February 13, 2019

SHAKEN and STIR’d, Is Your Business Ready For This Protocol?

fcc caller id changes

Caller ID became a big deal in the ’90s. Now it’s essentially expected with an incoming call. This innovation even put an end to prank calling. Unfortunately, anyone with a phone today knows that a big problem is spam calls and they’re getting worse.

That’s why the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) informed major telecommunications companies that it’s time for a change. In a letter to 14 telecom CEOs, FCC chairman Ajit Pai indicated that significant progress must happen by the end of 2019. If not, the government may exercise compliance enforcement action.

Stopping the robocalls is up to the individual companies. Additionally, the FCC plans to utilize reasonably new technology that takes caller ID a step further. The goal? To authenticate callers in real time with a new system implementation called SHAKEN/STIR.

The technology verifies and guarantees the authenticity of the caller and identifies them before answering. So, is your business ready for SHAKEN and STIR’d? Here’s what you need to know going forward.

The Robocall Problem

Companies make billions of spam calls every year. These are annoying, and a large portion of them are also illegal. That’s because some are improperly using a technique known as caller ID spoofing. This tactic makes it possible for callers to mask their actual name and phone number. Using a service, they instead display a different name and number, sometimes even from the call recipients home area.

Additionally, most companies purchase their call lists randomly. That means most of the people on their lists aren’t qualified leads. More often than not the leads are entirely uninterested in the products or services.

The adoption of voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP), which connects phone calls via the internet instead of telephone lines, makes displaying fake telephone numbers far easier. Not only are these calls much cheaper, but pretty much any number can be made up as the source of a call.

This method of spoofing is used to trick people into answering phone calls from unknown numbers. Once they answer, a voice, often a robot, launches immediately into a sales pitch or scam hook. Hence, it’s not uncommon for these shady businesses to completely ignore the National Do Not Call Registry.

SHAKEN and STIR’d Is The Solution

It’s difficult to accurately verify two essential aspects: that the number showing up on the screen is the same making the call, and that the person has the authority to use that number.

In early 2015, experts in identity verification started development on a system that does both these things. It is cheekily named the SHAKEN/STIR framework. The acronym is derived from, Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs and Secure Telephone Identity Revisited.

STIR is the part of the framework that guarantees no spoofing of a number along the way. This system electronically validates phone calls as they make their way through the many networks needed to complete a call. In theory, this allows a telecom firm to verify that an incoming call is coming from the listed source.

SHAKEN is the part of the system that verifies the caller has legitimate access to that number. Without this technology, people display any caller ID and pass it off as their own.

Limitations of SHAKEN/STIR

The advent of this technology does not immediately cease all robocalls. It doesn’t even technically stop robocalls at all. It does, however, create an environment that’s much more difficult for them to thrive.

While no one knows the final details, some propose, an “all clear” indicator should appear next to an incoming phone call. This indicator confirms whether or not a call passes SHAKEN/STIR algorithms. Some experts even suggest a symbol similar to what social media platforms use to denote verified profiles. This method is familiar and straightforward to adopt.

What Does SHAKEN and STIR’d Mean For SMBs?

Architects of SHAKEN/STIR designed the system with the hope to effectively eliminate robocalling. Although the framework doesn’t block incoming calls, it at least verifies callers. Hopefully, this insight gives people helpful information in avoiding unverified spam calls.

What does this mean for small and medium businesses (SMBs)? If they engage in legitimate business, they can expect a rise in answer rates upon implementation. Consumers answer more calls once they trust that the caller isn’t spam or fraud.

To take advantage of these changes, here are some things that your business can do right now.

You need to ensure complete and total compliance. Make sure that all relevant parties in your company understand the coming changes. Also, implement systems that meet or exceed these new standards.

Next, you’ll want to ensure the creation of accurate opt-in lists. SHAKEN and STIR come from people’s frustrations with unsolicited phone calls. Avoid the headache, and create a dial list of people that opt-in to communication from your company. Not only does this increase customer happiness, but it’s also just a good sales tactic.

Lastly, examine your current systems. You don’t want people marking your calls as potential spam. You may need a top-down examination and scheduled testing to understand the dispositions of your outgoing calls. Even a brief mistake is costly when trying to build a good reputation with your caller ID.

Moving Forward with SHAKEN/STIR

Upon implementation of this new tech, there’s no sudden flip of a switch. Different service providers even plan to release their versions at different times. However, that doesn’t mean you have much time to wait. The FCC promises to come after telecom companies that aren’t compliant towards the end of 2019. Therefore, it’s a reasonably safe bet that it’s happening sooner rather than later. Are you ready to be Shaken AND Stir’d?