You’ve probably heard the term “toll-free” before on infomercials or other TV programs. What is a toll free number? How does it differ from a regular phone number, and should you use one? This article will explain what a toll-free number is and how to use one, and some of the drawbacks of the service.
What Does “Toll-Free” Actually Mean?
Toll-free is exactly what it sounds like. When you place a normal landline phone call, you are charged for the call by your service provider. Most service providers charge a monthly fee for phone service, but there are some that still charge per minute for landline calls.
A toll-free number doesn’t incur a charge when dialed from a landline. Usually, the toll-free number will have one of these area codes: 800, 866, 877, or 855. This signifies that the number you’re calling is a toll-free number and you won’t be charged for the call.
Some toll-free numbers even include text messaging services so you can text a particular business, and they’ll send a response via text message. This is a quick way to get in touch with your favorite businesses for customer support or other questions and comments.
You may have seen “vanity numbers” on infomercials, such as “1800-CALLUS”. A vanity number spells out a word or phrase and is used by companies to help potential customers easily remember their phone number.
An acronym is usually easier to remember than a series of numbers, so vanity numbers are a popular choice among TV retailers and other organizations. Even some government agencies utilize a vanity number to help citizens easily remember the phone number.
Does This Mean Toll-Free Is Completely Free?
While a toll-free number may be free to dial for those dialing in, the company that owns that number will still need to pay for the phone call; both outgoing and incoming. Essentially a toll-free number is a company’s way of providing an easy contact option for its customers.
While toll-free numbers incur a cost for any business that uses them, they can be an excellent way to connect with customers. Toll-free numbers are used for troubleshooting, customer service issues, and much more.
When you start out small, an office landline or even a mobile phone is enough, but once you begin expanding and your customer base grows, you’ll probably want to consider a toll free number for your business. You’ll also need to hire extra people to answer those phones, but when customers can contact you easily, they’re more likely to be satisfied with your customer service efforts.
Toll-Free numbers Can Include Automated Services
Toll-free numbers exist to streamline phone calls and get to the root of any issues quickly. The idea is that customers call in with a problem, the problem is solved over the phone, and they go on their way. The longer a customer is on the phone, the higher the bill will be.
Automated services can either perform troubleshooting over the phone or screen customers to direct them to the correct departments. We’ve all heard these systems at one time or another. “Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Service, etc”.
Besides having to hire a staff to answer the calls, and paying for the calls both outgoing and incoming, there are a few other drawbacks to having a toll free number. The first is the setup cost.
When you obtain a toll-free number, all you get is the phone number. Any automated services will need to be set up, phones and other accessories will have to be purchased by the business itself. The initial setup cost can be expensive, and maintaining the equipment can also carry a cost with it.
Many small businesses choose to avoid this initial startup cost and instead will utilize a virtual phone system instead. This is a bit different than a toll-free number. You’re provided a virtual phone number which is linked to your personal number, so you give the impression of having a dedicated business number while using your own phone.
Do I Need A Toll-Free Number?
This answer largely depends on your business size, customer base, and the needs of the business itself. If you’re a small business just getting your feet wet, the startup cost of a toll-free number is probably an unnecessary expense.
Toll free numbers are usually acquired by large businesses with high sales volume. The toll-free number is a way of saying thank you to the customers for their business by providing them with a cost-free way to contact the business.
Take a close look at your business’ needs before deciding to obtain a toll-free number. There are alternatives such as virtual phone services and conference calling services that may work better for your business.
Always keep in mind cost, especially if you’re just starting out. While providing customers with an easy way to contact your business is important, you don’t want to jeopardize your finances by paying for something you may not need.
Toll-free numbers are a great tool for large businesses, but can be costly and aren’t necessarily required for smaller businesses. Research all of your available options before obtaining a toll-free number, and always be sure that you’re getting what you need out of the service.