Optimizing Your Int'l Number Porting Strategy
International number porting can be complex - we can simplify it.
Porting, in general, can be a bit confusing. Porting international numbers can be downright daunting. But, if you’re looking for more global coverage to expand operations, lower current call rates or to change carriers and retain your phone numbers, number porting is the answer.
In this webinar, we’re highlighting the complexities of porting international numbers and how you can proactively help your new provider ensure an easy transition.
You’ll leave the conversation with actionable insight on:
- The benefits of consolidating your numbers and working with 1 carrier vs many
- Tips for porting internationally and avoiding pitfalls
- How to select the best CPaaS provider when consolidating your numbers
Welcome to today’s webinar - Optimizing Your International Number Porting Strategy. Joining me today are 3 of my colleagues here at AVOXI, each bringing direct expertise around our international porting capabilities. From the carrier management side, Jon Ross; from the product side, Jeff Cook; and for intricate knowledge of customer needs, Wikus Pretorius. Welcome presenters.
Because business phone numbers are one of your most important assets, it’s imperative to retain them as your business grows or needs change. While the international number porting process can certainly be complex, it doesn’t have to be difficult to implement.
Today, my colleagues and I will walk you through the porting process and show you how this service will simplify number management while expanding your global footprint to reach new markets, all without losing your business identity. The expert tips you learn today will help to achieve a modernized approach to number management, plus give you additional ways to improve operations and customer satisfaction.
Q1: So let's start with the basics. Jeff, What exactly is number porting and why should international businesses utilize this service?
So number porting is really transferring a legacy phone number to a new carrier. It's the ability to move that number in and allow you to switch to a VoIP provider from an old legacy system if you have it, which is really a good idea for contact center managers, IT managers, things of that nature who want to consolidate all their phone numbers in one area without having to go through the rigmarole of changing numbers. And updating all their websites, updating all their documentation. So again, it really consolidates it into one single area.
I think one of the other good things or the reasons to do porting is with the pandemic and everybody transitioning to work from home/ remote work, allowing businesses to take advantage of cloud infrastructure without having to change the whole brand of your company. We all have a digital footprint with your number. That is really the brand. That's how your customers get a hold of you. So being able to move to the cloud and keeping that brand of your telephone number is a huge plus for businesses. So that's why number porting makes things so easy to actually transition to that new workforce.
Q2: Okay, the next few questions will cover the typical porting process. So Wikus, can you kick us off with what should businesses know before getting started to ensure success?
Before you start, we recommend that you read over your existing contract with the current provider and ask yourself a couple of questions. So firstly, does your existing provider charge early cancellation fees? Some of these providers you might be in contract with, and even though in some countries carriers are not obligated to reject the Port based on the contract, you're still obligated to pay the rest of that contract. Other things are: is your account in good standing? You need to make sure that everything is up to date. Are there any special features that your new provider won’t provide? It's important that if you move to different carriers or different entities that you get the same service and even better services on that as well. So you don't go backwards. How do you deactivate any special services on current numbers as well? Specifically in South Africa, we've got customers who have ADS lines with a number on that line, and if you Port that number over, the losing entity, basically cancels all services on that. So you need to make sure that if you're porting over, that the services that you've got on there you want to cancel them, or if you want to still keep those services active on the previous provider, make sure that that is done as well.
Q3: Jeff, can you walk us through the rest of the typical porting process?
So typically there's a few steps that follow, checking everything there. Here at AVOXI, we have a self service option, so you can select the ported phone number option on our shopping cart, which will kick the process off. The other option is that if you're not specifically on AVOXI’s shopping cart, you can reach out to your sales rep or account manager to discuss the request with them and kick that off and get the ball rolling, so to speak. After you do that, there's a bunch of documents that you need to gather to ensure that you have all your all the information required, and that typically starts off with a letter of authorization that will need to be filled out. Also, I would recommend that you reach out to the losing provider and request a customer service record or some sort of report that lists all of your phone numbers out so you know exactly what you have with that carrier, and then you can get an idea of what your services are. To Wikus’ point earlier, you can get an idea of what your services are and what you need to account for as well. You obviously need to list off the numbers that you'd like to Port and provide all of the detailed information from the losing provider as well. And then lastly, on a typical Port, you really need a copy of your bill or your invoice within the last 30 days to make sure that it's up to date and nothing has changed. After that, it's really a case of submitting the documentation to your new carrier and getting the ball rolling there. The carrier will typically take a period of time to review all the documentation to make sure, again, everything is accurate so that we don't run into a situation where something as minor as a name and the address of the street is spelled wrong or something like that, it gives us a reason to reject that Port. So once all of that review is done. And we know that we have all the documentation we need or the carrier knows that they have all the documentation they need, at that point, the new carrier will reach out to the losing carrier to, basically what we call carrier submission. Right. So we'll submit that information over to the losing carrier so that they can begin their processing. They take a certain period of time, which I think we'll dig into a little bit later, but that can vary. So they'll take that time, review all of your documentation, and then they'll give you a date. They'll schedule the port time for you, whether that's a window of time or not, you will be notified. And then, of course, we would notify the customer. At that point the number gets transferred over to AVOXI. Once we have that number in, we assist with any of the set up, any of the forwarding that you need anything of that nature to make sure that again, service disruption doesn't happen and everything flows smoothly.
