Top Takeaways from the Somos 2018 Toll-Free User Summit

Last week, the RingBoost team was in Las Vegas for the 2018 Toll-Free User Summit hosted by Somos.

With speakers and panelists from the FCC, Google, Salesforce, SAP and other top American companies, it was an event eagerly anticipated in tech and telecom circles alike.

The topics were themed around “The Path to Powerful Conversations” and focused on several key areas for our industry, including:

  • regulatory changes
  • technological advancements
  • best practices to maximize business use of toll-free numbers.

Somos Toll Free User Summit Logo 20184 Key Takeaways from the Somos Toll-Free User Summit 2018

After a two days of sessions, speakers, and even a little voluntary service, we tried to distill everything down to the most important messages from this year's summit.

Here are some of our top takeaways:

It’s not a number, it’s a brand ID.

The phrase “toll-free phone number” has become a misnomer. It’s not really about who is being charged for the call, nor is it even strictly about voice calls nowadays. It's much more than that, as several Somos Toll Free User Summit sessions made clear.

The future of toll-free is as a brand identifier that leads to some kind of connection between customer and business.

With advancements in messaging such as toll-free texting and rich communication service (RCS), these connections become increasingly omnichannel and bidirectional – leaving it up to the consumer to choose their preferred method of communication. Empowering consumers and meeting them where they are most comfortable creates a favorable impression for any business. Chris Currie of Aerialink predicts that the future of toll-free will revolve around a hybrid of voice and messaging, and pinpointing the right mix for target audiences will create a big advantage to brands.

What happens after connection matters.

While one of the main benefits of a toll-free number is encouraging customers and prospects to make contact, what happens once they do makes a huge impact on your brand impression.

Keynote speaker and futurist Blake Morgan spoke about how “more is more” when it comes to delivering excellent customer service when a client reaches out. The contact center of the future is moving away from rigid scripts and adapts to customer needs to deliver service that builds loyalty and increases long-term revenue.

Immediately after her talk, Shantanu Misra from Google walked through the AI advancements being used to move away from decision trees toward a focus intent-matching and slot-filling. The ability to process and parse natural language reduces some of the key frustrations with traditional IVR trees that are deep, complex, and require frustrating repetitive data entry.

Furthermore, it’s not just great for the caller. Agents also reduce time to answers as the AI technology responds in real time, anticipating and delivering potentially helpful information without time-intensive search processes. Mr. Misra demonstrated the advantage to both sides through a Ticketmaster case study that took a voice-activated IVR tree from 13 steps for a ticket purchase down to three using natural language processing. Not only is it a more favorable experience for the ticket purchaser, but the contact center is now able to address a greater volume of inquiries with ease.

Fraud prevention remains a priority.

Many of the technological and regulatory advances are aimed at reducing the abuse of toll-free lines including identify theft, spoofing, and traffic pumping. Bo Young from SYKES explained that even with legitimate calls, 7-14% of the time spent by call center agents is in identification verification.

Many speakers were confident that the focus on using technologies such as Shaken and Stir and blockchain communication will enhance security, while reducing the verification burden on consumers.

Jay Schwarz from the FCC emphasized that the number one consumer complaint is the abuse of robocalling and underlined how the FCC has become more aggressive at enforcing anti-spoofing regulation, enacting nearly $200m in fines over the past several months.

The toll-free secondary market is coming.

The FCC recently announced a pilot program for auctioning of high-value 833 toll-free numbers. In an important session for Toll Free User Summit attendees, one of the organization's advisors, Jay Schwarz, went deeper into the mission of the program.

Dr. Schwarz explained that the goal is to acknowledge the value of these resources and ensure they are placed in the hands of people who want to create further value with them. As an economist, he believes in the power of markets and emphasized that an open market is the long term goal. However, he expressed the desire to structure it properly (hence the pilot program) and acknowledged that there will be a learning curve to make sure it’s implemented fairly.

Secondary Market Panel TFUS2018On a panel discussion (pictured above) about what the secondary market will mean for the players in the industry, RingBoost VP Paul Faust was optimistic that the introduction of a secondary market will empower innovation among providers and encourage businesses to invest more heavily in these valuable assets.

Overall, the tone of the conference was one of excitement, ambition, and forward momentum.

The toll-free industry is on the cusp of tremendous growth and opportunity, and the enthusiastic anticipation was felt by all in attendance at the 2018 Somos Toll-Free User Summit.

For more on this, check out our Facebook page to see photos and other related content from the conference.

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