At this year’s Toll-Free User Summit in Chicago, the industry participated in a series of compelling conversations about the latest trends in the world of Toll-Free. I’ve been thinking about all the ideas and insights that many of you shared with us, and there are three that stand out as definitive touchpoints for the future of our industry:
1. Persistence of Voice in Conversation
Today, consumers have more power than ever before. And they want the convenience of everything they need right at their fingertips. The panelists discussed how consumers want to use their voice to get things done, and how engaging with in a dynamic multi-modal conversation with the consumer is the true differentiator. Consumers want to have problems solved quickly and get the help or advice they need immediately. As a result, there are more calls coming into businesses than ever before. In 2018, mobile search will drive 73 billion calls to enterprises, as opposed to just 30 billion in 2013. The incoming generation of consumers — Gen Z — are the most likely to click to call a business after an online search. And the most important fact: consumers who place phone calls to businesses tend to convert faster, spend more money and engage more fully.
2. Texting over Toll-Free Numbers
And there is a rising demand for texting to businesses — 85% of consumers said they would want to exchange text messages with a business. The panelists discussed the innovation that’s happening with texting over Toll-Free Numbers today. The Texting to Toll-Free Numbers panel talked about how there is a significant opportunity for Service Providers to start text enabling their customers’ Toll-Free Numbers. To date only a small percentage of Toll-Free users have started the process to text enable their numbers, so the expansion into this communications channel is ripe for expansion. As Toll-Free technology evolves into its next generation of use cases, we need to come together as a team of engineers, developers, networkers, and business leaders to make it work. Enterprises are willing and ready to jump in, we just need to mature the ecosystem so that the trust and integrity inherent in Toll-Free numbers is ensured.
3. Auctioning of Toll-Free Numbers
On the first full day of Summit, the FCC voted 4 to 1 to approve a proposed rule-making that would allow the FCC to auction certain Toll-Free Numbers, including the 17,000 high-value 833 numbers, and eliminate some prohibitions on brokering, warehousing, and hoarding of Toll-Free Numbers. It would also create a secondary market for Toll-Free Numbers, which could change how they are acquired and provisioned. What still needs to be determined is the process for these new markets, the value a business would gain in an auction, and if there is a license or some other right associated with obtaining a Toll-Free Number.
This ruling could generate new types of businesses based on how this auction system will work. So I would encourage each and every Responsible Organization (Resp Org) to voice their opinions here. This is going to be a turning point for our industry, so please make sure that your perspective is included as this rule-making moves forward.
Overall, I am thrilled that our industry is so ignited with energy and new ideas for Toll-Free, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish before next year’s Summit in Las Vegas!