Toll-free numbers can help bring more customers and clients to your company by providing them with an easy and free way to connect. A toll-free number helps you reach a wider audience, both locally and internationally.
Here is a comprehensive guide to toll-free numbers for business and their benefits.
Toll-Free Number: Definition and How it Works?
A toll-free number is a business phone number that customers can call for free. These numbers have a distinct code as their prefix to distinguish them from other number types.
For example, the US has 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833, and 800 numbers, while the UK has 0808 and 0800 freephone numbers. Other countries use different toll-free number prefixes. However, an 800 number is the most common prefix used across the globe.
To use such a number, businesses subscribe to a toll-free forwarding service that can forward incoming calls from anywhere to any device or location. This way, businesses bear inexpensive calling costs while giving customers a free calling option.
History of Toll-Free Services
AT&T introduced automated 800 services in 1966 for intrastate calls and in 1967 for interstate calls through a system called Inward Wide Area Telephone Service (InWATS).
The issuance of US Patent 4191860A on March 4, 1980, to Roy P Weber of Bell Telephone Laboratories, allowed AT&T to replace the InWATS system. The FCC is responsible for regulating the use of such free calling numbers.
At the time, long-distance calls were expensive. However, this new processing method reduced costs significantly. Further, it allowed small businesses to subscribe to 800 services. As advancements in telecommunications continued, toll-free international calls using call forwarding became available to businesses.
What Are Hosted Toll-Free Numbers?
Virtual or hosted toll-free numbers use international call forwarding to route calls via the internet. Through this process, businesses are able to connect with international clientele through international toll-free numbers (ITFN) without paying expensive international calling rates.
The following steps outline the process for connecting virtual 800 calls.
- The caller makes the call by dialing the number.
- The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or call forwarding service receives the call.
- This call is then routed to a different line or number based on predetermined rules set by you or the account manager.
- Finally, the call reaches the designated destination.
Different Types of Toll-Free Numbers
There are a few different types of toll-free numbers. All of these numbers do the same thing: they encourage customers to call for free. However, there are a few differences in terms of how they reach customers:
1. Vanity 800 Numbers
A vanity 800 number uses patterns or letters to create a memorable and easy-to-recognize phone number. Popular examples are 800-GOT-JUNK, 1-800-T-MOBILE, or 1-800-WALGREENS. Vanity numbers with patterns would look like this: 800-222-2223 or 888-465-4655. The point is to use a business number creatively to make a strong impression on viewers.
2. Domestic Toll-Free Numbers
A domestic toll-free number of a country is accessible to callers from within that country. These are often called true “800 numbers” and enable toll-free calling within a country. For example, Australian residents can call an 1800 Australian toll-free number for free from inside the country. Additionally, domestic toll-free numbers do not incur additional fees when called from mobile or payphones.
3. International Toll Free Numbers (ITFNs)
ITFNs or ITFS numbers are toll free numbers for different countries. You can get an international toll-free number for almost any country or market you want to expand operations to. Incoming calls to these numbers can be forwarded to any device or location of your choice through international call forwarding. This is a helpful option for companies with a wide international reach or those that want to take their business global.
For example, say your company is located in the US, but you want to connect with UK or Singapore customers. You can purchase UK or Singapore toll-free numbers from a toll-free number provider like Global Call Forwarding. With these numbers, residents from these countries can call your business for free, even if you are not located in or have field offices in those countries. And incoming calls will ring at your main office in the US.
Related: How Much Does an International Toll-Free Number Cost? 
4. Universal International Freephone Numbers
Many business owners want to know if they can purchase toll-free numbers that are free to call from anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, global toll-free numbers, in this sense, do not exist.
However, companies have the option of using a universal international freephone number (UIFN). This is a single toll-free number for multiple countries (up to 65) that participate in the UIFN program, organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
There are a few restrictions and complications involved in getting a UIFN; speak with our representatives to learn more.
Benefits of Toll-Free Numbers
So, why does your business need 800 numbers?
Communication and marketing studies have consistently shown that ITFS numbers are beneficial to businesses by enabling them to maintain connections with customers from across the world. An 800 number gives a business the opportunity to create a virtual or local presence in various cities, states, and countries.
Customers have one easy-to-dial and free number to call, and the calls reach the appropriate destinations quickly via call forwarding. This encourages interested prospects and long-term customers to maintain contact with a business. Such communication is necessary for continued sales growth.
Additionally, virtual toll-free numbers come packed with useful communication tools such as:
- Call forwarding options like simultaneous or sequential ringing, select country forwarding, time-based forwarding, etc.
- Inbound and outbound call recording
- IVR systems and extensions
- Outbound calling with a dynamic caller ID
Do Toll-Free Numbers Work Internationally?
Businesses that wish to expand globally or provide customer support to their international clientele can use 800 numbers and ITFNs that work internationally. With these 800 numbers, your customers in target countries will be able to call your business without any charge to them. Instead, your company pays for the cost of the call.
In other words, a business can get a toll-free number for a different country (say, the US) and route incoming calls to their main office in another country (say, France). Callers from within the US can call this ITFN for free, and they won’t know that they are being routed to a representative in France.
If you were to use a France-based phone number to contact US customers, they might be reluctant to answer your call or call you back, fearing long-distance rates. They would also have to deal with complicated long-distance calling codes. Market research shows that these two factors will reduce your customer communications, decrease your leads, and cut your revenue.
This is where ITFNs provide useful and cost-efficient. In this case, you can avoid the problem by purchasing a US toll-free number from a provider like Global Call Forwarding. Your US customers can call you for free, and all calls will be easily redirected to your satellite office, customer service center in the US, or your main office in France.
This is a great way to expand your business throughout the world because it provides an inexpensive and efficient way to increase your communication and marketing. Plus, you make it much easier for clients to contact you and they will appreciate it.
How a Toll-Free Service Can Improve your Metrics
The important thing to remember when you buy international toll-free numbers is to make each one serve its own purpose. In this way, you can track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. For example, let’s say you are advertising your product or service in several places simultaneously. These are:
- Your website
- Email newsletter
- Social media
- Offline marketing platforms
You could use a different toll-free number for each of these mediums. That way, you would be able to track each lead to its original source. Armed with this information, you can adjust your marketing strategies to be more effective where necessary. You will also need to find out any restrictions before you purchase a new number, such as whether the phone number will work with mobile phones or not.
Choosing a Toll-Free Number for Your Company
Effective business and sales communication lead to increased customer satisfaction, which results in more sales. While social media, email, and live chat are important elements of a business’ identity, many clients and customers still prefer direct telephone contact. Based on your business and your goals, it is imperative to choose the right business toll-free number. To learn more or get your own 800 phone number, call us at 1 (888) 908 6171 today!