. For instance, phone numbers that dial out more than ten times per minute, 100 times per day, or 1000 per week aren’t likely to have been calls made by a human agent conducting honest, respectable business.

Where your number could run into trouble is with individual carriers – they each have their own definition of a spam threshold and monitor the behavior of phone numbers differently. If your number is subsequently flagged by a consumer, the carrier is likely to label your future calls as spam or a scam risk.

If your number is spoofed

While this is rare, a bad actor could hijack your phone number for dishonest purposes. These cases can cause your number to be flagged through no fault of your own. The only real option you have in these cases is reporting your number as spoofed. While STIR/SHAKEN has made it harder to spoof calls, spoofing has the potential to ruin your business reputation.

What Do Flags Mean?

The term “flagged number” is thrown around often these days. But what does a flag actually mean on your phone number? A flag, also known as a “warning label”, is often broken down into different categories. Warning labels vary depending on the carrier, but they typically involve the following:

  • Fraud Risk, Potential Fraud: Fraud risk and potential fraud flags mean that the number is likely a robocaller. These calls have been flagged as attempting to engage in fraudulent activities.
  • Scam Likely, High Risk: Similar to fraud tags, scam likely typically indicates the intent of the call is to defraud consumers.
  • Spam Risk, Potential Spam: A spam flag typically indicates the number dials out too heavily. This may not necessarily be a robocall, but the dialing software makes more phone calls than is humanly possible.
  • Nuisance Likely: Similar to spam flags, nuisance likely typically indicates heavy dialing activity from a number.

These flags are a general indication of what the call’s intent may be but they’re not always accurate. Sometimes legitimate businesses find these warning labels on their caller IDs. This can occur from dialing too heavily, misconfigured dialers, consumer reports, or call spoofing attempts. Sometimes newly purchased numbers may have these types of flags already attached from past usage.

A flag will typically result when a number’s “score” reaches a certain threshold.

How Carriers and Apps Score Numbers

A single report from a consumer on a call-blocking app will likely not result in a phone number flag. Instead, call blocking apps gather data and aggregate these with carriers. The app and/or carrier then determine an appropriate intent label for the caller ID. Typically, it will take several consumer reports to result in a flag. Similarly, carriers may automatically flag numbers if they see suspicious call analytics coming from a single number.

Each aggregator has a different threshold for what is considered a flag. These are some examples of a flag threshold:

  • Icehook: Marks numbers as “Scam Likely” when they earn scores between 81 and 100.
  • TrueSpam: Starts applying flags to numbers when they score 60 on a 100-point scale.
  • Telo: Flags numbers at 65 and above on a 100-point scale.

It’s also important to remember that these companies update their algorithms and scoring systems frequently. So, scoring thresholds can vary as carriers and apps monitor call analytics.

Call Labels: Warning Labels Vs. Intent Labels

A warning label is typically referred to as a “flag”. However, apps and carriers can also display an “intent label” for a phone number. Collectively these are called “call labels.”

The purpose of a call label is to give consumers insight into the reason for the call or its intent. This, in turn, should build consumer confidence in answering unknown calls. While warning labels generally indicate spam or fraud, intent labels display information from known call analytics.

Intent labels generally include (but vary between carriers):

  • Account Services
  • Charity/Nonprofit
  • Informational
  • Political
  • Prison/Jail
  • Private
  • Survey
  • Telemarketing

While most of these don’t particularly have a negative connotation, it gives the consumer information to let them determine if they want to answer the call.

How Missed Calls Damage Your Reputation

A phone number flag is not only inconvenient, but it can also ruin your reputation! If your calls are getting dropped or showing with a warning label, your customers will get frustrated. They may feel ignored, confused, or question the legitimacy of your business.

In more serious incidents, hospitals and healthcare organizations have received reports of flagged numbers. It can be dangerous if your healthcare provider is unable to contact you. 

On top of this, 14% of Americans do not check their voicemails. This means that they could feel ignored completely by your company if they are not receiving your calls.

Answer Rate Statistics

Many consumers do not answer calls that they don’t know. While it is difficult to measure the actual rates of missed calls, it is a common occurrence.

According to a Zipwhip report noted on the MarTech website, only around 3.65% of consumers never find phone calls disruptive or will always answer, whereas almost 28% always consider phone calls disruptive. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) noted that many people simply don’t answer calls regardless of labels or call blocking apps.

  • 8-11% of US consumers answer unknown calls.
  • 5% of US consumers simply ignore unknown calls

Flagged numbers, however tend to show different answer rates

  • 73-74% of consumers swipe away and don’t answer flagged numbers.
  • 7-8% took steps to block or report a number.
  • 4-6% answered the call but hung up abruptly.

These statistics show how valuable it is to have an accurate caller ID that shows your business name or information.

How Phone Number Reputation Affects Your Brand

The FCC reported 45.9 billion robocalls in 2020 and 40.1 billion in 2021 as of September. This leaves consumers overwhelmed and cautious of unknown calls. If your business has become a victim of call spoofing, or if you dial customers with a flagged number, they will lose confidence. This leads to a loss in customer retention, negative word-of-mouth referrals, and reduced confidence in your brand.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 85% of companies say phone calls are their second most important outbound channel (the first being email).
  • Only 18% of consumers answer outbound business calls.

Combine this data with a bad caller ID, and your answer rates will plummet. Maintaining your phone number reputation is imperative to maintaining and improving your brand reputation.

Monitor, Manage and Mitigate Flags

You can help safeguard your phone number reputation with the strategy of monitoring, managing and mitigating flags. Proactively monitor your phone numbers to ensure you are not dialing with flags. Manage your dialing strategies to avoid carrier flags. And mitigate any negative reputation by abiding by compliance and ethical dialing practices.

Learn more about how ABM Desk can help your business succeed, or start using the software to monitor your number reputations by contacting our office in Middletown, DE. You can send us a message online or call 302.330.5146 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Find out more information in our new eBook!

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