Yeah. I think listening to both Wikus and Jeff, I think one of the biggest takeaways that I'm seeing is just be transparent with both the losing provider and obviously the winning provider. If you can get them talking to each other before the Port happens, the likelihood of any rejections happening or anything like that is going to be minimal because it's not coming as a surprise to the losing provider. So if you can get those folks on the phone, explain to them why you're leaving and tell them who you're moving to. And if you have all three parties talking to each other, that's just going to make the whole process a lot easier, a lot smoother. And then there's amicable change over during that whole process.
Q4: Jon, can you round out the slide with some typical time frames for how long it normally takes?
Yes. So timelines vary by country. And the reason why they vary by country is each country has got its own set of rules that the regulator in a particular country will stipulate how long each losing provider has got to make a decision. And then also they can also have some rules around how long that actual process takes once the approvals happen. One of the unfortunate parts is that not all countries have that regulation. So, for instance, Wikus, in South Africa, I know that there are some regulations. How long is the mandate of time that carriers have got to respond to a service request?
Typically, it would be within one business day. But we've had instances where some of the carriers are able to work around those rules. And if you want to call it, play games as well, and they can extend those times. But luckily, we've got regulation and South Africa that up until the point you need to let that Port release. And there's only a set of reasons that you can actually reject at the end.
Yeah, that's great. It's very similar here in the US that it's regulated. I think it's five days for a toll free number to be ported that the provider has to respond to you. And again, they are mandated that they've only got five or six reasons that they can reject it for. But in other countries, it's really up to the losing carrier. We've had instances here where sometimes it takes 90 days to hear back just from the submission, and we're not even now talking about going through the process or anything like that. That's just to say, hey, yes, we've got your request. So I would say typically when number porting, bank on anything from 30 to 60 days in certain countries, it will happen probably within a week, and then a handful of countries will take a little bit longer. But I think this is where it's important when choosing the provider that you're porting to is what does their carry infrastructure look like? Are they dealing with the incumbent, in-country carrier on their side as the winning carrier, or are they the incumbent? The more experience winning carriers got, the quicker that that's going to go. So I think the timeline can also vary based on the provider that you look into. But rule of thumb, 30 to 60 days is what you should be looking at.
So the thing is, if all your documentation is correct and you've got all the correct information on your porting documents, those will speed up the times considerably. Going back and forth will extend that quite a lot if you don't have everything correctly.
Right. So if your documentation isn't altogether, it will really extend the time on a Port request as you go back and try to figure out why it was rejected, what information needs to change and getting your documentation back in order.
Yeah, definitely. I think that's where just the transparency comes in. If it gets rejected, you always go to the back of the queue again and they can use that as an excuse. So definitely have your house in order, as they say, make sure you've been transparent and that will really speed up the process.
Q5: So now that we have a good understanding of the typical porting process, let's talk through a few frequently asked questions that we've gathered. Jon, let's start with you. So if porting is available in a country, does that mean that all numbers in that country are also portable?
I really wish I could say yes on this one. So there are a number of things to take into account when looking to port the number. So obviously, first of all, is that number type. So you get a handful of number types, you get toll free, local geographic numbers, non geographic numbers, mobile numbers, to share cost numbers, to name a few. The regulator will specify what is and what is not portable. But then also to go one step further, it also depends on the carrier that you're using. Just as an example, here in the US, porting has been around for a long time, but we still sometimes run across some local geographic DIDs that are not portable. And the reason why they are not portable is the losing carrier does not have a porting agreement with the other large incumbent carriers. So it's always good to check those things before you make that business strategy about moving to the cloud or something like that is understanding who I'm going to, that contact cloud communication provider or whoever that is. Can they Port and then also check that they can Port from your particular carrier? So the main thing is from a regulation perspective, is the number portable? And that's changing all the time. And then second of all, are the two carriers that you're moving from and moving to, are they compatible? Do they have an agreement between the two, or do they have a similar partner that these numbers can be moved to?
