Whether you’re running a non-profit that’s looking to connect with potential donors, or you’re a small business owner who wants to let your customers know about a promotion, phone calls are still some of the best ways to get in touch with people. Emails and texts are easy to ignore and talking over the phone makes it easier to build a personal rapport.
However, that can only happen if your potential connection picks up the phone in the first place. Since the dawn of mass-market telecommunications, people have been trying to avoid spam calls. The situation has gotten worse over the past few years, and some phone providers are trying to help customers by flagging potential spam calls. Unfortunately, many innocent businesses get caught up in the spam warning system.
How can you avoid landing your calls in the dreaded “spam likely” box and actually ensure that your customers will pick up the phone? There are a few ways that you can avoid that trap and still use the valuable communication method of the phone call. For this Phone System Thursday, here are our tips on avoiding spam-flagging software.
What Does the “Potential Spam” Label Mean?
Labeling calls as “potential spam” or “spam likely” is a relatively new phenomenon. As the problem of spam calls proliferated, tech companies developed applications that analyzed calling patterns and told users if the caller was a legitimate person or a probable spam caller.
Soon, telecommunications providers such as AT&T and Verizon realized that spam calls were a huge problem upsetting their customer base, so they began integrating this technology into their own system. Now, the “spam likely” label automatically flashes for most smartphone users when they receive a call from a number the technology determined is spamming people.
How Do Providers Decide Which Calls Are “Potential Spam”?
Once you know how major telecommunications providers decide which calls are spam calls, you can avoid making those mistakes and getting flagged by their software, right? Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure how these companies flag spam calls. Every provider has a different algorithm that assesses several different factors.
Some factors that most providers probably consider:
The algorithms are also notoriously imperfect. Many spam calls get through the system undetected, angering unwitting customers who answer the phone thinking they’re receiving a legitimate call, only to hear a robocaller talking about a car warranty. Meanwhile, legitimate businesses get stuck with the “spam likely” warning.
The positive side of this uncertainty is that it gives your business some flexibility when making larger volumes of calls to still avoid getting the spam label. There is also hope that you can move away from that label if you do earn it.
What Is a Positive Phone Number Reputation and How to Maintain it
When phone providers look at the above factors and determine whether or not to flag your number as spam, that’s called evaluating your phone number reputation. A positive phone number reputation means that you have a history of making legitimate phone calls and are not a spam bot.
There are a few tips that you can follow to improve your reputation and still gather the connections you need to keep your business running.
Switch Out Who You Call on a Given Day
Let’s say that you decide to dedicate an entire day reaching out to cold prospects. Some of them never pick up because they don’t know who you are, while others are people that are not fans of your business yet. Maybe some are people who you’ve been trying to reach several times now but aren’t picking up even after the third phone call. At the end of the day, you notice even fewer calls going through, and suddenly you realize you probably got flagged as spam.
Think about what this looks like from a provider’s perspective. They look at your phone number & see that you made a bunch of phone calls in an hour. Which either didn’t go through or didn’t result in a call that lasted longer than a few seconds. You know that you’re trying to do the hard work of turning cold prospects into warm ones. But to the provider, it just looks like you’re calling a bunch of people who don’t want to talk to you.
You don’t want to look like you’re bothering people, but you still need to call cold prospects, otherwise they’ll never turn into paying customers! The solution? Alternating cold prospects with warm ones. Call a few new, then reach out to a customer who has already expressed interest in your business & is more likely to stay on the line to talk about your latest offers.
To the provider looking at your phone records, alternating lengthy conversations with calls that either don’t go through or are shorter shows that you are a legitimate business. After all, most people hang up immediately after realizing that a call is spam. So your best defense against a wrongful spam label is proving that people actually do want to talk to you.
Use Several Business Phone Numbers
Sometimes you can’t avoid making a large volume of calls to uninterested prospects on the same day. One of the best defenses against cutting off all of your telecommunications capabilities with a wrongful “spam likely” label is to have multiple numbers.
There are a few benefits to having multiple numbers. First, you can divide outbound calls between several different numbers to reduce the volume that is coming from a certain phone. That means that the provider is less likely to see a huge number of calls coming from one number.
If your phone provider flags one as spam, you have alternatives while you try to get the it fixed. Otherwise, your rate of success will tank as even existing customers won’t pick up if you have the dreaded label.
Having several numbers is particularly important if you are running a business that places many calls, such as a political campaign or nonprofit. If you schedule robo-calls or pre-recorded messages, you can assign one phone to that call. Then let the rest focus on making more personal calls (sometimes people call back when they see a missed call, so that would tie up the phone).
Having multiple numbers also allows you to protect your official business number or a candidate’s personal number. Luckily, back-up phone numbers or phones are not difficult or expensive to get at all.
Leave a Voicemail When Calling Someone
This is a surprising trick that actually goes a long way to proving that your phone call is legitimate. When customers don’t pick up, leave them a voicemail! When phone providers see that you did so, they’ll see that you actually wanted to make a connection. Instead of just spamming numbers until someone answers. It also allows you to communicate your message even if someone doesn’t pick up.
An important caveat: the success of the voicemail trick has declined somewhat in recent times as spam & scam callers have adapted and begun leaving them as well. That means that many people have stopped checking their voicemail boxes altogether. So you may need to call back if you really want to communicate your message. Phone providers are also wising up to the fact that many spammers leave voicemails, so leaving one won’t automatically save your phone number reputation.
Prepare Your Business Communication Better
The sad truth about connecting with potential customers by phone is that nowadays, people are much less likely to answer than they used to. This is particularly true for younger generations, who grew up with instant messaging (and the bombardment of spam calls).
Phone calls should be part of a prepared business communication plan. That always has the goal of building rapport with a potential customer or client.
Cold calls are less effective these days, so your goal should be to establish a relationship before you call them. Reach out with a personalized email or text that mentions how you got their information and says that you will follow up with a phone call sometime soon. An example text is, “Hi Client Name! Thanks for submitting your phone number through our website form. We’re adding you to our database and we’ll call you with more information on our great deals.”
Reaching out via email & including your phone number in the signature is also a great way to game smartphone software. Often, the phone software will scan a customer’s text messages to give them the name of the caller, not just their contacts. If your email is already in their inbox, the phone software will read you as a legitimate business.
If you can, rely on personal referrals to get people’s phone numbers. Potential clients are much more receptive if you can point to a personal connection. If once you get on the phone, such as “your friend X told me you might be interested in our services.”
How to Get Rid of a Spam Likely Warning
All these tips are great for maintaining a positive phone number reputation. But they can’t turn things around if your phone number already got hit with the “spam likely” label. Maybe you made too many phone calls in one day or a customer reported your number as a spam call.
Either way, one of the major phone providers is blacklisting your number.
The good news is that you’re not completely powerless in this situation. Reach out to a carrier that you know mislabeled your phone number and ask how you can petition to get it removed. The problem is that every carrier uses a different system, so you may have to go through a few different processes.
You can also reach out to phone providers ahead of time to ask if they have databases of legitimate businesses that you can add your number to. Remember that their goal isn’t to make your life difficult but to protect their customers. So most providers are happy to help you register your number (once you jump through their bureaucracy). Be sure to reach out to your own provider, as they will be more than happy to help a customer who also pays their bills!
Making Sure Your Calls Get Answered
Even with the proliferation of other points of contact with customers, such as social media and email, phone calls are still an important way to build rapport with customers. You can avoid the dreaded spam label by mixing cold calls with calls to warmer prospects. Also introducing your business before making phone calls, and using multiple numbers. If all else fails, most phone providers let you contest a spam label.
Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.
Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.