If you’re like me, when you receive a call you don’t recognize, you probably don’t answer. That’s because there’s a good chance it’s spam. Studies show that some 90% of Americans don’t answer calls from numbers they don’t know. For good reason. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission says there are around 4 billion robocalls per month. There are also millions of successful scam attempts, resulting in billions in losses annually.
While robocalls are annoying, they’re problematic for companies that have legitimate reasons to try to reach customers. But there’s one business that’s come up with a solution. It’s called First Orion Corp. And it’s based in North Little Rock.
Led by Charles Morgan (the former long-time Acxiom CEO), First Orion has developed branded calling technology that displays a company’s brand and why it’s calling on an individual’s mobile phone. It’s inked partnerships with the major wireless carriers so the platform works via their networks.
Companies pay rates based on how many calls they make to customers. First Orion pays the carriers a fee.
With the growth of artificial intelligence and chatbots, reaching consumers by phone seemed to be a thing of the past, Joe Stinziano, First Orion’s president and chief operating officer, told me recently. But it turns out, people would actually prefer to speak to a real human, especially about more complex issues, like credit card fraud, travel plans or insurance claims.
“I have never really worked on a product in my career where, when you describe the solution, everyone says, ‘Oh, yeah, I need that,’” said Stinziano, formerly a head honcho with Samsung Electronics America’s Consumer & Enterprise Business Division. (First Orion research shows that 90% of consumers are comfortable with answering a branded call.)
“Three or four years ago, we thought [calls] were going to be completely fading away. Now, it’s much more important than ever,” he said.
Major companies with hundreds, even thousands, of phone numbers that are used to call customers have signed up for the platform, Stinziano said, adding that adoption of the platform has grown exponentially in recent years.
First Orion continues to explore new use cases, such as what the executive calls “micro-businesses.” A small landscaping firm might pay a flat monthly fee of about $30 that would cover calls to a smaller client base.
The landscapers don’t miss out on a day of work. Clients have fresh flower beds. Win-win.
But First Orion has also been experimenting with other purposes, which is where I see really interesting potential for the branded calling platform. During the pandemic, for example, pharmacies and government agencies tested the technology to inform certain populations that vaccines were available at specific locations. (First Orion conducted the tests on a pro-bono basis.)
Imagine the branded technology being used in remote villages in East Africa to alert residents that medicine had arrived in the nearest town, ensuring the populations received the drugs and also that people did not have to waste time traveling dozens of miles over treacherous terrain for a delivery that might not be there. (Smartphone adoption is nearly as prevalent in the developing world as it is in countries like the U.S.)
International nonprofits and other aid organizations working with vulnerable groups could take advantage of the technology to save time and resources and to make sure the people they’re helping receive exactly the information or assistance they need when they need it the most.
It’s an exciting prospect that is so much more than just a missed call.