Toll-free Verification for Text Messaging: Q&A with a Tier 3 Support Engineer
Stay Compliant and Avoid Toll-free SMS Disruptions
Toll-free numbers will soon need to be verified in order to continue service. If you’re using a toll-free number as part of your SMS campaigns, you will need to start the verification process soon in order to continue reaching your users.
This isn’t the first time we have helped our customers navigate industry changes to how they use SMS. We sat down with Sierra Serrette, a Tier 3 Support Engineer at TextUs, to ask her about the toll-free number verification process and give advice to help you transition easily.
Q: What does a Tier 3 Support Engineer do?
Most big issues come my way. I take backend provider calls, work on new changes or service issues and understand how to bring that back to the customer. I also work on remediation issues like with the 10DLC process. I make sure that compliance and verification is handled in a timely manner. With 10DLC we were able to get all failures to brand and get them across the finish line.
Q: What is toll-free texting?
Toll-free numbers are business lines that allow organizations to send and receive text messages from an 800 number. The most common use case is for transactional messaging such as account-related alerts, notifications, and customer care messaging.
Q: What changes are coming to toll-free text messaging?
The verification process will update the filters that a phone number goes through when a text is sent. There are some filters in place now but they will become more filtered. You will see a higher deliverability rate if you are using a marketing use case. You will also see less false positives on deliverability. For example, some providers will say a text has been sent but in reality it hasn’t. The pathway to reach a backend provider will also let them see verified traffic and fix a problem to restore full functionality quicker. If your toll-free number isn’t verified, you could see a total blockage of your text messages.
Q: How is this different from 10DLC? What if users already registered there?
If they are already registered with 10DLC it will be easier to verify your toll-free number since we can bring over some of the existing information. An end user will have to add their opt-in policy and a screenshot of where they collect the opt-in.
One of the biggest differences from 10DLC is that toll-free verification has a clear and concise opt-in policy. 10DLC doesn’t need to see how companies collect their data.
Q: How do you opt-in customers?
The most common way that we have seen with customers is to have an opt-in box that says someone can contact them.
Since we work with staffing and recruiting agencies, job forms and manual input can be a factor. Some candidates will send a physical form to an office and they will just send us a PDF for proof of consent. A job application online lets you enter a phone number and that is a valid pathway to show consent.
No matter the opt-in choice, it has to be written consent.
Q: What if you already have that baked into your terms and conditions?
The opt-in forms are different. I actually include terms and conditions and privacy policies as a separate item within the verification process. This part isn’t required but it helps round out the verification and show more transparency.
Q: How long will it take to verify toll-free numbers?
It typically takes 2-3 days but there has been a delay of up to 14 days with everyone in the industry trying to get their numbers in.
Q: What steps are included in verification?
If we already have it, we collect all 10DLC information not including their EIN. For toll-free verification we do need customers to provide how many messages they are sending on average a month. We will go in and pull the backend data for that or look at the sales team predictions for usage.
We also need to collect message samples from their account to see the types they are sending. We generally will pull transactional messages such as account notifications, system alerts, and surveys since these are primarily the types of content seen in toll-free SMS.
Q: What happens if someone starts the verification process but misses the deadline? Is there a grace period?
The hard deadline is September 30. There could be a backlog from everyone in the industry racing to the finish line. We started the toll-free number verification process in April and are currently 90% verified.
Q: Can you verify multiple numbers at once?
Yes. Once we have all the necessary information, we can do bulk processing. Customers don’t need to provide anything additional. If the entire organization has more than five toll-free numbers, we will need to know each use case to go support them with the backend provider.
Q: Is an API available?
Not yet. I have made a feature request so hopefully one day it will live on the account settings like 10DLC does.
Q: How is TextUs helping customers?
We try to make it as easy as possible. We were able to register most traffic without having to contact the end user. We identify all of the numbers as quickly as possible so customers won’t see any errors or miss the deadline.
Q: Any tips or closing advice?
If you’re a current TextUs customer and unsure if your number is verified, please email us or visit our help center. The verification process is free and we work hard to make it easy on you so that you won’t see a disruption in service!
One final note: While this will verify traffic and provide easier remediation, users will still be held to the same standards. You will need to continue including opt-in and opt-out language— especially on campaigns. You will also want to stay away from SHAFT (sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco) messaging or participating in “get quick rich schemes” to continue compliance and keep the SMS community spam free.
Sierra Serrette is a Tier 3 Support Engineer at TextUs. She specializes in keeping SMS customers compliant and troubleshooting the highest level issues.
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