Although texting and email have taken over much of the communication world, phone calls are still an important component of customer service. Your business can avoid the headaches that often accompany customer service calls by using tools like automatic number identification (ANI).
ANI is important when it comes to maintaining customer satisfaction. It reduces unnecessary transfers and shortens wait times, which affect especially important metrics for your business. Surveys have consistently found that customers dislike being on hold, with nearly 90% of customers stating that hold times should not exceed five minutes.
It’s important to understand and consider how you can take advantage of the benefits of ANI. Consider that ANI can ensure that your business is offering the best possible customer service experience.
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What Is Automatic Number Identification (ANI)?
AT&T developed ANI to simplify internal long-distance billing. With this technology, telephone operators no longer had to manually request origin numbers for calls. Instead, the system provided automatic identification of phone numbers’ origins.
ANI is beneficial to many industries, including emergency services, but businesses primarily use it in contact centers. When a customer places a call, the system automatically identifies and displays the origin phone number. Even if you’re not familiar with the term ANI, this process still probably sounds familiar because of the widespread use of caller ID. While the two features are similar, the technology behind them is different.
Another feature similar to ANI is called a domain number identification service (DNIS). The terms are sometimes treated as interchangeable, but ANI and DNIS meet separate needs. In basic terms, ANI identifies the source phone number while DNIS identifies the original destination number. To clarify the difference and the purpose of DNIS, consider the following example.
Your business has multiple departments that interact with customers, and each department has a specific phone number. However, these numbers are routed to the same contact center. When you receive a call, DNIS determines which of the numbers the caller used so that the call can be routed to the appropriate agent. ANI, on the other hand, would use the caller’s phone number for routing.
The Benefits of ANI for Contact Centers
There are multiple benefits to using ANI in your business. Most importantly, it makes your business’s contact center more efficient, effective, and profitable.
Connections & Call Backs
A contact center with ANI can easily identify where the caller is located. This is important because it simplifies the process of connecting customers to the most appropriate agent.
For example, your business may have customers from various parts of the country or even the world. Due to the nature of your goods or services, a customer must speak with an agent who specializes in that particular place. ANI uses area and country codes to directly route calls to the best agent.
When a customer service representative receives a call with ANI, it is also much easier to reach back out to the caller if the conversation is disconnected unexpectedly. The agent does not have to request the caller’s number because ANI instantly retrieves the information, which eliminates errors in case the agent needs to call the customer back.
Efficiency & Accuracy
In addition, receiving the caller’s phone number allows customer service agents to provide more efficient and accurate service. More specifically, businesses can set up the system so that the phone numbers bounce against a customer database and retrieve customer characteristics.
These characteristics are important for accomplishing tasks like:
- Determining what specific service a customer receives
- Establishing how frequently the customer has called customer service
- Identifying the customer’s service address
Using customers’ phone numbers for identification allows for routing that is tailored to the customer’s specific needs. It also prevents unnecessary transfers of the customer from one department to another that sometimes occur because the initial agent misunderstood the customer’s needs. This shortens the amount of time that a customer spends on a call and saves both the customer and agent time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere.
ANI supports efficiency because the agent does not have to request and record as many customer details. This in turn decreases customer frustration, which can lead to negative encounters and lower customer retention.
Looking Under the Hood: How ANI Works
Service providers use different methods to transmit phone number data with ANI. Many of them use a digital multi-frequency tone (DTMF), which creates a data burst with an assigned number sequence.
Like caller ID, the data transmitted with ANI gives the caller’s origin number. However, ANI:
- Bypasses caller ID blocking services
- Is more accurate than caller ID
- Gives the approximate geographical location of the caller, which is useful for emergency services
If your contact center uses interactive voice response (IVR), ANI can also automatically recognize a customer’s account without requiring customer input.
How To Start Using ANI for Your Contact Center
If you decide that your business would benefit from ANI, research your options carefully. Businesses can install equipment or subscribe to services that enable them to access ANI.
Call center software that uses ANI can effectively route calls, compile data, and keep detailed call records. Some of these services also include other features that can help to optimize your customer service process. For example, Aloware’s contact center allows your business to keep accurate, clearly organized, and up-to-date records of customer phone numbers.
Once ANI is enabled, create some basic training materials for customer service representatives, especially emphasizing if they are no longer responsible for tasks like requesting customer phone numbers. You may also need to modify agent scripts or IVR prompts to account for the presence of ANI.
High-quality customer service is essential to the long-term success of your business, and ANI is a relatively easy and fast way to enhance your contact center system. In addition to simplifying your employees’ work process, you can also create a faster, less frustrating experience for customers. Without extensive wait times and annoying call transfers, your customers can instead focus on all of the excellent goods and services that your business has to offer.