We’ve all received incoming calls from toll-free numbers, often without even realizing it.
Many businesses today still use toll-free phone numbers for a variety of reasons, including knowing that having a 1-800 number attached to their brand helps them look established.
Large corporations aren’t the only ones who can benefit from these toll-free numbers, however. This guide will discuss everything you need to know about these phone numbers, including why businesses use them and how to get one.
What Is a Toll-Free Number?
A toll-free number is a phone number that landlines can dial without being charged for the call. They’re often business phone numbers typically used to reach businesses or organizations and are often prefixed with three-digit codes like 800, 888, and 877.
Toll-free numbers can be text-enabled, so as long as the phone service supports text messages, you can send and receive SMS messages from these lines.
Types of Toll-Free Phone Numbers
There are different types of toll-free numbers, some of which serve unique purposes. There’s not much of a functional difference between them other than that they are popular and additional area codes have been dedicated to their use.
Toll-free area codes
The most commonly recognized type of toll-free number is the classic 1-800. Because it’s well-recognized, it’s often associated with credibility and the long-standing establishment of a business.
Some businesses have even incorporated the 800 prefix into their brand. 1-800-FLOWERS, for example, centered its entire brand and brand name around it.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced numbers with 888 prefixes as the demand for toll-free telephone numbers grew.
The FCC is responsible for regulating toll-free numbers and recognizes all the listed prefixes in this post as valid. Established businesses, such as PNC Bank, use 888 toll-free numbers for their brands.
The FCC rolled out 877 numbers, like 888 numbers, as more businesses sought toll-free numbers. It added these numbers in 1998.
This is another series in the expanding list of toll-free number options. Due to the increasing popularity of toll-free phone numbers, the FCC introduced 866 numbers in 2000.
The FCC rolled out 855 numbers in 2010, making them a relatively new addition to the toll-free number family.
Rolled out in 2013, the FCC introduced 844 numbers to ensure the continued availability of toll-free numbers.
833 numbers are the latest addition to the toll-free number series, being introduced in 2017. While they’re still not as common as other toll-free number prefixes on this list, they are just as valid and respected.
Vanity phone numbers
Vanity phone numbers are toll-free numbers that spell out words or phrases on the classic telephone keypad. They were particularly important before smartphones when people couldn’t just look up a phone number on a mobile app.
Even now, they’re easy to remember, and companies often use them for branding and marketing purposes.
Vanity phone numbers can use any of the toll-free prefixes. Examples include the following:
- 1-800 Contacts’ phone number is 1-800-CONTACTS (or 1-800-266-8228).
- Comcast’s customer support line is 1-800-Xfinity (or 1-800-934-6489).
- FedEx’s phone number is 1-800-GoFedEx (or 1-800-463-3339).
As you can imagine, vanity toll-free numbers are hard to get, even today. A better alternative to a nationally recognized phone number is a local one, where you opt for a phone number that is locally trusted and easily recognized, such as 602-555-5555.
Shared use numbers
Shared use numbers are toll-free numbers that are shared by multiple businesses, often in different geographic or service areas. When they’re in use, phone calls from inbound callers are routed to the appropriate business based on criteria such as the caller’s location.
Multiple personal injury attorneys, for example, use the vanity number 1-800-HURT-NOW. When someone calls this number, they’ll be connected to the firm closest to their local area.
Why Businesses Use Toll-Free Numbers
Toll-free numbers afford businesses a few advantages, regardless of the business’s size or industry. The most common advantage, of course, is that it lends instant credibility to the business.
Toll-free numbers convey a sense of professionalism and reliability because the businesses using them seem established. “Established” can translate into “trustworthy” in the eyes of potential customers.
For customers considering different buying options, opting for a more established and trustworthy business can seem like the safer bet.
Toll-free numbers eliminate the geographical limitations of traditional landline numbers.
If a customer in Florida is trying to find a plumber but sees a telephone phone number with a Wisconsin area code, they’ll probably scroll to another listing.
They won’t assume that the company headquarters are located in Wisconsin with a national presence; they’ll just assume that they can’t actually get service. A toll-free number can prevent this.
Landlines can call for free
Businesses can save on long-distance charges by using toll-free numbers for inbound calls, regardless of where the caller is located. This is especially beneficial for small businesses and startups.
Additionally, landlines can dial toll-free numbers without any additional charges.
Acts as a permanent phone number
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) toll-free numbers can be easily scaled to accommodate fluctuating call volumes, making them suitable for businesses of all sizes.
Many companies, including small businesses, call centers, and startups, are now relying on VoIP business phone number systems.
When they do, they can take advantage of virtual phone features such as call forwarding, SMS messaging, voicemail transcriptions, call recording, caller ID, and auto attendant, in addition to the benefits of toll-free numbers.
Routes calls to several destinations
VoIP toll-free numbers can be routed to various devices, including landline phones, mobile phones, and desk phones. This can ensure that incoming calls are never missed.
VoIP systems, as discussed above, provide advanced call routing options. This allows businesses to distribute inbound calls efficiently and effectively between multiple agents and departments. They’re also often cost-effective, especially compared to conventional business phone lines.
Use Cases for Toll-Free Phone Numbers
Just as business owners may choose toll-free numbers (including vanity toll-free numbers) based on a number of different advantages, there are multiple use cases to consider.
Streamlining customer service
Toll-free numbers make it easy to streamline customer service, especially when you’re using virtual phone services with VoIP functionality. Incoming callers can take advantage of unlimited calls to the business, and your business can use call routing or dedicated vanity numbers to get callers to a qualified service rep quickly. This can streamline customer service and improve the user experience.
Example: A home appliance company offers a toll-free number for customers to call for free repair consultations, increasing customer satisfaction due to the ease of getting help. They offer a dedicated support line and a dedicated sales line for tracking calls, nurturing leads, and forecasting pipelines.
Tracking marketing campaign ROI
Marketing often involves A/B testing different campaigns to assess which is most effective. You can attach different toll-free numbers to each marketing campaign, tracking to see which attracts the most inbound calls and which of those callers are most likely to convert.
Example: A fitness center runs ads in two different locations, using separate toll-free numbers for each. By tracking the call volume of each number, it can determine which campaign is more effective.
Handling higher call volumes
As a business grows, it will likely see an increase in call volumes. Toll-free numbers paired with VoIP systems may come with features such as call forwarding and auto attendants to help callers connect quickly with the team they need.
Example: As a catering business grows, its toll-free number easily manages the increasing volume of calls for bookings and inquiries without needing a significant upgrade in infrastructure.
Managing crisis communications
No brand wants to deal with a crisis, but you always want to be ready in case the unexpected happens. Managing crisis communications is much more effective when you’ve got a toll-free number with VoIP functionality that can handle a skyrocketing number of calls.
Example: During a product recall, a food manufacturing company uses its toll-free number to handle a surge in customer inquiries, providing timely information and instructions on product returns and replacements.
Get Your First Toll-Free Number Today
Numbers with toll-free area codes are incredibly important to businesses of all sizes. They lend more credibility than local numbers, which can be an essential part of scaling your business. A toll-free number practically screams “established, responsible organization.”
Consider choosing a trusted VoIP phone system service provider that offers toll-free numbers.
Nextiva includes a toll-free number with its business phone service, along with many advanced features such as call recording, conference calling, and business texting. We also support local numbers, so there’s plenty of flexibility based on what your business needs.
We offer unlimited calling in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico (including long-distance calls!), and we offer competitive pricing for international calls.