Call Data Quality: How to Handle Area Code Changes

In recent years, the North American Numbering Plan Administration (NANPA) has overseen more than 40 new area codes in the United States. These new dial codes have affected more than 50 million phone numbers and impact locations all over the country. For anyone with a database of contacts (especially direct-sale companies and telemarketers), area code changes are an inconvenience at least. At worst, they can be a big problem... Without the correct area codes, companies are left with invalid, outdated phone numbers. This means more redials than necessary, extra rework for team members, and even lost revenue if a valid number would have resulted in a sale. For the sake of three little digits, that's a lot of extra work. Clearly, new dial codes represent a data quality concern for businesses of all data quality tipsWhy New Codes Affect Call Data Quality

If area code changes happened all at once, the problem would be relatively easy to manage. There are two different kinds of area code changes – a split and an overlay. Understanding the difference helps to define the issues that they create for your call data quality. An area code split divides the geography covered by a single area code. In this case, half of the residents and businesses in the affected region keep their original number. At the same time, the other half change all of their numbers to a new area code. This occurs in one fell swoop and businesses need to know which section of their customer base (and call list) has been affected. On the other hand, an overlay is the addition of a new area code over an existing, established area code. The issue here is that area code splits and overlays are so frequent and complex that more and more sophisticated processing is needed every time. Numbers are exhausted increasingly quickly, which means that this process must be undertaken repeatedly. This can be both expensive and time-consuming for your business. The botttom line is knowing what type of change is underway, when it's happening, and what percentage of your call list is affected. Easier said than done! With all of this change every few months, how can business owners and sales teams keep up?time for area code changesHow to Keep Up with Area Code Changes

There are various ways to update your database when area codes split or overlay. Some of your options include:

Repeated Manual Checks

Get a listing of modified area codes and manually dial the numbers you have in that area code. This is trial and error, but for a handful of numbers your team can find the right one and update your records. For an extensive list, however, this approach takes a lot of time and is rarely cost-effective. Nonetheless, for a small business with a less substantial database, this might be the only option available.

Turn to Software

Hire a programmer to write custom software that will update new area codes in your database. This means providing your expert with the key information he or she will need to do the job. The programmer needs to know the following:

  • Which area codes are changing,
  • The new area code(s) being rolled out,
  • The date on which the change occurred,
  • Whether the change happened before or after your database was last updated,
  • Which fields in your database should be updated (multiple phone fields, fax numbers, etc.)

You may think all this extra information needed is unnecessary, but it is critical to programming the software correctly and not creating even more data quality issues. Given that tens of thousands of area code combinations may need modification and programmers come at a premium cost, this is usually the most expensive solution.

Get a Professional Cleaner

Find a data hygiene provider who will clean and update your database for you. This kind of data cleansing exercise might be a recurring exercise if you have a lot of phone numbers and cover a large geographic area. Some hygiene providers offer "plug and play" solutions that work with your existing system. In this scenario, you can often purchase the program and remove the need to outsource the actual cleansing work. This can help reduce data entry errors and fill in missing dial code data, for example. In many cases, your budget and the resources available internally will dictate which option makes most sense. If the data quality issue is in its early stages, for example, you could be in a position to handle the updates manually in-house. Set up a monthly review/update process and keep tabs on how much time it takes to complete. When it begins to become more of a burden than it's worth - or when call data quality issues arise even with this process in place - it's time to look at a more comprehensive fix. Whichever solution you choose, be aware that your current database is only as accurate as the next area code change. Make sure that you have someone in the business who is tasked with keeping on top of these changes so that you can maintain high call data quality and act on rising error rates before they become a major problem.  [search-tag]

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