A toll-free number refers to a telephone number that starts with a specific three-digit, phone orders, and complaints’ receipt. Toll-free phone numbers have been around for more than 50 years, with no sign of them going anywhere soon. With that being the case prefix and is free of charge for the caller. Typically, a business uses a free number to provide easy access to customer services such as a help desk, here is your guide to everything you need to know about toll free voice services.
Toll-Free Codes and Their Growth
Every toll-free phone number has a distinct dialing prefix consisting of three digits, similar to a geographical area code. The most recognizable free number code is 800. The prefixes 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, or 833 also indicate that you are dialing a toll-free number.
While AT&T introduced the 800 free number in the 60s, it took almost 40 years for other digit combinations to come into use. In 1996, the 888 code joined the family of toll-free numbers with 877 and 866 following two years later. The popularity of toll-free phone numbers has grown exponentially in recent years. So much so, that the market required three new expansions within the last decade. 855 and 844 codes were introduced in 2010 and 2013, respectively. 2017 marked the latest prefix to come into regular use, the 833 code. As of today, a total of 42 million toll-free phone numbers operate throughout America.
What Is a Vanity Number?
A toll-free number doesn’t necessarily only consist of digits. The company using a toll-free service could spell out its business name or acronym, a generic term, or a specific slogan. Even a combination of words and digits is possible as long as there are seven characters to the word. Here are some real toll-free number examples, to provide an idea of what a vanity number may look like:
The Story behind Toll-Free Phone Numbers
Even before free numbers existed, it was possible to place a call at no cost to the party dialing. A person had to call an operator and ask for a collect call. Then, the operator would confirm whether the call receiver accepted the charges. Only with confirmation, would the two parties get connected.
In the digital era, that sounds like a complicated way for a business to communicate with its clients. Well, companies thought so too. In the 1930s, corporations subscribed to a new phone service – Zenith, Enterprise, or WX number. A customer still had to contact an operator to place the call. However, the operator would directly connect the two parties with no charges for the dialing person. A true toll-free number service came in the late 60s with the introduction of the 800 code.
Is the Phone Number Really Toll-Free?
The idea of a free number is that there is no toll for the person dialing. Instead, all the charges are covered by the party accepting the calls. In reality, this is 100% valid for calls coming from a landline, no matter if it is a long-distance or a local call. If your mobile phone has an unlimited calling plan, calls to free numbers won’t cost anything. However, if you have a limited number of free minutes, charges may incur if you contact a 1-800 number.
Additionally, free toll numbers aren’t free if you call from abroad or if a person in the US is trying to reach a free number in another country. To prevent charges, companies often tend to block international calls.
Hot to Get a Toll-Free Phone Number?
Before obtaining a toll free business number, you need to know the key stakeholders involved.
Federal Communications Commission
The FCC is the government entity responsible for setting up the rules regarding the toll-free phone numbers. Surprisingly for many, a business obtains a free number on a first-come, first-served basis. If the number you want is free, you must act quickly to get it. Only recently, the FCC introduced the idea of auctioning free numbers with the 833 code.
The FCC insists that there is a real user behind every toll-free phone number and that the code is working. The commission holds a policy of no brokering, hoarding, or warehousing toll free phone numbers to keep the sector as transparent as possible. However, there are so many numbers that it’s easy to lose track, so keeping control can prove challenging.
The responsible organizations or RespOrgs are the entities that provide you with the free phone number service and manage your subscription. The RespOrgs have access to the free numbers database and offer information on whether the code you want to acquire is available or in use.
Most mobile network operators have a Responsible Organization license. There are many entities to choose from, and the best part is that a toll-free phone number is portable. The latter means that you don’t have to change your existing number if you want to relocate to another service provider.
Somos, Inc. is the administrator of the free number database. The company also has the responsibility of certifying any organization that wants to become a RespOrg. On the Somos, Inc website, a business can see the list of toll-free phone number providers, or participate in an auction for a free code.
Routing – Vital Feature of a Free Number
Technology allows a customer calling to a national toll-free phone number from anywhere in America to get automatically routed to the company’s nearest office. Routing based on the caller’s location makes it possible for the company to block calls from a particular area or develop a specific protocol to answer emergency calls. The best part is that routing is possible no matter if a person is calling from a landline, mobile, or VOIP caller. Even better, you can route calls to a mobile device or your local number in the company’s headquarters.
How Much Does a Toll-Free Phone Number Cost?
Prices vary based on the provider and the need of the individual company. For example, due to the large scale of their free phone number operations, some businesses prefer to register as RespOrg than to pay a monthly fee. Others choose service providers that offer both a toll-free phone number and a desktop app to handle voice and SMS services.
In general, a subscription plan includes a certain number of minutes. Once the minutes are up, additional charges come per minute. However, this is not the only option; all you need to do is take the time to research and choose the best plan for your operations.
