Everyone has at least a passing familiarity with toll-free numbers. From jingles to billboards to commercials, businesses offer up toll-free numbers to try to entice people to call. Unless you’ve looked into them before, however, you might not be aware of exactly how they work, and why a business might use one. Here are the basics.
What is a Toll-Free Number?
When a person calls a toll-free number from a landline phone or other service that doesn’t charge per minute of airtime, they don’t incur any charge regardless of distance. This can be helpful for companies that do a significant amount of business outside of their local area, such as national and international organizations, because it removes the cost barrier that might prevent customers, prospects, and partners from calling.
Toll-free numbers always begin with one of a few codes, the most recognizable being 1-800. More codes have been added over the years to include 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844, opening up a wealth of phone numbers–including vanity numbers–and reducing the cost of purchasing a toll-free number.
So considering the low cost, should your business be using a toll-free number? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Create or reinforce a corporate image.
No matter how much money you put into marketing and training, branding is ultimately about public perception. A toll-free number is immediately recognizable as a business contact line, and can immediately position your company as large and corporate. For companies who do business nationally or internationally, local area codes are difficult to remember and may deter cost-conscious callers.
Make customer service more convenient.
When a customer needs to make a service call, they’re usually not in the best mood, and they want convenient, fast, and friendly service. While your service representatives will have to take care of fast and friendly, a toll-free number makes seeking service much more convenient for the customer. Local service branches are dwindling, and you don’t want your customers to have to pay long-distance fees for the service they need.
Lose your local touch.
The cost of not using a local area code, however, is losing part of your business’s local identity. If you do most or all of your business locally, using a toll-free number doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons. First, local callers wouldn’t incur long-distance fees in the first place, and second, you risk losing the boost in rapport you have with the community simply by having the same three numbers on your business card as they do on theirs.
Fronting the cost.
And, of course, toll-free doesn’t mean free for everyone. While purchasing a toll-free number is significantly cheaper now than it was a few years ago, it is still a cost that may not even be necessary, depending on your business model. Even in the case of out-of-state business partners other communication options such as video chats and instant messaging can be cost-effective alternatives to a toll-free number.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to come down to a choice between two options. Many VoIP providers make it simple to purchase and integrate several different phone numbers into the same system, including toll-free numbers and local numbers in your area and outside of it. It’s up to your company to decide whether or not a toll-free number is right for your business; just be sure to make it easy on yourself to implement it!