Irrespective of the industry that a business is in, every company needs to have a way of enabling their customers to contact them. At the time of starting out, you will be forgiven for only using local office line. However, as you expand, grow customer base and add more departments, your office phone line may not sufficiently handle your needs.
It is at this time that it makes a lot of business sense to acquire a toll free number. With a toll free number, you can start taking phone calls like the top guys in the industry do. But what is a toll free number and how exactly does it work? What are its benefits to a business? In this comprehensive guide, we explain everything you need to know about toll free phone numbers. Continue reading to learn more.
What is a toll free telephone number?
Toll free numbers refer to numbers that begin with these three-digit codes: 800, 877, 888, 866, 855 or 844. Through toll free numbers, businesses or individuals can be reached by callers without them being charged. The calling party is not charged but the party that receives the call. It is the party that is called that is charged for using a toll number and not the calling party. Toll free numbers may be dialed directly to a business or telephone line.
The use of toll free numbers has become very popular lately and has even proven to be quite successful for businesses especially in telemarketing and customer service areas. Toll free service gives potential clients and others a convenient way to get in touch with your business without paying for it. Additionally, customers can today send texts to toll free numbers, provided those numbers are “text enabled”. Businesses can respond through text.
How exactly do toll free numbers work?
So there’s this catchy ad you heard on the TV and, coupled with your expanding waistline, you take a phone and dial 1-800-ULOSEIT. Immediately, you are talking to a weight loss specialist in Virginia Beach right from your home in Bay Area. The call is at zero cost to you. So what transpired between calling the number and speaking to a weight-loss specialist?
After you dial the number, the SSP (Service Switch Protocol) in the telephone network identifies the number due to the 800-prefix. This prompts it to query the SCP (Service Control Point) that carries routing instructions requested by the weight loss center (the subscriber of toll-free service). In our above example, the instructions were to have all calls routed to Virginia Beach office and charge the number for the call. The call is completed just like that.
How are Toll Free Numbers Assigned?
All the toll free numbers are held in a centralized database known as the 800 Service Management System (abbreviated as SMS/800). This central repository knows whether if a number (1-800, 1-877, 1-888, 1-866 etc) is in use or available, and if it is in use, the type of routing instructions there are.
For one to be assigned one of the numbers, they have to get in touch with a Responsible Organization. Abbreviated as RespOrgs, Responsible Organizations are businesses, in most cases telephone companies that have undergone a certification process and have been given SMS/800 privileges.
Not only can RespOrgs check a number’s availability but they can also reserve numbers for applicants and even effect changes to customer’s accounts. Such an organization could be a telephone company or it could even be an individual behind PC. Companies sometimes choose to be their own RespOrgs and therefore manage their own accounts.
Area codes in USA with toll free numbers?
There are a total of 6 toll free codes today, and these are 800, 888, 877, 866, 855 and 844. While all these prefixes are free codes, they are not necessarily interchangeable. For instance, 1-800-176-4127 is not the same as 1-888-176-4127. Calls made to each toll free number will be routed to a specific local telephone number.
How to call toll free numbers in the US?
Normally, for you to call a toll free number that’s registered in the USA, Canada or any other country that belongs to the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) from another country, use the dialing instructions indicated here. If your call goes through, you will be notified that the call isn’t free.
If you are calling a toll free number from UK, you would need to add 00 to a US toll free number 1 800 000 0000. Thus, you will dial 00 1 800 000 0000.
When dialing a Canadian toll number, say 1 888 000 0000 from the US, you will dial it as is since both these countries belong in the NANP.
What is a Vanity Number?
Custom phone numbers containing your business name or attractive words to describe your services are referred to as vanity numbers. While typically harder to come by, these numbers are very valuable to your business, as they are for your clients to remember. Your customers can remember the number without necessarily looking you up.
There is a misconception among some people that the best vanity numbers are more expensive but this isn’t the case. Similarly to finding a good .com domain name for your company, registering a good toll free number is determined by searching and some luck.
What are some of the benefits of toll free numbers?
Easy to remember
One benefit of getting a toll free number is that it’s quite easy to remember than other numbers, especially in the case of a vanity number. It’s far much easier for a customer to remember 1-800-flowers than having to remember 1-800-356-9377. This increases the chances of people calling you, which can generate more business for you.
These numbers are not just good for the big companies, but are also excellent for businesses of all sizes, more so those that are just starting. Owing a toll number gives your company credibility and also enhances its image. No one would know it even if you are working from your basement.
When it comes to toll free numbers, location does not matter. You can relocate your business and your customers won’t suspect it. This is because you will still be reachable via your toll free number irrespective of your new location. All you need to do is to forward your calls.
How Does Toll Free Call Forwarding Work?
Call forwarding works via a network of virtual phone numbers which all forward to one centralized regular business line or toll free number. A call forwarding service helps you grow your business beyond the American borders so that you can start receiving calls from all over the world.