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What is the Difference Between Toll Free and Local Phone Numbers?

A comparison of local versus toll free numbers.

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Are you in the market for a business phone number but cannot decide between local and toll-free numbers? Selecting the right phone number type is crucial for your company’s communication strategy.

Whether you are a startup, a local business, or a large multinational corporation, choosing between a local phone number and a toll-free number will impact customer engagement and your brand image.

This guide will help you understand the key differences between these two types of numbers and why you might choose one over the other based on your business needs.

Local Phone Numbers vs. Toll-Free Numbers

Due to technological advancements, you now have more business telephone number options than ever before. Both local and toll-free phone numbers have unique benefits that suit different business strategies and use cases. Before you start, you should consider how the benefits of each number type support your business use case.

Why do Businesses Use Local Phone Numbers?

Local phone numbers correspond with a specific geographic location or city. These numbers have a designated area code for the city, town, or state they are issued in, such as 786 or 305 for Miami and 204 for London. Local numbers are beneficial for:

  • Establishing a local presence: They signal to partners and consumers that your business is part of their local community.
  • Enhancing local SEO: Local numbers improve your chances of appearing in and being contacted through local searches.
  • Building business relationships: Outbound calls are more likely to be answered because these numbers foster trust with local clientele.
  • Increased engagement: Customers and prospects are more likely to call a local phone number than an international one from another country.
  • Targeting specific markets: With virtual numbers, you can have multiple local numbers for different regions from one central location.
  • International reachability: Local numbers can be dialed from within the country and from other countries.

Calls made to these numbers are not free. Callers pay what their provider charges for local calls. However, people in-country can still contact your business to resolve their concerns over the phone without paying international calling charges. Local geographic numbers can also receive calls from outside the country and across mobile networks.

Thanks to its accessibility from in-country and abroad, a local phone number can be a local and regional contact number. And you can have one without physically expanding to another city and opening a local office. You can target different markets from one central location if you buy local phone numbers in other cities and countries. In this article, you can learn about using local numbers to establish a virtual business presence.

What Can Toll-Free Numbers Do for Businesses?

Toll-free numbers are not tied to specific local areas. They allow callers to reach your business without incurring charges. The business bears the cost of the calls, making toll-free numbers a suitable option for:

  • National reachability: They are ideal for businesses expanding to specific countries or servicing employees and customers in other countries.
  • Professional image: Toll-free numbers, such as 1800, 0800, or 888, are associated with established, customer-focused businesses.
  • Enhanced customer service: They encourage customers and local partners to reach out without concern for call charges.
  • Marketing and brand recall: Toll-free numbers have better brand recognition and are more effective in marketing materials.

While using toll-free numbers might seem obvious, you need to know that they are usually only reachable from in-country. They generally cannot be dialed from other countries, with only a few exceptions, making them a less-than-ideal choice for businesses that need a phone number that can be dialed from multiple different countries.

Does Your Business Need Local or Toll-Free Numbers?

The decision ultimately depends on factors such as your target market, expansion plans, desired brand image, and company documentation.

Local numbers may suit businesses with their sights set on having a hyper-localized brand presence, but their documentation requirements can be stricter. For example, local numbers in certain countries require a preexisting company presence. Toll-free numbers, on the other hand, are better for businesses aiming to project a corporate image to a wider national audience. Documentation requirements are also generally less strict with toll-free numbers than local ones.

Choosing Between Toll-Free and Local Numbers

So, how do you choose which phone number type will better suit your business? There are a few questions to review with stakeholders:

  • How will this phone number be used?

Your business phone number shapes customer expectations and trust. Local numbers create an impression of a community-focused business in a specific locale, while toll-free numbers convey a sense of a larger, more established company.

  • Do you need a local city presence or a wider national reach?

Local phone numbers are tied to specific cities, while toll-free numbers are nationwide. Choose wisely.

  • Does this phone number need to be reachable from other countries?

Toll-free numbers are generally not reachable from other countries, while local phone numbers can be dialed in-country and abroad. Choose a local number option if you need the phone number to be reachable worldwide.

  • Do you have the proper documentation requirements?

Review the country documentation required and learn more about why documentation is required to get a business phone number.

  • What is your budget for IT and telecommunications projects?

Toll-free numbers might have monthly initial costs due to the business bearing call charges, but they can encourage more customer interactions, higher sales volumes, and happier customers. Being more cost-effective, local numbers might be a better choice for smaller businesses with a limited budget focusing on a specific region.

Let Global Call Forwarding Help You Decide

Our team of experienced telecom experts can help you decide whether a toll-free or local number is right for your business. We can also walk you through each phone number type, present a demo, and help you get started with a free trial to test both options.

You can also experiment with both number types. Set up toll-free and local numbers simultaneously, and see which is better for yourself.

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