Toll Free Numbers – Why Does My Business Need One?
By Steve Norris
Since 1967, companies have used Toll Free numbers to provide a way for their clients and potential clients to call them at no charge. As the telecommunications and telecommunications hardware market has become more sophisticated, this service has taken on an expanded and altered role. We take a look at what businesses used this service for, what they use it for now, and why it is a tool your business cannot be without.
Let’s first define Toll Free numbers:Toll-Free numbers are sometimes called “800 numbers” after the original area code which was used to dial them. They include the area codes 800, 888, 877, 866, 855(although not yet in heavy use), 844, 833 and 822 (the last three are not yet active but reserved). Toll-Free numbers allow the owner of the number to pay the calling charges of the incoming calling party. Because the owner of the number is paying for the call, they are allowed to see the incoming Caller ID even if the calling party has Caller ID blocked.
When Toll-Free numbers came into existence in 1967, the average cost of long distance to the carriers was $0.24 per minute. (Equivalent in 1999 dollars to $1.21 per minute) They charged MUCH higher rates. That was for outbound long distance. Inbound Toll Free rates were typically higher. The main reasons to own a Toll Free number in the early years of the service were the following:
- Used to help their major customers and suppliers avoid paying long distance charges and encourage them to make calls/increase sales
- Created a larger company image
- Ease of move of service if the business location moved (Local Number Portability was a BIG issue for local businesses who moved and wanted to keep their current phone numbers. If they only gave out the Toll Free number, moving was not an issue)
Companies originally did not flock to the service, but it caught on quick and increased every year. In 1967, over 7 million calls were recorded, and now there are over 30 billion annually. Around 1980, advances in AT&T’s long distance network enabled businesses to use and promote a single nationwide toll-free number, instead of different numbers in different states.
Almost overnight it became smart business to include a toll-free number in national television or print advertising. The advertising fueled consumer awareness of toll-free numbers, which, over time, grew into an expectation that companies wanting business will provide a toll-free number. 40 years later, there are even more reasons to own a Toll Free number. In addition to customer convenience, local number portability and a prestigious company image, there are several new reasons to consider owning your own Toll Free number.
- (Vanity Toll Free Numbers)Used for ease of remembering your business number and number. (Ex: 1-800-Flowers)
- Used for advertising campaign tracking (Telephone carriers give you a monthly statement that shows the volume of calls per Toll Free number, the number that called, date, time, and where it was from. This information can prove to be invaluable when tracking the effectiveness of an advertising campaign such as radio, newspaper, yellow pages, television, or others.)
- Businesses can be listed in the Nationwide Toll Free directory and easily found
- Expand your marketing reach (Consumers and companies may not call an unfamiliar area code, but they will call a Toll Free number)
- Advanced call routing (Route incoming Toll Free calls in several flexible ways, including geographic routing by exchange or area code, Time of Day routing, Day of Week Routing, Day of Year routing, Percentage Allocation Routing, All-Trunks-Busy Routing, Ring No Answer Routing, Emergency or Disaster Routing.
- Given to employees or remote trainees/students to avoid higher cell phone charges and collect call charges for calls from the field.
With typical calling rates at $0.05 and under per minute available now, Toll Free numbers are now a cost effective tool for every business. If you are looking for a Vanity Toll Free number, check your favorite search engine for several sources.
If you are a company that does ANY advertising, how do you track it? Do you rely on your receptionist or secretary to ask every time “How did you hear about us?” Are you convinced that method works or is accurate? With a Toll Free phone number, you’ll never wonder again if that yellow page ad you spend thousands of dollars on annually produces or not. With a different Toll Free number for your radio and television ads, you’ll be able to track your ROI, and find out which methods do and do not work for you. Which time slots, which direct mail campaigns, which newspaper or magazine ads work for your company? Not knowing can cost you dearly. It’s now the least expensive tool on the market to track exact results, and it may save your company thousands of dollars in wasted or ineffective ad campaigns.
Some nationwide carriers now offer business packages that include a Toll Free number, as well as bundled minutes at no additional cost. Some carriers include long distance minutes that can be used for either outbound long distance or inbound Toll Free service as part of their package. This may be a tool you already have access to at no cost, but just simply have not been using. Consult with your telecommunications professional to choose the right solution for you.
Steve Norris is a Texas based Independent Telecom Agent for over 80 carriers nationwide and an Energy Efficient electrical contractor. He specializes in multi-location businesses with advanced infrastructure needs. In addition to representing carrier services with his company Telephone Guru, he also represents high end business telephone system solutions. Over 90% of his clients are able to implement new technology at little or no cost with his proprietary TeleTAP solution. Visit him on the web for Telecom Broker Services , Business Telephone Systems , and Energy Efficient Contracting.