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Avoid Number Porting Nightmares With This Action Plan
Telephone numbers are the link many businesses have to their customers, employees, and the community. Ask any business that relies on inbound calling for their revenue, those ten-digit numbers are a critical component of their brand. For many organizations, their telephone number is their outward-facing identity.
So, what happens to telephone numbers when a business changes carriers? The telephone number gets "ported" from the current vendor to the new vendor. Yet, how this happens seems to be a mystery. Coordinating a telephone number port is a very detailed process with a lot of steps, and therefore there’s a lot of room for error. Here are some lessons learned from recent number ports that can help you make this transition go more smoothly.
When a port request is made, organizations will fill out a Letter of Authorization for the “winning” (i.e. new) vendor. The FCC has set up rules that require the "losing” (i.e., old) vendor to cooperate with this transition.
Understand the Porting Process
In this age of telephone number portability, customers can move from carrier to carrier and keep their preferred 10-digit numbers. However, behind the scenes, the process is quite complicated. Here are the steps that have to be coordinated: Multiple departments within the winning and losing carriers must coordinate the request, and the order will go through several sets of hands before it can be scheduled. First, the winning vendor will ask for copies of the customer’s current telephony invoices, and a letter of authorization to begin the process. Then, the losing vendor will then supply current copies of the customer service records for these accounts. Be prepared to send the customer service records just in case there is a delay by the losing carrier. Once the billing data is validated by both vendors, the actual number port can be scheduled. On the day of the port, you will be given a window of time that the port will take place. You should expect a short service outage during this transition. Once the port is complete, your services will be restored.
(Note: SCTC member Nick Calautti also wrote, “Port Is a Four-Letter Word” to outline the basic number-porting process for a mid-sized enterprise.)
Before Even Making Your Request, Assess Your Environment
The key to a successful telephone number port is to provide accurate information. Any questionable data will result in a rejection of your port request. Your request will be pushed back to you and your winning vendor to start over. Avoid any order rejections it will extend your porting timeline. A delay in porting your telephone numbers may hurt your overall project. For example, I worked on a project recently the entire client project hinged on being able to port the telephone numbers first. We needed to have a good understanding of the services billed, what they were used for, and if there were any unnecessary lines/circuits. We found telephone numbers that the client was paying for but when dialed, the caller got a disconnect recording – we found this out when the port request was rejected.
A thorough assessment of the services you pay for is essential to a good porting outcome. Key considerations are the type of service the telephone number is associated with, and what service it is being moved to. These consideration include:
- Are you moving the lines from a PRI to SIP Trunks?
- Are you moving pots lines?
- Are the lines on antiquated services such as ISDN BRI, or OPX line
- Are the lines used in emergency locations such as an elevator or fire panel?
Keep Good Records – Or Improve Incomplete Records
Accurate records of your services and what they are used for are essential to a successful port. Recently, when validating a client's DID numbers, their telephone user list was referenced when putting together the order data. However, when we compared it to the customer service records, we found that there were many more numbers that the client owned that were sequential and were kept in reserve. Not identifying these numbers could also result in an order rejection. If you own unassigned DID numbers you want to keep, you have to include them in any records.
Scrubbing your data is super important! Be like Santa: Make your list, check it twice.
Create a Test Plan
Once you have cleared all the order hurdles, a port date will be scheduled. Many vendors like to complete ports early on weekday mornings before the business day, at lunchtime, or later in the afternoon. Work with your vendor to schedule a time that works best for your organization. Inform your end users that a telephone number transition will be taking place in advance. Notifying the staff of a potential outage will allow them to schedule around this period.
Next, identify important telephone numbers to test once the port is complete. For example, include the main listed numbers, automated attendants, and pilot numbers for your contact center, executive offices, and emergency service locations, in your test plan. Make sure that calls can be received from landlines, and cellular numbers, that auto attendants answer, and that you can dial through them to departments. Place outgoing calls to local, long-distance, international, and cellular numbers. Schedule key personnel to be available during the change window. You will most likely have a carrier engineer on a conference bridge directing the effort remotely. Having internal staff or a telephony technician on site is also important. They can be available to test all the important numbers previously defined.
Once you are satisfied that all numbers are working properly, you can complete the process. It is a good idea to document the test results.
Make a Contingency Plan
A contingency plan can be important if the port is not going smoothly. It will give you peace of mind if problems arise. If during the port transition, there is difficulty in getting the number transferred over, you may need to stop the port and revert to the original vendor. The port may need to be stopped if the transition is taking a significant amount of time and causing an extended service outage.
If you are going through your testing plan and the results are poor, you must have criteria defined to determine if the port needs to be aborted. Make sure you have vendor escalation information for all parties involved within the losing carrier and winning carrier organization and your senior leadership. Identify who can authorize that the transition be stopped. Document all results and develop a new game plan for a future successful change.
Most of us take telephone numbers for granted. However, administering them is a complex operation. By employing the ideas above, you can make this important transition less painful.
Telephone number porting is not an activity that organizations go through often. You may not have in-house resources that can do the detailed work necessary to make your transition a success. Engage an experienced communications technology consultant. They can easily guide you through this important task.
Denise is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.