Toll-Free Numbers: Everything You Need to Know

Every business is only as good as the technology that it uses, and what many people forget is that older technologies can be just as powerful as new technologies. In some cases, they can be even more effective because they can be harnessed in new and exciting ways, blended with technology (as with VoIP) or even just able to break through the noise by being a little different.

One of the most underrated options that businesses have available to them is toll-free numbers, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Used correctly, they can save your company money, improve communications between you and your customers and ultimately revolutionise your approach to communication.

The good news is that you’ve come to the right place, whether you’ve been asking yourself “what is a toll-free number?” or whether you’re already familiar with them and you just want to get started. Here’s everything you need to know about toll-free numbers.

What does toll-free mean?

The clue is in the name here – toll-free numbers are free of tolls, which means that when you call them, you don’t need to pay for the call. Instead, the company themselves swallow up the cost of the call, which gives customers extra confidence and is a much more attractive choice than dialing a premium number that costs them an extortionate amount for every minute that they spend on the line.

Of course, the downside of this is that the company has to swallow up the cost for all of the calls, and this can quickly become expensive, especially for larger companies. In some instances, there have even been cases of people protesting against the actions of companies by repeatedly dialing their 800 numbers to try to rack up big bills, though this is pretty rare and unlikely to be something you’ll need to worry about.

One of the big advantages of having a toll-free number is that it can help you to give your company a veneer of professionalism, even if you’re working from home or from a co-working space. This is especially important in the internet era in which just about anyone can start up a company. Toll-free numbers are just one of the many technologies that smaller companies can put to good use to help them to compete against the established global behemoths.

What are 800 numbers?

800 numbers originated in the United States and, though they’d been around for a while before their mainstream adoption, they really started to take off in the 1980s. It went from being a niche technology used by few to becoming just business as usual.

At around about the same time, vanity numbers experienced a huge surge in popularity, in part because it made it much easier to create a memorable phone number that tapped into the ability of alphanumeric phone keys to create numbers that could be literally spelled out. Some of the most famous (or entertaining) include 1-800-JET-BLUE (for the airline), 1-800-VIRUS-NO (for McAfee’s antivirus) and 1-800-FLOWERS (you can probably figure this one out for yourself).

One of the most interesting things about 800 numbers, and indeed something that’s more relevant now than when they were first introduced, is their ability to forward calls to other numbers. In the early days, this might have meant that companies routed calls through to specific departments to streamline the customer experience. Nowadays, 800 numbers can be routed through to employees’ mobile phones and even to VoIP systems softphone or IP phone.

Tollfree Prefixes

800 numbers eventually became so popular that there weren’t enough to go around, which is why 888, 877, 866 and 855 numbers have also been introduced. These numbers are perhaps less popular than 800 numbers, but they’re also less coveted and so therefore often much more affordable and with many of the same benefits when it comes to branding and call routing.

Some companies have even made the decision to future-proof by registering 888, 877, 866 and 855 numbers for the same string of characters, and indeed this is often a shrewd decision. With the cost of renting toll-free numbers so affordable for even the smallest businesses, purchasing additional toll-free numbers just in case is a bit like signing up for a placeholder account on a social networking site.

Ultimately, the toll-free prefix that you use is probably less important than the string of numbers that you choose to follow it. Ensuring that these numbers are as memorable as possible will help you to maximize the amount of use you get out of your toll-free number by helping people to remember your phone number as easily as they remember your web address.

What’s next?

Now that you know everything you need to know about toll-free numbers, it’s over to you to put what you’ve learned today into practice. Luckily, by now you should have a good idea of what toll-free numbers are and whether they can help you or not, and if you’re ready to get started with a toll-free number then there are also plenty of providers for you to choose from.

Get started by looking at the websites for different providers and getting a feel for what they can offer you. Some focus on being budget providers and will charge lower fees but for less functionality, while others will have limited time offers or free demos so that you can try before you buy. The important thing is to shop around and to find the right provider for you. Good luck!