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One of the questions I am often asked is “what do I need to do to with my phone numbers to get ready for NewVoiceMedia.”

The contex is an organization that has made the decision to improve business performance by using NewVoiceMedia together with Salesforce in the inside sales organization or the customer service function. Sales reps or customer service agents are going to “click-to-dial” or use a dialer to automate their phone calls; inbound calls will present a “screen-pop” to the customer service agent or sales rep receiving the call.

However, are the phone numbers that are in Salesforce ready for this? Is my data good?

The ideal is, especially in an organization that operates internationally, that the phone numbers adhere to E.164 format. E.164 is an international telecommunications recommendation and ensures a number can be dialled correctly without modification.

Why?

If you have teams that work in one country, let’s say the Netherlands, but call out to customers or prospects in another country, let’s say Italy and Germany, and you want to “click-to-dial” from Salesforce, then you need to ensure the number you are clicking-on is Italian, or German. In other words, they start with +39 and +49 respectively.

If your numbers are “national” numbers, and the team or person dialling only ever dials that one country, then you can “fix the routing” so that all calls by this team or individual assume, if national, that they are to this one country. NewVoiceMedia uses a concept of a “virtual location” to do this. But if, as is the case in many European or global operations, there are centrally located teams which are multi-lingual, then you will need to specify the country code on the numbers.

Instead of a European number that would often start with a zero such as 01256 NNNNNN, under E.164 we would have (if it was a UK number) +44 1256 NNNNNN. And in the United States, instead of a number like (415) NNN-NNNN we would have +1 415 NNNNNNN.

The “+” is the international prefix – and works wherever you are. When you dial it, the telephone system knows to use 00 in most countries in the world, 011 in the United States and Canada and some other countries, 010 in Japan and 0011 in Australia.

Solutions like NewVoiceMedia don't mind if your numbers have brackets, spaces, dots or dashes.

Fixing the Existing Data

Most of your data is probably OK already. And for teams that dial only one country, setting the virtual location will address the issue of a missing country code. If you allow your staff to edit the data in Salesforce, then before a “click-to-dial” the agent can “triple click” the phone field and correct the data. One time. Once it is done, it works.

To fix all the data, using Salesforce reporting, you can export all your existing phone numbers to a “csv” file. Using a spreadsheet and a macro you can convert all numbers to E.164 format – assuming you can also export a country value too. Test well (ideally use a sandbox)…. and then import the data back. This should be done carefully, just working on a few numbers first on some test data. You could even import the data back to new phone fields and be sure you’ve got this right before updating the actual phone numbers.

Ensuring it Stays Fixed

To ensure you keep your data good, you can add validation rules to make sure anyone adding a phone number puts it in E.164 format – which could be as simple as checking the number starts with a “+”. You can also ensure your web site forms capture the visitor country along with a phone number, and then convert those two into a single E.164 compliant phone number before saving in your Salesforce system.

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About Paul Turner

Paul is VP Benelux and Nordics at NewVoiceMedia.

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