So just to add on Jon's comments there. So in South Africa specifically, only geographic numbers were portable up until now, but we're having a change now in regulation, and from March (2022) onwards, toll free and non geographic numbers will be able to be ported as well. So that is quite good. The other thing is it's very important that the winning carrier has a good porting team as well. They can help you through this process and guide you through if the number is actually portable. If it's in a specific country where you think all numbers are portable, it might be, as Jon said, that that specific entity is not registered with the number portability entity in that country. And we've got the same issue in South Africa as well where some of these carriers aren't even registered there. So you can't port the number and that's quite an issue.
Q6: Okay. And then Jeff, how much does it cost to Port business phone numbers?
So some carriers may have a charge for porting, especially porting away to Wikus’ point earlier as well, there might be some contractual obligation that you'd need to be aware of in order to determine if you have to pay through the end of the contract or if there's any early cancellation fee or anything of that nature. So that's definitely something you want to watch out for. Here at AVOXI, there is no charge. So we'll process that for you and help manage, and to Wikus’ point earlier, we have a really strong porting team, so we'll help you out through the entire process. In a lot of cases, it would be free. But again, check with your losing carrier, ensure there are no fees, any kind of cancellation, early out scenarios that you'd have to contend with. And I think the other thing to bring up here too, is earlier, when I suggested getting a report or customer service records, I referred to it, to understand what all your numbers are - You may not be porting all of your numbers away. So if you Port, let's say you have ten numbers, you Port eight, you leave two behind, you'll get an invoice 30 days later for those two numbers that you weren't expecting. So again, fully understanding what the process looks like, what your book of business is, what you're moving, and then any fees or any invoices that would be upcoming.
Q7: So, John, I know that we touched on this a little throughout this discussion so far, but can you just elaborate on any additional challenges that could be encountered during the porting process?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, when changing anything, you can expect maybe one or two little bumps in the road as you go along. So once all your paperwork - I think we've discussed that, what could potentially go wrong on that side. But once it's being accepted by all parties and scheduled dates, one thing that I would always recommend is do it at a time where you can have maybe a little bit of bumps in the road with not every single call being done. So having some sort of maintenance window with your customers would always be a good thing. Make sure that on both sides, both the losing as well as the winning carrier, that they have resources available to work with if anything can happen. So as an example, in certain countries, when you change, all the carriers need to actually go look up who owns that number. Now, it may be that a carrier only looks at that once a day. It could be that they look at it every hour and check this database. So during that process, you can have a few calls that don't reach your network because it's moved from network A to network B. But yet, if I have not checked the database of who is the owner of that number, it potentially can get rejected by the old carrier. And again, it also differs by country. Every country has got its own little unique set up on how things work. So the biggest thing is what issues can you have? You can have slight calls that maybe not every single call reaches you. Worst case scenario, the number goes down completely. In rare instances, that can happen. But that's why it's important to make sure that you do it in a scheduled maintenance window, as well as ensuring that both carriers have resources available to you. And again, it goes back to being transparent about what's happening. Don't leave the old provider on bad terms. Try making an amicable split. So if something does happen, you can easily just phone their provisioning team or their support team and figure out what is going on there. That can definitely help things move along and be a smoother process if you have everybody lined up and ready to work with you.
And I think one of the things that in my past, what I've told customers is that you schedule it around to Jon's point, making sure the resources are available at losing carrier, winning carrier your company as well, but also typically try to avoid things like days of the week, certain days of the week where you know your business is going to be heavy, you're receiving a lot of calls. To be honest, I tried to steer customers away from Mondays and Fridays. Mondays, a lot of times people are coming off the weekend, it's a busy day. And then Friday, especially if you're porting in the afternoon, if you have an issue that runs a little bit long, you start losing resources as they go out for the weekend. So just something to consider.
Yeah, that's actually a great point. Don't try to port over the weekend as well. A lot of people will say, well, let me port on a Saturday because my business is closed, so I won't have any interruption. But keep in mind, potentially you won't have any resources available to you. So if something breaks on a Saturday, best case scenario, you're actually only getting someone looking at it on a Monday, and it's probably not 8:00 a.m. It's probably a little bit into their day because they're looking at some other things. So it's important to again, schedule it and make sure that everyone is available to work with.
