Toll Free Numbers for Your Business

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Toll Free Numbers for Your Business
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Sound more professional with toll free numbers

A toll free number can be an indispensable asset to your business. They're most often used for customer service or help lines as one of the biggest benefits is they allow customers to call your business without being charged for the call. However, there are a lot of other great benefits to having a one for your business.

With an office of one, you may be able to get away with using just your local number, but as your business grows it's likely that your local number will no longer cut it and it will make sense to get a toll free number.

They can also come in handy before then, too, by making you look bigger and giving your small business the professional look and feel it needs to get those first few customers through the door.

What are toll free numbers?

Toll free numbers are phone numbers that begin with 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. These numbers let callers reach businesses without being charged. Instead, the owner of the toll free number is responsible for the charge.

How do toll free numbers work?

Toll free numbers are a staple of professionalism that allow your customers to call you free of charge. Despite their name, the phone calls are not technically “free,” as the business that owns the number must pay for both incoming and outgoing activity.

The idea behind a toll free number is that anyone calling the business has, in all likelihood, either already spent money with them, or is seeking information to possibly place a new order. Not charging for the phone call is a way of saying, “thanks for your business.”

Toll free number benefits:

  1. They're portable, meaning no one carrier owns it
  2. Lend credibility to your brand
  3. They reduce barriers to purchasing products online
  4. It costs your caller nothing to call you
  5. Give your business a national presence

One of the best parts about a toll free number is you own it! Once you buy a number, it is yours to keep. You aren't tied down to any one provider so you can take your number wherever you go.

Not all countries can call toll free numbers, so it's best to also have a local number if you do business outside of the US and Canada.

These numbers are very common now-a-days, so getting a toll free/800 number is easy. They're also first come first serve so you may not be able to get your first choice. Luckily, there are five toll free codes to choose from.

You'll get access to great features like call forwarding, unlimited extensions and read your voicemail.

Tips for picking the perfect toll number:

  1. Make it easy to remember
  2. Avoid weird/unique spellings (Don’t use 1-800-DOGZ if 1-800-DOGS is unavailable)
  3. Try and communicate what you do, or your business name
  4. Avoid number hybrids (e.g. 1-800-TINTING is more memorable than 1-800-493-TINT)
  5. Make it easy to spell (1-800-EYESIGHT vs. 1-800-OPHTHALMOLOGIST)
  6. Don’t use your company name unless:
    • it’s a well-known brand
    • it describes what you do

History of toll free numbers

Before toll free numbers, people had to place collect calls through an operator. The number of collect calls being placed was increasing, and because this system was so labor intensive, AT&T rolled out the toll-free, 800 number in 1967.

The first numbers worked only statewide. In the early 1980s, AT&T centralized their database and 800 numbers became nationwide. Vanity numbers emerged in the 1980s, increasing the popularity, as well.

In 1991, the FCC mandated that they be completely portable, meaning customers can take their toll-free number with them when they leave a phone company, and third party RespOrgs emerged. 800 numbers ran out, and the 888 prefix was launched in 1996. The international toll-free (UIFN) came out in 1997. As of 2008, there were 24 million toll-free numbers in use in North America.

Frequently asked questions about toll free numbers:

Does my business need a toll free number?
You should have one if:
  1. You sell products or services online.
  2. Your phone number is a key part of your marketing campaigns.
  3. You plan to expand or currently do business nationally.
How much does a toll free number cost?

The cost depends on the toll free provider. The cost is generally a combination of the toll-free service provider, the plan you chose and the amount of minutes you use per month.

How do I get a toll free number for my business?

You can get one through any toll free service provider. Since they are portable, meaning you own the number and are not tied down to any one service provider, the toll-free service provider doesn't matter. Once you select the provider you want to go with, getting an 800 number is as simple as signing up and selecting a number.

Is there a difference between the 800, 888, 877, 866, 855 and 844 prefixes?

No. They come in five formats, 1-800, 1-888, 1-877, 1-866, 1-855, and the newest, 1-844 and they all work the same. However, the 1-800 prefix is the only "true" 800 number. Regardless of which prefix you chose, they all work the same and offer you the same benefits.

Can my toll free number be more than 7 letters?

Yes and no. If you want it to be 1-800-MORTGAGE, you can use this in all of your marketing and ads. But to call you, customers will only dial 1-800-MORTGAG.

Can I use a toll free number for international calls?

A standard toll free number can be called from anywhere in the world. However, it’s only toll-free when called from North America. When called from abroad, they work just like a local number — fees are assessed normally to the caller.

For this reason, Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFNs) were launched in 1997 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). UIFNs are exactly like regular 800 numbers, but they are accessible toll-free from anywhere in the world.

What is toll free number hoarding?

According to the FCC, hoarding (also known as “warehousing”), is an illegal activity in which a business or service provider will snatch up large blocks of toll free numbers with the intention of reselling them at a premium in the future. The FCC regulates this activity by checking to make sure there are actual subscribers for whom the toll free numbers are being reserved. In fact, the FCC even reports that it is illegal for any subscriber to sell their toll free number for a fee. This law is intended to regulate the marketplace and ensure that all of the best vanity numbers do not become incredibly expensive to reserve.

Who is the best toll free number service provider?

While there are many different providers of numbers, the answer really comes down to the phone service you require behind the scenes. There are no real different between the acquisition of actual phone numbers, but the company you purchase the number through will likely have different available options once you have secured your number and how you can manage it. Grasshopper, for example, will offer you call forwarding to any number on any phone, unlimited extensions and much more.

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I am now a huge fan of Grasshopper… truly saved the day (and my sanity). Carolyn Appleton Carolyn Appleton Carolyn M. Appleton, Inc.
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