Many contact centers use a service provider to add, flag and update phone numbers on a call list. In many cases, they are allowing someone else to decide which phone numbers are the best.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to reach your unreachables, increase your contact ratio and improve your conversion rate. Contact centers just need to know what to ask for.

The following is a breakdown of the options available to ensure the best possible results, as well as an examination on how phone append processes can vary so widely.

Different Types of Source Files

Phone Book Compiled: This phone number information is drawn from scanned data on phone books. These numbers were accurate and verified by the phone company, but there’s no guarantee that the phone number is still active (updated once a year). This white page data can be used for marketing as long as the phone numbers are scrubbed against the do-not-call lists and cell phone suppressions. This type of data must also meet all the necessary regulatory requirements.

Directory Assistance (DA): Can be thought of as an up to date phone book “what’s in the phone book if it was published today”. DA data are typically updated every 24 to 48 hours so it is very current and contains newly connected phone numbers. It also contains some records which are not published in the phone book. Important pieces of information relating to addresses may be missing if the resident requested that information not be shown.

Public Utility Files: Contain phone numbers from either a phone company or other public utility. These are generally very good in quality and completeness, but they generally are very fragmented, only covering specific market areas. This information is hard to compile and has limited possibilities when it comes to calling. Typically marketing use is not allowed, but there may be exceptions for particular call sponsors (political campaigns, fundraising/non-profits, government, etc.) or for specific call purposes like market research surveys, political polling, health or emergency notification, etc.

Proprietary Compiled: Is assembled from non-typical, generally non-utility sources of phone numbers. This data can be useful in filling in some gaps in phone company original datasets, but the recency of this information is pretty unstable. These proprietary databases are “pulled/extracted” from registrations, warranty cards, volunteered information. Since some of these data sources is “self-reported,” there is no guarantee to its accuracy.

Special Use Files: Compilations of records with specifically allowed uses. They are often similar in restrictions to utility based information, but they are not built primarily from utility information. There is a wide variety of special purpose data in the marketplace, including those that provide limited cell phone information and those built primarily from voter registration records, which is generally limited only for use in political campaigns. Most of the phone numbers available from these special purpose files come with some kind of restriction. In fact, if someone tries to sell a special purpose file that has no restrictions proceed with caution.

What Constitutes “Good” Phone Number Data?

Once there is an understanding on what “type” of data is available there are many more factors that need to be considered before processing your files.

When shopping for phone appending services ask your provider how many different sources they use and the approximate number of contact records to which they have access. In general, bigger is better. Search effectiveness, is where the art of phone appending comes into play. Just having access to phone numbers doesn’t mean your provider is going to find them. Ask them how “tight” their matches are. There should be different Confidence Levels for your review.

If you or your client only want to speak to a specific individual, tell your provider you don’t want “household” or “address” level matches. Reputable data service companies only want you to have the data that best meet your business’ need.

Recency of Data: How quickly updates from the phone companies are integrated into the data

Percent Populated: How frequently do each name and address fields contain a value (especially the first name and street address which are often intermittent)

Geographic Coverage: How many phone numbers a process has access to as a percentage of the total phone numbers available in a particular geographic area.

Types of  Coverage: Does the service provide: Landline and/or Cell Phones, Business and/or Residential Phones Published and/or Non-Published Phones

Permissible Purpose: For what purposes can the phone numbers be called – common purposes include marketing, non-profit, survey, funds/donation solicitation, political, collections and employment verification. Another very important and related issue is whether or not the phone numbers are on one of the state or national Do-No-Call lists.

What is the Purpose of Your Call?

All phone calls are not treated equally. It is well-known that making a call to tell a potential customer about a great new product is treated very differently legally from a call made to notify a customer or patient of an upcoming scheduled appointment. Specific Calls to a candidate’s campaign are differentiated from those for a statewide ballot measure; political survey use is now being differentiated from fundraising solicitation calls. Nonprofit Calling Campaigns are all treated differently.

A good example of this type of oversight is that of previous relationship. Are the individuals to whom a call is being made customers of the calling organization? If so, there must be additional information about the calling record that is not available if the individuals are not members? This isn’t really a matter of whether or not a person is on the Do Not Call (DNC) list. All companies making outbound calls need to pay very close attention to following the FTC’s DNC regulations. Identification of customers and call purpose is about having the most targeted information available prior to calling.

With all of these possibilities at your disposal make sure you tell your phone append service provider exactly what your specific needs are and work with them to get you the proper counts and most reliable phone numbers possible.