Q8: Wikus, we've talked a little bit about service disruption. Can you just expand on that just a little. Will porting business phone numbers cause any service disruption normally?
Generally it should not if you've got the correct processes in place. Specifically while the number is being ported over to a different carrier. Jon mentioned this earlier as well. The routing tables need to be updated on all those carriers inside the country. So that is actually a really big process that needs to happen and there are lots of factors involved in that as well. So it might be that out of five carriers, four of them have updated their routing tables, but one of them may have failed. So that needs to be rerun then as well. So specifically with that, we also do not suggest that you cancel your services before the numbers have actually been ported over and the business is up, the services live. The reason for that as well, is if one of those carriers do fail, you can still receive calls on the old infrastructure until that routing table has been updated. Some other things that you need to look at as well is a lot of the time people don't set up all the services on their side on the new carriers infrastructure. So they would maybe have IVR, queues and everything set up on the old provider. But when they set up the new provider, they only set up inbound calls to one specific person to test with, but they never think of copying everything over that they've had set up before. So that could also be a factor in calls failing or maybe congestion being experienced on the customer side once that's moved over. But I mean, in general, that should not be an issue.
Yeah. I think that's where it's important when choosing the winning carrier that's got experience in porting, because I know, for instance, here at AVOXI, when I worked within the porting department, 99.9% of our ports went through with no issues. The customer did not lose any calls. But it all goes down to carrier relationship experience with international number porting to actually ensure that this is a smooth process. If your winning carrier doesn't understand the landscape of porting in that particular country, you have a high degree of running into issues. But if they've done it before and they know how to do it and they know what to expect, like Wikus mentioned, checking that everything is set up, testing it beforehand, then ultimately things will go through pretty smoothly normally. But it's all about, again, talking to everybody, testing, and then things should go through without a hitch.
It comes down to the porting team, and if they know what they're doing. I mean, specifically in AVOXI as well, we do test those numbers beforehand so we know that it reaches the customer. So we're ready once that port goes through. Jon also alluded to this earlier about don't port your numbers on a Friday. We also don't port numbers before public holidays, stuff like that. We've learned our lessons in the past through all of this, and we know what to expect from porting. So it's good to have a good porting team.
Q9: So we'll take the last few minutes here to talk through consolidating number portfolios. So, Wikus, what are the benefits of porting multiple numbers to one service provider? And I think that Jeff touched on this a little bit earlier, but can you walk us through that?
I think the main one would be you've got one point of contact for all of your services. So traditionally you would have multiple vendors in one solution. So maybe a telco that's giving you your telephone lines, a PBX vendor that gives you your system that you actually make calls on. They might be a vendor that's doing call recording for you and then somebody else that runs your call center. By moving all of your numbers to one provider, you've got the ability to consolidate all those services. And if you run into any issues, you just have to make one phone call to get that resolved. Any changes would be easier as well, because you don't have to manage multiple vendors to get something done as well. That's usually a big issue, is to get changes made because you have to contact two or three vendors to get something done. So it's very easy to just use one provider then.
Yeah. I think the other thing is also just understanding the carrier's process. So again, if only I have to understand one process, one software, one management tool, it's a lot easier than trying to remember five, six or seven. A lot of our customers have a large inventory of numbers. And if you just think if I have numbers in 20 different countries with, say 15 different providers, I have to make sure I document: how do I log into their portal, do they have a portal, how do I interact with them, what does that escalation process look like for any faults, cost management, all those kinds of things. But if everything's under one roof, it's a lot easier. But one point of contact from a service and support perspective, one portal that I log into, if the carrier has a portal, one escalation point. So I can get to know people like Jeff and the product team. And so when I have an issue, I can go to Jeff or if my service is not working, I've kind of got Wikus on a speed line there, so I can just phone them up and say, hey, this is what's going wrong, can you and your team please help me? As soon as you spread that across the world and time zones and everything like that, it becomes a lot harder to manage. Your records have to be just that much tighter on knowing everything. I think that is just the continuity of business. Working under one banner will make everyone's life so much easier.
To build on that a little bit, a lot of your carriers will give you visibility into how those numbers are performing as well. Right. So if you have everything consolidated under one roof, you can watch the performance of those of the phone calls as well and see if you have any trouble spots, and then quickly resolve those too. So I think that's an added benefit as well to getting all those numbers in the same location for the same carrier.
Q10: Are there any additional important qualities to look for in a service provider when you're considering bulk number porting?
