When to Get a Toll Free Number

Assessing the Need for Toll Free Numbers

How to get a toll free number? That's on the minds of many new small business owners. But before asking that question, ask this one: Do I need a toll free number? If the answer is yes, then and only then should you ask all the other relevant toll free number questions: How do I get a toll free number? How much do toll free numbers cost? Where can I buy the cheapest toll free numbers?

It seems like everywhere you look, more and more businesses are offering toll-free numbers as a service to their customers.

These numbers make it significantly easier for customers to contact your company, but are they worth the effort?

The answer to that question is complicated. In truth, a toll-free number might be a good fit for your business. Then again, it might be a complete waste of money. To make an informed decision, there are several other questions that need to be considered.

What are the benefits of a toll-free number?

There are a number of potential benefits to providing a toll-free number for your customers. The most obvious benefit is that it provides a way for customers to contact your company at no cost to themselves. It also gives your company a certain amount of credibility because it tells the customer that you take customer service seriously.

What are the disadvantages?

In addition to the added expense, a toll free number is an open invitation for unnecessary phone calls. Since it is a free, customers are more willing to call, even if they have no intention of purchasing your product. This is especially relevant for high-end product offerings where people (and competitors) do frequent price comparisons.

What types of businesses benefit most from toll-free numbers?

Some businesses benefit more from a toll-free number than others. For companies that are involved in high volume sales via the internet or catalog mailings, a toll-free number is a must. Toll-free numbers provide a nice benefit for businesses whose products require a significant amount of technical or follow-up assistance (e.g. computer technology products). However, if your customer base is largely local (e.g. a local hardware store), the benefits you will receive from a toll-free number are few, if any.

How do I obtain a toll-free number?

Toll-free numbers are available through a number of service providers. These service providers can be found on the internet or through referrals from other similarly sized businesses. The major communication providers also provide toll-free number service, however since they usually sell to higher volume clients, they usually charge small businesses a higher rate than other service providers that specialize in lower call volumes. Whoever you choose should be able to provide you with the equipment you need to bring your number online. They should also be able to help you obtain an available number and direct your toll-free calls to the extension of your choosing.

How will I be charged?

Long-distance charges for toll-free service are based on blocks of time. These blocks of time are available in several options including 6, 30, and 60 second intervals. Not surprisingly, shorter increments are billed at a slightly higher per second rate than longer ones. Nonetheless, most small businesses choose the 6-second increment option.

For additional information on toll-free number costs, see our article: How Much Do Toll Free Numbers Cost?

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We greatly appreciate any advice you can provide on this topic. Please contribute your insights on this topic so others can benefit.

  • Ron Kinkade posted on 6/17/2008
    Ron Kinkade
    Great information in this article but it fails to mention that many toll free number providers, like my company PhonePeople.com, include many additional services along with toll free number plans at no additional charge. In addition to standard numbers & vanity numbers, most plans come with a host of virtual pbx features normally only attainable through an expensive pbx system. Auto attendant, hold music, call redirection, call scheduling, screening, announce, voicemail, multiple extensions, voicemail to email and much more.
  • Brian Endres posted on 4/22/2010
    Brian Endres
    How can you own a 1-800 number? I don't want to lease the number. What is the guarantee that after spending years branding the number some savy individual take it from me. I have heard of people owning there 1800 number. Any advice? Brian
  • Eric Johnson posted on 8/29/2010
    Eric Johnson
    I transferred my toll-free number to hostednumbers.com a few weeks back. It forwards to my cell phone. They will let you port your toll-free or local phone number in or out so technically it's yours. I think there might be a porting charge.

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