How Does Caller ID Work?

Will Schmidt

April 25, 2024

10 min

Table of Contents


  • Caller ID displays a caller's number and, in some cases, name on recipient devices, facilitated by phone companies using ASCII code.
  • The Caller ID name (CNAM) relies on third-party services with their own databases, leading to potential inconsistency in name display due to the lack of a standardized database.
  • Caller ID numbers are determined by the calling party, with flexibility in VOIP services allowing changes via web interfaces or service agents.
  • PhoneBurner’s Branded Caller ID (BCID) enables companies to control the name displayed on call recipients' mobile devices, improving recognition and response rates.
  • BCID offers a solution to the limitations of traditional CNAM by providing a flexible, easy-to-update, and consistent Caller ID across major mobile carriers, enhancing call engagement for businesses.
  • Understanding the mechanics of Caller ID and utilizing services like BCID can significantly improve outbound sales call effectiveness by increasing live answer rates and ensuring accurate caller identification.

When it comes to sales calls, Caller ID is a hot topic. But there are also a lot of questions around caller ID.

How does Caller ID even work? How does your name and phone number display to prospects, and where does this information come from? What are the rules, and who regulates it?

Further, how do new technologies like Branded Caller ID work, and how is this different from CNAM?

Below, we’ll answer these questions and clear up the confusion around how Caller ID works. We’ll also highlight what can be done inside of PhoneBurner—like Branded Caller ID—to bring you the best results for outbound sales.

What Is Caller ID?

Caller ID is a display of information that shows up on any caller ID-enabled device. This information includes the phone number and sometimes the name of the caller(s). The service is included with just about any phone provider, be it a traditional phone line, VOIP lines, or mobile phones.

The phone company passes along this caller information using ASCII code that the Caller ID box knows how to decode between the first and second ring of a phone call.

How Is a Caller ID Name (CNAM) Determined?

The display name on Caller ID is determined by the receiving party’s phone carrier. CNAM (“C-alling NAM-e”) is a third-party service that phone companies use to attach the name to the phone numbers that are calling. Each CNAM maintains its own database, and there is no standard or governing body.

This is in contrast to Local Number Portability (LNP), which mandates that consumers can keep their local number even when changing carriers within a local area.

Because there are multiple CNAM(s) and databases, Caller ID name information can vary and be outdated, or missing entirely.

It all depends on the receiving party’s phone service and the CNAM they work with.

For that reason, your name can display inconsistently and can be a bit challenging to control. You can update your name with your carrier, but the frequency with which they update the various CNAM databases will vary.

How Is a Caller ID Phone Number Determined?

The Caller ID phone number is determined by the party placing the call. In the case of a landline or wireless phone, the number is dictated by the registered number associated with the phone placing the call.

In the case of VOIP providers, the number displayed can be controlled and modified. Sometimes this requires a service agent to make the change. In other cases, the caller can make the change directly via a web interface.

Controlling Caller ID in PhoneBurner

When using PhoneBurner, you can control the Caller ID number displayed for your dial session. Here’s how:

  • Go into Dial Session Settings and enter the number you want to use.
  • You'll need to verify that it’s an actual working number owned by you or your company.
  • Once verified, you'll be able to use this number as an outgoing Caller ID during your dial sessions.
  • You can also purchase local numbers directly from PhoneBurner.

This gives you the flexibility to determine what numbers show up when you call various lead lists and ensure there’s a relevant callback number that will route them to the right place.

Prospect about to pick up phone call from outbound rep using Branded Caller ID

What Is Branded Caller ID (BCID)?

Branded Caller ID (BCID) is a service available with PhoneBurner that gives your company control over the name that displays on call recipients' mobile devices.

Because consumers are increasingly reluctant to answer unknown calls, BCID can help reduce skepticism and thereby increase connect rates and call engagement metrics.

Where & When Branded Caller ID Matters Most

In situations where contacts may not recognize the number and therefore fail to answer the call, BCID makes them more likely to immediately establish identification—resulting in more (and more productive) conversations.

Think about the following scenarios:

  • A business or customer service agent calling a customer about an appointment
  • A mortgage company calling a lead who requested a quote
  • First-time clients receiving a call from their advisor
  • Software companies following up with recent new customers

Given how reluctant people are to answer unknown calls, Branded Caller ID is an ideal way to build trust, and ensure contacts answer the phone ready to engage with your team.

See Also: 9 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings with Prospects

Where CNAM is outdated, static, inconsistent across devices, and difficult to update, BCID is flexible, simple to update, and up-to-date. It's built for a world that thrives on mobile communications. PhoneBurner's Branded Caller ID coverage exceeds 250 million phones across major carriers.

BCID vs. CNAM At a Glance:

Branded Caller ID (BCID)



High—companies control the displayed name for their selected numbers.

Low–depends on external databases.

Consistency & Update Ease

Consistent and easy to update for mobile calls. Updates are implemented rapidly.

Often inconsistent and hard to update. Requested updates take time to implement.

Impact on Engagement

Increases call engagement and connect rates.

Can help engagement but less effective due to outdated or inconsistent info.

Ideal for Mobile

Yes—BCID is a direct service of mobile carriers, specifically designed for modern mobile communication.

No—not optimized for the mobile era.



Woman answering phone call from outbound sales rep because of Branded Caller ID

Make Caller ID Work for You

Caller ID(s) help improve user experience via proper identification of the calling party. However, because this information can come from different places, and include different information, businesses and consumers understandably have questions about this feature.

To recap: Caller IDs are determined by the caller’s carrier, or in some cases, directly by the caller or the software products used to place calls. Businesses can update their CNAM records with mixed results. Alternatively, Branded Caller ID gives more control to businesses and provides coverage across mobile devices that increasingly dominate the current call landscape.

It’s important to understand how this information gets displayed in order to maximize live answers and facilitate callbacks, while maintaining integrity and adherence to calling rules and regulations.

PhoneBurner gives business flexibility over the numbers they use and offers Branded Caller ID, along with other features to build trust, increase deliverability, and boost live answer rates. Learn how we can help with your outbound calling when you sign up for a free trial today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is BCID included with PhoneBurner accounts?

Branded Caller ID is a flexible add-on for all PhoneBurner plans. Customers can choose which numbers to brand and only pay when calls are branded.

How many calls will be branded??

PhoneBurner’s Branded Caller ID coverage extends to over 250 million mobile devices across major wireless carriers This gives you access to a wide pool of mobile customers and improves the likelihood of getting live answers from them. 

Where can I find additional tools & resources?

For actionable tips, download our free eBook Outbound Sales: 10 Strategies to Close More Deals to supercharge your outbound strategies and tactics today.

For trends and calldata, explore the insights compiled in our annual Sales Calls Statistics Report.



The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calls and Outbound

Unlock Your Content
Enjoying our content? Get expert insights straight to your inbox.
PhoneBurner mark

You’re Gonna Love Our Blog Newsletter

Subscribe and get fresh blogs delivered directly to your inbox.