Well, Jon's made the point a couple of times that the new carrier really knows what they're doing as far as porting is concerned, that they have that good relationship in their locality as well and the carriers that they would be working with to fully understand what's necessary and then what some of the gotchas are as well. When you have experience, you'll know, so these are some of the pitfalls that you can run into so you can avoid them and help the process go even smoother.
Yeah. One of the things I know specifically from a carrier relations perspective here at AVOXI, our goal is always to have direct relationships in all the particular countries that we do business in. So, understanding the back end infrastructure of a particular winning carrier is important because obviously if I'm buying from a Reseller and they're buying from a Reseller and then they buy from the incumbent - One is you get broken telephone scenario when logging a ticket because you are three or four removed from the person that's actually going to be fixing this issue. And again, if we talk about international, you then have language issues, potentially things get lost in translation, time zones, so your length of issue just gets extended or when I log a ticket and maybe leave out one key piece of information, it goes down. So understanding that back in infrastructure is hugely important. How close are you to the in-country provider? So if I have an issue, do you have a direct line of sight into what's going on there? So that I think is key to having a smooth porting process and then also post porting - just a complete service experience, the closer your winning carrier is to the in-country carrier, it just makes things a lot better.
One thing that we didn't mention as well is specifically, call rates- if you've got one carrier that you work with traditionally, that's only local, you don't really have any options for getting lower rates from them. Whereas if you go to a carrier that has all these direct interconnects with carriers across the world and multiple in one specific country as well, they can go in and then basically go get lower rates for you and give you a better service on that and cheaper service as well.
I think the one thing also to keep in mind and this may not seem like a big thing, but I think it can definitely help you, is move to someone who does have some sort of software interface for you to look at to understand what is going on. Everyone's moving to self service. I love to see what's going on. I don't want to have to phone someone or email someone and wait for a period of time to get a response, just to understand something really small potentially. So if they've got some sort of software interface that I can log into, that will make things go a lot easier as well.
Q11: So before we close out today, I would like to ask the group, is there anything else that our viewers should know about porting local or international business phone numbers that we haven't already covered or anything else that you'd like to really stress?
Yes. What I'd like to stress is all around that documentation, ensuring it's. Right. And then to Jon and Wikus’ point earlier about knowing that your winning carrier has a strong process in place, has that really good relationship. Right. So that you as the customer have the confidence, because it's a big deal, this is the main channel of communication in most cases for your customers to reach out to you and get that service that they require and to have a really good experience. And so, again, going through all of that documentation, understanding the winning carrier’s process, their relationship, so you can build that confidence level.
Yeah, definitely. I think where business is moving, I mean, probably a couple of years ago, people would probably think a phone number was dying because we just walk across the room and go speak to someone. But in the new world of everybody working remote, working out of your house, phone calls have just become so much more important. So really picking the correct carrier and making that a smooth process is of utmost importance now. It's so much easier to talk to someone over the phone to get your answers and understand where they're coming from. So really picking the right carrier is super important. And so that's why when porting your number if you do - unfortunately, I wish we always made the right decisions the first time around - but once you've got that brand of your company and you've got that phone number and if the carrier is not performing, ensuring that you can move away. So that could also be something to look at when picking a new carrier, actually ask them the questions of what does your port out process look like? If I'm not happy with the performance, do I have an out or am I stuck with the number, or do I need to rebrand my whole company just because I can't move that? And asking those questions on the front end, I think can be really important to ensure that you can have a choice. I mean, everybody wants a choice. No one wants to be told what to do. They want to decide what to do. So having those kinds of things on the front end just helps you make better decisions about who to pick as a business partner.
I think it's very important that you do your homework, make sure that you choose somebody that's been in the industry for long, and ensure that you are able to grow with that company. In other words, they innovate and get new features out for you in the future. You don't want to go into a situation where you sign up with a carrier, you can't move number one, and there's no feature sets that come up that can help you grow your business.
Well that concludes our webinar today. We do hope that this discussion is giving you a deeper understanding of how international number porting works, how easy it can be to switch to a new provider, and the many benefits that come with consolidating your number portfolio, like easily expanding geographically, reducing costs, and retaining business phone numbers, just to name a few. So thank you guys so much for presenting today, I really appreciate it. And to the audience, if you're ready to Port your phone number or you have any additional questions about number types or regions, you're in the right place. I have put our presenter's contact information here. Feel free to reach out to us directly or visit AVOXI.com where our online shopping cart expedites the entire process and our global support team is always available to assist you. Plus you can mention this webinar to receive a full month of free calling with every business number ported to AVOXI. Thanks for watching!