If you're like me, the number of Robocalls that attempt to reach you in a day tends to outweigh the number of spontaneous calls from friends and colleagues that reach any of my VoIP or Mobile phone numbers. Long time industry marketer and product maven Alan Percy or TelcoBridges has a really nice recap for the SIP community surrounding STIR/SHAKEN, new protocols designed to cut down on the annoying calls being placed. Give it a read.
Here's my take:
The industry isn't wrong in wanting to deal with the growing problem. Recent stats from former client, YouMail, shows that the number of robocalls are increasing, not decreasing. A second proof point is how progressive mobile operators are dealing with the problem. Based on the problem growing and becoming so annoying, T-Mobile rolled out NAME ID, a service that in many ways mimics what YouMail has been doing for years, using crowdsourced data and predictive analytics to stop calls from reaching you before they ring your number. GoogleVoice has had the opportunity to block calls or play a message to stop unwanted callers from reaching you, and cloud providers like Telzio and Dialpad (I'm an option holder in both) have done the same.
But there's an unwanted side-effect to STIR/SHAKEN which Percy points out. Its the legitimate business which is using automated calling to reach their customers getting affected. Banks, doctor's offices, restaurants and airlines all need to be given the "trusted" caller designation. Securing the approved status process will add complexity and cost to the businesses, while not providing a clean solution to their need to be able to contact their customers with important messages when current IP calling technology can improve communications, not stop it.
Put the call in the app.
Companies like UBER are putting the communications channel to their customers "inside" their applications. Here are a few examples of where in-app calling, using SIP or WebRTC would change the game:
- OpenTable-even in our app driven era, restaurants still call you to "confirm" your reservation. If OpenTable incorporated WebRTC the app can be used just like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, FaceTime and a message to confirm your reservation or cancel can be sent. The customer would then have a choice in calling back through the app, or using the app's messaging capability to update their reservation. If a conversation was needed, from the app, the restaurant (or their call center) could be reached. Restaurants could also provide better drop off and parking instructions.
- Doctors-my personal physician sends out voice mail health tips and notifications about webinars to watch on the MDVIP platform. MDVIP could develop an app that uses WebRTC to provide secure doctor, patient communications, including both time sensitive and not so sensitive calls. This would allow "messages" to appear in my inbox that are "about me" vs. "for me" to listen to, as well as allow calls that really matter to not be lumped in with the robocalls.
- Flight Delays-I use TripIt and their flight notifications about delays and cancellations usually beat the airlines emails, calls or texts messages even in our era of in-app notifications. What's worse is the airlines "call" me to tell me what I already know sometimes as long as 20 minutes after TripIt does. I've even had American Airlines and Delta both call me while I'm in flight to tell me what I already knew about my connection.
Like the doctor's office solution, using the app to receive a call or message would move the automated calls off the PSTN, Mobile and VoIP networks, and put them where the recipient could do more with the call. In the airline situation, the passenger could be presented with options like-book me on the next flight; that they need a hotel room; return me to my point of origin, or alert customer service that they'll address it when they land. This would completly transform how flight delays and travel disruptions are handled, allowing the airport staff from the airlines to deal with the most critical problems, and to be staffed accordingly.
- Banking-Some banks are getting better at using text messages to alert you to transactions that are questionable. That said, often you need to "talk" to a banker. WebRTC in app, and in the browser, would allow for the data about the matter that's on screen to be communicated to an agent who can handle your situation directly, not force you to go through an IVR/decision tree, and then be passed from support person to support person, while also having to explain over and over again and go through verification each time.
- Food delivery services/Restaurants/Drivers-Just like UBER, there's often a need for customer, supplier, delivery driver to communicate. Using in-app calling would connect the driver with either the restaurant or the customer via a dedicated channel. Too many times calls from delivery drivers end up in voice mail, leading to frustrations.
- UPS/FedEx-Deliveries coming from FedEX often trigger a notification call. While much of this information can be moved to a text message in app, sometimes a call to FedEx or UPS is needed to make sure the delivery isn't going to be missed or stranded over a weekend, or can be delivered to another location (unless you're buying from Apple that is.) Here, migrating the call off of the PSTN will allow for the tracking number and related information to be visibile to the caller and the agent, allowing for more rapid handling of what's needed.
There are likely many other scenarios where "automated" calling can be moved away from the traditional approaches to more elegant, and purposeful solutions over the data network. Since we already have VoLTE, VoIP and such a heavy use of other apps to call with, isn't it time that the same solutions we use for social communications become more useful to our everyday life?
Got a suggested problem/solution? Share it with me via a comment.