Even without the necessary costs, the employees’ time and training for answering the free number is the most expensive aspect.
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Why Does a Business Need a Toll-Free Phone Number?
If you are running a strictly local business with no plan to expand, you probably don’t need a free number. However, a toll-free phone number makes you appear professional and provokes trust and respect in your customers.
The 800 numbers are national. No matter your clients’ location, they can call the same number and reach your employees. Even if you are a local business operating in several areas, consumers consider you a company with nationwide coverage. You can still get calls on your local number, but customers won’t necessarily know that.
Since it’s a free number, people are more inclined to contact you via that avenue. The chances are that a person already put money into buying a product of yours or ordered a service. Not charging them for contacting you with additional questions is the easiest way to say “thank you” and encourage two-way communication between your brand and its supporters.
There is no need to change your free number in case of relocation. The portability guaranteed by the FCC allows you to migrate to another RespOrg and keep your free number.
Finally, the free numbers have been around for more than 50 years. Several generations have grown up with toll-free phone numbers as one of the easiest ways to communicate directly with a company. Although people now use social media, email, websites, and augmented reality, talking on the phone with a business rep is still very attractive. More than 50% of customers prefer getting in touch with a human customer service agent, according to the Usabilla 2018 report.
How Can Free Numbers Help Your Business?
Easy to Recall
An 800response.com survey shows that customers recall toll free vanity numbers easier than numeric ones. The findings are valid for both visual and audio commercials, although radio ads result in a nine times higher recall rate of the vanity free number.
Access to Advanced Analytics
A toll-free phone number is an invaluable contribution to your marketing plan with a possibility for effortless result tracking. Simply add an extension to the toll free number for a TV spot, mobile app commercial, or Facebook ad. From there, follow their performance and profitability and adjust them according to the insights gained.
Business Texting and Calls
A toll free number allows customers to reach you, but a company could make it possible for clients also to send text messages or customer agents to return calls. SMS continuously grows in popularity with users, supported by great statistics to show its significance to businesses. Text messages score the incredible open rate of more than 90% within 3 minutes of receipt! There is no spam folder or muting of notifications.
If you make calls from your toll free number, customers can see your caller ID. If you’ve already established a relationship with your client or your display name is well-chosen, there is a higher possibility that the person won’t send your call straight to voicemail.
How to Apply Toll-Free Phone Numbers to Your Business
The extensive opportunities for the application of toll free numbers contribute to enriching a business’s relationship with its clients, optimizing operations, increasing sales, improving privacy, and security. Some of the possibilities of toll free numbers include:
Orders and Reservations
Businesses that sell both products and services could benefit from having a toll free number. Renting a car, booking a flight, or contacting a sales rep to ask for details about a particular product is useful in places with limited internet or for people who don’t trust using an app.
Help Desk and Technical Support
Customers often deal with specific issues or have questions regarding your products. AIs and chatbots could solve simple problems, and people tend to be more and more satisfied with the way they function. However, more complicated issues require a human touch. Managing an account and problem-solving in sensitive sectors such as banking and health care is far more personal when addressed by a real person. The customer support agent of the future is still a human, but artificial intelligence supports their work. An AI interprets emotions, voice, and linguistics. Based on its suggestions and additional data, the agent chooses the best way to help the client.
Dial-in Toll-Free Numbers
1-800 numbers support not only a company’s external communications, but they are applicable in the internal management of the business. With the ongoing world pandemic, conference calls and home office solutions are more popular with corporations. However, Skype, Google Meet, Samepage, and many more conferencing software and apps require a stable internet connection. A person in a somewhat isolated location or on the road might experience challenges when joining a meeting. The solution comes via audio conferencing. A company can set up a free number for employees to dial in and join an audio meeting that requires only a landline or cellular network connection. Thus, no charges apply to your team members.
Free Phone Numbers Help with New Regulations
Recently, the topic of personal data and privacy has increased in significance for users. Some states introduced new laws and regulations that require a company to provide consumers free of charge access to information regarding their data. The California Consumer Privacy Act goes even further by requiring a business to offer a toll-free phone number designated for customers to request info.
Final Advice on Choosing the Right Toll-Free Number
Beware that offering a toll-free number isn’t necessarily enough to make people use it. Make sure you pick a number that represents your business and is easy to remember. Vanity numbers are more expensive than numeric ones. However, customers tend to recall them more successfully. If asked about the first word that comes to mind, you would probably come up with your company name or a word describing your business sector. Generic terms, although easy to remember, are often not the best choice. For one, they are usually already in use. Second, people might miss the connection with your brand. Therefore, take the time to brainstorm and be creative. Sometimes a slogan or catchy phrase works better than the straightforward “REALTOR.” If your word is already in use, don’t overlook the possibility of combining words with digits. CAR-4-YOU is one example. Don’t underestimate numbers that resonate with your clients, such as 1776 (Declaration of Independence) or 101 (meaning a topic for beginners).
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