Call Center Empathy
Illustration by Pedro Nakazato Andrade

We all know Automatic Number Identification (ANI). You may recognize it better by the consumer-oriented term “caller ID.” While these two services are technically different, the objective—identifying the caller’s originating phone number—is the same. ANI is pretty much standard issue with toll-free service today, and even if you are not using it in any way, you likely have access to it for all your inbound traffic.

As customer expectations change, and compliance regulations grow, ANI has quickly morphed from “nice add-on” to “must have.” If you are not yet using ANI, you will soon. The benefits are simply too compelling to ignore. If you are using ANI today, you want to make sure that you are following the best practices that will allow you to get the most from it.

How ANI Helps

The value of ANI is found in its ability to accomplish two critical tasks:

  1. Identify many more callers within the menu than you ever could without ANI.
  2. Create a much simpler authentication procedure for your callers—which increases both your auto-authentication rate and customer satisfaction scores.

You will notice that each of those items use a slightly different term (“identify” and “authenticate”), and that is by design. In today’s world of identity theft concerns, privacy issues and compliance regulations, authentication is a multitiered process (for more, click on “The Authentication Matrix” below). To authenticate at a level that allows access to all information and transactions, a customer may need to match three or more pieces of personal information. ANI can be one of those matches, and it is the only one that succeeds without forcing the caller to do any work (like entering a 16-digit account number). This speeds up and simplifies the authentication routine, and most customers today greatly appreciate the convenience.

Ideally, we want to identify every caller and the reason for the call. That’s not always the case, but even if we only get part of the picture we can still improve the handling of the call.
Ideally, we want to identify every caller and the reason for the call. That’s not always the case, but even if we only get part of the picture we can still improve the handling of the call.

What happens, though, when a customer does not self-authenticate within the menu? If nothing at all has been matched, you have no option but to treat the caller as an “unknown.” Full manual authentication will be required by the agent, and if you have not determined the reason for the call you will need to send it to your most highly skilled group of agents. With ANI’s help, though, you can greatly improve the processing of these calls.

Matching the ANI to a phone record puts you at the first level of authentication—identification—and that offers quite a bit more potential. You can present a modified screen pop and reduce the amount of manual authenticating needed. You can also dip into the account and use it for more intelligent routing. If, for example, you are an insurance company and the caller recently submitted a claim, you can be reasonably certain that the call will be about the claim and route accordingly. Without any inconvenience to the customer, you sent the call to the right person and got to the meat of the conversation more quickly. That’s a win for the caller, the agent and the organization—all thanks to ANI.

Getting the Most from ANI

A common question I hear is, “What percent of callers can I identify using ANI?” Unfortunately, there is no set number. Your potential rests on two key factors. The first is the percent of callers dialing you from a PBX (meaning, they are most likely calling from work). ANI does not identify individual extensions from a PBX, so these calls will not match any number you have in a customer record. So, the higher the percentage of calls you get from a PBX, the lower your ANI match rate will be.

The more important factor, though, is the process you follow for capturing contact information from your customers. Your ANI match percent cannot possibly be higher than the percent of records with at least one phone number, and in many organizations this number is quite low. Building it up takes time, and to do so you will want to make sure that you:

  • Utilize a CRM system that allows for multiple phone numbers per customer record.
  • Enable customer record search results that reflect the multitiered approach to authentication needed today.
  • Ask for as much contact information as possible when enrolling new customers.
  • Have agents ask if they can add the phone number to the record when the ANI does not match any contact numbers for that customer.

Following those guidelines will help you reach your maximum ANI match percent. That means higher self-service rates, fewer transfers, more accurate routing and higher customer satisfaction.

Find Ways to Make It Easier to Identify the Caller

Down the road, there may be options available to us that can further enhance authentication rates. Visual IVR is a promising advancement that might work for some organizations, but the adoption rate for customers will take some time. For now, we need to find ways to make it easier to identify who is on the other end of the line, and ANI is something that everyone can utilize. Make the most of it, and you will help every call get off to the right start.

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