Your caller ID display name is something that you kind of take for granted, that your business name is just automatically, always going to show up whenever you call someone. That probably should be the case, but it’s unfortunately not how it always works.
If you think that some program or major telecom software is out there setting everyone’s caller ID name and keeping it updated, then you would be mistaken because someone has to deliberately set that name, so that the central database has the correct information in their records.
This article is going to give you all the information you need to know about your business display name, and how it all works. You’ll see how to make sure it always displays the correct name, what to do if it is incorrect, and how you can change it if needed.
1. It Doesn’t Happen Automatically
Firstly, in the telecom industry, the record with your caller ID display information is referred to as the CNAM record. Most people assume that as soon as they register a new phone number, the CNAM is automatically set, so that anyone you call will then see it.
This is a little tricky because although some service providers do actually perform that service for you automatically, you have to check with them, as many providers do not. An important point to understand here, as we’ve mentioned in some of our other posts, is that a carrier and a service provider are not the same thing.
If you take Verizon as an example, they are indeed the service provider and also the carrier, but that’s only because they’re so massive, like AT&T, that they actually serve as their own carrier. If you have a VoIP or other virtual service provider, they typically use outside carriers. Basically how that works is that whatever VoIP company you have is the service provider, the one you contact if you have questions or if there’s an issue with your service.
Your service provider, however, may have an outside carrier that actually activates and services their phone numbers. The carrier is the actual telecom company that services your number. So, the carrier has to intentionally set the CNAM for your number.
When your provider has a separate carrier, they put in a request to the carrier to set the CNAM to your company name. Again, they won’t always do this automatically, which means you may need to contact your provider and ask them to do it for you. It will usually be free, but some providers may ask a small fee for this service.
2. Let Your Carrier Know if Your Company Name Changes
Many businesses have the need, from time to time, to change the name that will display on the outgoing caller ID, even if it isn’t a complete company name change. It’s important to remember that your current CNAM will remain the same until you let your current provider know that it is different now and needs to be changed.
It’s definitely not a problem, and businesses do it all the time. You will need to contact them, though, and when you do, tell your provider exactly what it should be, so that they can reset it for you. Also, something they probably won’t tell you is that there is a standard 15-character limit for the display name.
That means that if you give them a name longer than that, the end of it is just going to be cut off. If you have a long company name, then you can either try to shorten it in some way, or just let it be cut off. You obviously may not want to cut your name off, so it might take some brainstorming to figure out some shortened version.
If your provider already set the CNAM for you when you signed up with them, then they might, again, charge a small fee to reset it; however, most providers don’t have a problem setting it for no charge.
3. It Might Take Some Time to Update
Here’s a point that is frustrating to a lot of business owners. After you go through the trouble to set the CNAM for your business number and your provider puts in the request, it can take a while in some cases.
Whether they do it automatically for you when you sign up, or you have to ask for it, there is usually a delay between the time the carrier gets the request for CNAM change, and the time it actually starts to display.
Though there are some cases when it goes into effect immediately, you should expect it to take at least 2 weeks for the process to complete. The reason for this is that the CNAM record change needs time to update across all the phone networks. Unfortunately, once you request it from your provider, they don’t always even submit it right away, meaning that process alone could take up to a few days.
Then, once the CNAM update is actually submitted to your current carrier, the carrier gives the updated information to Neustar, who has the central database for CNAM records in the United States. All carriers can then pull the updated information from Neustar so that it displays properly. This should all take no more than a couple of weeks at most.
If it is taking a really long time, then you should contact your service provider and let them know that there’s an issue. You can also get in touch with the actual telecom carrier, but as they usually only communicate with service providers, you might not be able to contact the carrier directly.
4. Update the CNAM when Switching Providers
Switching service providers is another time when you need to verify that the CNAM has your updated information. Whether you have a number that’s attached to a landline, VoIP account, or cell phone, the CNAM record needs to be updated just the same.
