Toll Free 800 Numbers are free to callers whether the calls are local or long distance. In all instances, the toll free 800 number subscriber pays the charges for the calls. However, mobile phone callers accumulate the call minutes on their accounts.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has assigned six area codes for toll free numbers in the United States. These are 800, 888, 877, 866, 855 and 844. “Responsible Organizations” or “RespOrgs” assign the 800 numbers to subscribers on a first-come, first-served basis. The FCC does not allow toll 800 numbers to be reserved or warehoused by RespOrgs. The FCC regulates the use of toll free 800 numbers, but it does not assign the numbers to the RespOrgs. The SMS/800 website determines the available assignments.
Somos is a non-profit company that administers the Service Management System SMS/800 database. RespOrgs access the database for available toll free numbers and reserve the numbers for their subscribers. They also create call routing records for the handling of calls.
Somos also powers the Texting and Smart Services (TSS) Registry, which lists the text-enabled 800 numbers. The registry includes routing information and multimedia services associated with the text enabled toll 800 numbers.
How to Get a Toll Free 800 Number
Getting a toll free 800 number is simple.
First, contact a call forwarding service provider such as Global Call Forwarding. Next, specify the desired 800 series area code (800, 888, 877, 866, 855 or 844). Then, select the actual number from a list of available numbers provided by the service provider. It is also possible to request a vanity number although this may result in a nominal fee for the service. Subscribers pick the toll free 800 number and specify the destination number or numbers. Then, they select a plan and plan options to complete the process. Usually, toll free 800 numbers are available for use in one business day.
Another toll free option is to obtain a local number. The number selection process is similar to the one for a toll free 800 number. However, instead of an 800 series area code, subscribers select a local area code. The phone network forwards calls to the local number to a destination number anywhere in the world at no charge to the caller. The use of a local number is beneficial if a business or individual has a large customer base in an urban area. The local number gives the impression of a nearby office, even if that office is halfway around the globe. The cost of the international call forwarding service is very affordable.
How to Dial an 800 Number
Dialing a toll free 800 number is like dialing any long distance number. Just dial “1” plus 800 series area code and the seven-digit number. On a cell phone, omit the “1”. To the caller, this is a seamless process.
In reality, the process is somewhat more complex. The number toll free 900 number dialed indicates to the phone network that special processing is needed. The phone network obtains carrier, termination and routing information from a Service Control Point (SCP) that is part of the SMS/800 database. The SCP returns instructions to the phone network to connect the call.
Forecasts of the Growth of Toll Free Numbers
Somos, formerly known as SMS/800, published a report in March 2015 titled, “Forecasting Utilization of Toll-Free Numbers” that predicts 58 to 68 million 800 numbers will be in use by the second quarter of 2021. However, forecasts also project exhaustion of the available pool of numbers as early as the second quarter of 2017. Three recommendations from the report are as follows:
Initiate an 833 area code in the early months of 2017.
Continue to monitor the growth of toll free 800 numbers to determine if growth continues to accelerate.
Develop contingency plans if the new 833 area code is not sufficient to satisfy toll free 800 number growth.
Business Benefits of Toll Free Numbers
Utilizing toll free 800 numbers helps businesses to achieve their primary mission of satisfying their customer base. Toll free numbers make businesses easily accessible to customer questions and requests. Incoming calls from your customers are free. They pay no long-distance charges. In addition, having a toll free 800 number projects a professional image for the company. Other business benefits are the features included with the toll free numbers. These include:
- Recording of inbound calls
- Forwarding calls based on time of day or day of the week
- Advanced Interactive Voice Response/Public Branch Exchange (IVR/PBX) software to direct incoming callers
- Sequential forwarding of calls to preset numbers
- Failover forwarding to improve customer service and call quality
- Local Ringback Tone
- Simultaneous ringing on two or more phones
- Forward Fax to send or receive faxes to email
- Rollover of unused minutes
- Customized greetings for incoming calls
- Voicemail black and white lists to reject or accept calls, respectively
- The cost of toll free numbers with the above options is surprisingly low