A toll-free number is a phone number you can pay for that allows customers to call your business long-distance or internationally without themselves paying long-distance or international charges. If your business serves customers outside of your local area, you might consider getting a toll-free number. It provides credibility to your business and allows you to use your business phone number for promotion.
Read on to learn about how you can get a toll-free number and the many benefits it can offer your business.
What is a toll-free number?
A toll-free telephone number allows people who call your business to bypass the per-minute charges on long-distance or international calls. Phone companies usually pre-assign toll-free numbers, but you can purchase a custom number as an upgrade. You can also add some basic features like voicemail and call forwarding.
Today, most cell phone plans offer unlimited calling within the U.S. but in the past, long-distance charges could get expensive. Large companies used toll-free numbers to make communication accessible for their customers around the country.
Now, a toll-free number can help your business accommodate customers on limited phone plans. Plus, it communicates trustworthiness and legitimacy as toll-free numbers are still associated with the big corporations that first began using them.
How to get a toll-free business number
To get a toll-free business number, follow the simple steps listed below.
1. Compare features of toll-free phone service providers
If you’re considering a toll-free number for your business, contact your current service provider and see if they offer toll-free service. Not only is this more convenient than choosing another company, but you may also be able to get a good rate. If your phone provider doesn’t offer a free toll-free number with the features you want, research other options. Every provider has different features and different rates, so determine which elements are essential to your operation and then compare rates.
Make sure the service provides the features you need to run your business efficiently and help your customers reach you easily. Make a list and prioritize businesses that advertise what you need at the forefront. You don’t want a feature that sounds good on paper but impedes customers from interacting with you. Popular toll-free number features include the following:
A popular toll-free business service known as HD calling has crystal clear audio quality, and you can use your own phone for the call. Some industry-standard features include messaging, recording, voicemail, auto attendant, team account, fax and business hours. You can also set a password lock.
Special rates for international calls
Look for providers that offer competitive rates on international calls with no per-minute charge.
Access to call logs
Another helpful feature includes full access to all call logs in real-time. Depending on the needs of your business, this may include the date and time of the call, duration and caller’s name if they registered their number with you.
An auto attendant system answers the phone when someone calls your number. It provides the caller with options for what they want to do next, such as requesting a representative, scheduling something via voice mail or finding out more about your company.
Call forwarding will forward your call from one phone line to another on a per-call basis. You set up forwarding by calling the telephone carrier and adding the new phone number to the old one so that it forwards incoming calls.
Most carriers offer number portability which lets you change your home or mobile phone number without contacting each carrier. To do so, you’ll have to register with a portability provider and give them your old carrier’s name, account number, PIN code and billing address. The portability provider contacts your previous providers individually and notifies them of the change so you don’t experience a lapse in service. Note that this does not work if you have an active contract. In that case, you'll have to continue paying monthly fees until it expires.
2. Choose your prefix and your plan
Toll-free numbers have become an essential part of modern business — companies use them in advertising campaigns and as an additional customer service line. Toll-free numbers can have various extensions based on your company’s branding or preference. Carriers offer many toll-free codes, including 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, 888 and 800.
Once you know your prefix, you can choose your plan. These are the three most common types of business toll-free number plans:
Use a toll-free international number to reach customers in other countries and save money on long-distance charges. You can obtain an international number easily and choose a standard or 800 line.
A domestic plan is the most basic type of toll-free plan and comes with a set monthly fee. The domestic method offers the advantage of a low start-up cost, but this option may not suit you if you want to invest in more than one phone line.
Universal International Freephone Numbers
A Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) provides a caller with international-rate access to any destination, including a U.S. toll-free number. You can find UIFNs in Canada, France, Germany and many other countries. Consider this type of phone service to provide an international customer service experience without paying expensive international rates on every call.
Unfortunately, UIFN only works in certain countries, so research the regulations before registering with a provider.
3. Register for an account and connect the number to your existing line
Every company has a different experience buying a toll-free number, but here are some things that are generally included in the process:
- Register for an account with the company of your choice through their website or by contacting them over the phone.
- Complete a short form, including your name and contact information.
- Decide if you want to port in your existing line or transfer to a local line. Most opt for the first option because it's cheaper and faster than transferring your number.
- Choose what type of line service you want, because many providers offer various types of lines and other features.
- Make your initial payment, after which the company will give you a toll-free number that matches your area code so people can call your office without paying long-distance fees.
4. Set up your voicemail greeting
The process for setting up your voicemail greeting will depend largely on your provider. However, there are some general steps you can follow to get started with your toll-free number. Start by following your provider’s instructions for accessing your voicemail. Then, access the “record your greeting” option, listen for the beep and wait for the tone before speaking. Clearly state your company name, then provide callers with instructions for what information they should leave in a message and when they can expect a returned call. Finally, end your message with a “thank you” or similar signoff.
The advantages of using a toll-free number
While having one isn’t always necessary, there are several advantages of using a toll-free number. These are some of the most significant ways a toll-free number can help your business:
It gives your business a large-scale appearance
A toll-free number signals to prospective customers that you care about communication and accessibility. It gives your business an air of professionalism and credibility. If your business takes this step to establish trust with customers, they’ll feel confident knowing they can reach you anytime, anywhere. This convenience can increase customer loyalty, leading to increased revenue.
Your callers won’t incur long-distance fees
A toll-free number can help get your business noticed by people who might not otherwise have found you. If your customers live nationwide or in other states, a toll-free number will allow them to call you easily without incurring long-distance fees. You can even use it as a marketing strategy, with many businesses offering prizes or discounts in return for calls received on their toll-free number.
You can run your business from your mobile device
Between office hours, working late and taking care of your personal obligations, you might struggle to find time for anything else. But with a toll-free phone number, you can run your business from your mobile device, untethering you from your office phone.
Your toll-free number for business can forward all calls to cell phones, so you’ll never miss an important call. You can also use the app on your phone to check messages left on your toll-free number so you don’t miss important messages and can respond quickly.
You can make it a memorable vanity number
A toll-free vanity number makes it easy for customers to remember your contact information, leading to higher customer contact rates overall. Consider how potential customers will search for your company when choosing a vanity phone number. For example, for an off-the-beaten-path flower shop in Brooklyn, something like 1-800-NYC-FLWR makes sense because people will remember you by the number even if they don’t pass by your shop often.
Do you need a toll-free 800 number?
Buying a toll-free number isn’t always necessary, but it can offer significant benefits if you have a customer service or sales team. Having a toll-free number may also make sense if you have customers in multiple states. That said, you might not need a toll-free number if you don’t plan to do business in other states.
The average cost of a toll-free number
The cost of a toll-free number varies based on the type of service you need. Still, most companies charge about $10 to $20 per month for a standard toll-free number, depending on your desired features and local competition for numbers.
If you want Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) features on your line, prepare to pay double that amount. You can also transfer an existing toll-free number from one provider to another if you decide to switch.
Legitimize your business with a toll-free number
You can use a toll-free number as a lucrative marketing tool to expand your reach with very little investment. Even though most people now have cell phones, many still use landlines and prefer an inexpensive option for out-of-state calls. Additionally, many people associate a toll-free number with large and credible companies, adding an air of professionalism and scale that can benefit your business and bring in more customers.