When you port (transfer) your phone number to a new provider, keep in mind that this will need to be done again because anytime you port your number to a new carrier for whatever reason, the data does not carry over. This works in the same way as when you sign up for a service and obtain a new number from them, as we already discussed.
Just as a provider will sometimes update the CNAM automatically when you get a brand-new number from them, but sometimes they won’t, the same is true when you switch from one provider to a different one. It’s a good idea to give your new provider a call and ask them about it to make sure the CNAM has been set and is up-to-date.
Give them the exact name, as it should display on your outgoing caller ID, and remember that the 15-character limit applies. This is unfortunately not something for which you’ll be notified, unless you ask, because a service provider either does it, or they don’t. Either way, they probably won’t let you know, which is why it’s necessary to contact them and make sure.
5. It Doesn’t Always Display Consistently
It’s unfortunate, but there is one aspect of CNAM that shouldn’t exist but does, for some reason. Even after your current carrier has properly set your CNAM for your business number(s), and plenty of time has elapsed to allow it to update across all the PSTN (traditional landline network) and cellular phone networks, it sometimes doesn’t display on the receiver’s caller ID.
The entire telecom system, though it is gradually catching up to today’s technology and the sheer volume of phone customers, is still pretty antiquated. Issues like this are caused by that very problem, and sometimes there isn’t really anything you can do about it. Here’s how it works, and this is why your company name may not display on someone’s caller ID when you call out.
As we mentioned before, everyone’s CNAM record is stored in the central database with Neustar. The way that your name is able to show up on the receiving phone’s caller ID is by that phone’s carrier pulling the record in real time and displaying it on the phone during an active call.
So, the receiving phone’s carrier does a “dip” to Neustar and pulls the CNAM record when you call. The problem occurs when that carrier fails to pull the up-to-date CNAM record and either displays an outdated name that they may have on file, or they don’t display one at all. It is standard practice for carriers to pull the updated CNAM for incoming calls, but as there is actually no governing body that forces them to do so, some carriers just don’t even bother.
There are a few reasons why your caller ID display name might not show up, whether that be that it hasn’t fully taken effect across all the phone networks, as we talked about earlier, or your service provider failed to submit the request for a change, or due to some clerical error.
If you have set the CNAM for your number, however, and confirmed that your provider went through with the request, then it is most likely not displaying because the receiving phone’s carrier didn’t pull your CNAM for the call. If you do some testing, you’ll probably find that it displays most of the time when you make calls to different numbers but doesn’t display when you call certain numbers.
That’s because most carriers are careful to pull the data for your display name. It’s a shame that there’s no organization that would serve as a sort of regulatory commission to make sure the most up-to-date CNAM information would always show up in caller ID and keep carriers accountable, but there currently is no such governing body to regulate it.
When you encounter this problem, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your service provider first to confirm that they have submitted the request for a CNAM record update. If your provider has pretty good service, they can probably work with you to get it remedied quickly.
You should now have a pretty good idea of what CNAM, what it means to you, and everything that goes into making your company name show up the way it should on caller ID. It’s actually much less confusing than it may seem.
All you really need to know is this: There is caller ID fairy that makes your current business name automatically show up when you call someone, and you need to make sure that your provider has updated the CNAM for your business number. Just check it every once in a while by doing test calls to a couple different numbers, and see what shows up.
If it shows up as what you would expect it to show, then you’re good and no action needs to be taken. If it shows up as an old name, some name you don’t know, or if it displays something like, “Illinois call” or “unknown”, then that’s when you need to get in touch with your service provider and take steps to update the CNAM record for your number.
Don’t panic if you see that it’s not displaying correctly because it’s most likely just a simple matter of updating it. This is a very common complaint of business owners because, of course, it’s very important that your customers see the correct name on their caller ID when you call them. If you address the issue with your provider as soon as you notice it, you can typically resolve it fairly quickly.