How many times a week do you receive a voicemail message that arrived without your phone ringing? These silent arrivals are called “ringless voicemails” or ringless voicemail drops. They are annoying as hell, but there are some legitimate uses of this form of outbound dialing. Here are 5 things you need to know about ringless voicemail.
How does ringless voicemail work?
Ringless voicemails mysteriously slide into your voicemail box. Why doesn’t your phone ring when these calls arrive?
We will solve the mystery for you… but you’ll need to bear with a few technical details as we explain how a voicemail message can slide into your voicemail box without ringing your phone.
First, ponder this other mystery… Why do these ringless voicemails only arrive on your cell phone? If you still have a landline, you probably don’t get these ringless voicemail drops on that phone.
Let’s solve both mysteries.
Ringless voicemails take advantage of a technical feature (glitch?) of many cell phone services – the ability for one phone to forward a voicemail to another phone. For example, if you are a Verizon mobile phone user, one of the features of your Verizon cell phone plan is that you can forward a voicemail from your phone to another Verizon cell phone.
Apparently, the mobile phone providers thought this was a cool feature that we would use.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you are a marketer that can take advantage of it legally), spammers took advantage of this feature and use it to send ringless voicemail drops to millions of phones each day.
Ringless voicemail drop software companies and service providers have sophisticated systems set up to take lists of phone numbers, determine which phone service each number is associated with, and then blast voicemail drops out to the list of phone numbers. Because each phone network may be configured differently (e.g.,Verizon phones can only receive ringless voicemails from Verizon numbers), voicemail drop services need to determine which network to “send from”. Ringless voicemail software typically works similar to a voice broadcast dialer (with the added feature of being able to detect the network provider).
Now, there are lots of variations and ways for ringless voicemail services to operate, but we won’t go down that rabbit hole.
Ringless voicemail drops work by taking advantage of a feature that many phone networks make available – the ability to forward voicemail messages to phones in the network.
Is ringless voicemail legal?
Let’s start with this: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Ringless voicemail drops seem to be perfect for marketers and call centers. What call center wouldn’t love the ability to send a message to their customers? Especially if you could blast out millions of messages at a time.
For years, the ringless voicemail community crowed that ringless voicemails are “Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) compliant” because they are not phone calls – they are simply messages. No phone call is made, therefore the prerecorded voice message rules of the TCPA don’t apply.
This is one of those “too good to be true” moments. The Federal Communications Commission (and other agencies) are starting to take action to ensure that ringless voicemails are specifically covered under the TCPA.
Further, many court actions are brought each year against companies that use ringless voicemail messages (and the plaintiffs are winning). Courts do not buy the argument that ringless voicemail is not covered by the TCPA.
If you use ringless voicemail messages, make sure you meticulously comply with the TCPA.
Here’s the bottom line.
Ringless voicemail drops are most likely governed by the TCPA. As a result, placing a call to a cell phone using a prerecorded message is illegal unless the caller has obtained the prior express consent of the called party.
Are there legitimate ringless voicemail marketing uses?
Ok, if ringless voicemail is governed by the TCPA, why not just ban it entirely? As with anything in the telecommunications space, there is usually a legitimate use. That is the case with ringless voicemail drops.
Let’s think of a few.
First, let’s agree that since ringless voicemail drops are almost exclusively used with cell phones, that prior express written consent of the party receiving the message must be obtained.
Now, what kinds of interactions involve called parties who give express written consent to receive prerecorded voice messages on their cell phone?
What about medical services? When you fill out your patient forms with your doctor or dentist, you probably are giving them express written consent to contact you (even by prerecorded message, and even using a dialer). Medical providers can use voicemail drops to send updates to their patients.
How about travel companies? You probably opted in to receive prerecorded messages when you signed up for that frequent flier program (cuz who doesn’t want to get an alert if their flight is delayed?). Travel providers can use voicemail drops to send information to travelers.
What about ecommerce stores? Have you ever given consent to an online retailer to send you updates? You may have expressly given consent to get package delivery updates using prerecorded messages.
How about real estate companies? If you are in the market for a new apartment or home in this tough market, you probably have given an agent or real estate company consent to contact you using a prerecorded message.
There are lots of legitimate uses of voicemail drops. Use them to reduce your agent time and cost, but use them in compliance with the TCPA.
How much do ringless voicemails cost?
As discussed above, because there is some infrastructure that ringless voicemail services need to set up to efficiently deliver voicemail drops, there is a cost to send ringless voicemails.
The cost of ringless voicemails typically depends on volume.
A sender of millions of voicemail drop messages may pay as low as $0.005 per message delivered.
A casual sender of just dozens of voicemail drops may pay as high as $0.10 per message delivered.
Do your research and compare.
Name some ringless voicemail drop service providers (please)
There are a few big providers of ringless voicemail drop services,and a bunch of smaller providers.
Do your research, compare not only by cost but by features as well. And make sure to get express consent from the customers you call using these services!