Landlines are susceptible to breaks in service, which cost your business money. A bad storm or a technical fault on the line could see you without a means to contact or be contacted by customers for days. A landline phone service can also prove costly and is unlikely to offer the range of features available with virtual telephone services.
Thankfully, businesses no longer need to rely on a single landline number. But what alternate phone numbers are there and which are best for your business? The choices available can be overwhelming – toll-free, local rates, national, international local — where do you begin?
We’ve put together a handy guide to the most popular types of phone numbers to help you choose the most suitable service for your small business.
Why Choose a Virtual Number?
Before considering the types of virtual numbers available, it’s important to understand what virtual numbers are and how they can benefit your business. Virtual numbers are non-geographic numbers that allow you to direct calls to a preferred device, such as a mobile phone. You may choose to direct calls to one device during office hours and another outside these times. Unlike a traditional landline, the number is not tied to one specific device.
Virtual numbers make it easy to re-route calls if there is a fault with a device, enabling you to stay in touch with actual and potential customers. You won’t lose business because your phone line is down. Virtual numbers are often part of VoIP systems, which offer a wide range of useful services hugely beneficial to a business, such as call queuing and recording. Additional benefits of virtual numbers include cost savings, number porting — and the ability to track marketing campaigns and boost your business’ brand. Learn more about virtual numbers here.
Freephone Numbers (Toll-Free Numbers)
Freephone numbers such as “0800”, “0500” and “0808” are a great way to boost the reputation of your business and to encourage potential customers to call you. An “0800” number (the most common freephone number in the UK) will make your company appear professional with a national reach. Customers are also much more likely to pick up the phone and call you rather than a competitor if they know their call will be free. In 2015, Ofcom made “0800” numbers free to call from mobile phones, making them even more valuable to businesses.
With an “0800” number, there is no need to change your number (and all your marketing content) if you move location because freephone numbers are non-geographic. This helps small businesses to build a consistent brand that customers feel they can trust and rely on.
Freephone numbers are especially useful for small businesses focussed on offering premium customer care and acquiring new business. The reason is, customers and leads can contact you without spending a penny. If you’re planning major marketing campaigns, an “0800” number can also increase response rates.
You can also purchase international toll-free numbers if your business has — or aims to have — global reach.
Local Rate Phone Numbers
Local rate phone numbers such as “0845” and “0844” allow businesses to hide their geographic location. This is a great benefit — especially to small businesses — because they can present as a large, successful company with national reach.
“0845” numbers also keep the cost of calls low for customers and potential customers, resulting in enhanced customer service and more sales. Companies and non-profit organisations can set a special rate for their “0845” number. This means they can cover the cost of calls — or even make a profit — if they receive a sufficiently high call volume.
If you invest in an “0845” number, it’s yours for as long as you choose to use it. It cannot be taken away from you. Local rate phone numbers are a great choice for businesses who want to offer advice or support services. They also encourage warm leads to get in touch, without footing the bill for a freephone number. So, “0845” numbers provide an affordable option for customers while helping you to keep business costs down.
National Rate Numbers
Numbers such as “0871” can establish a national reputation for your business and even turn a profit as customers pay a higher rate for their call (up to 13p per minute).
If you wish to limit calls to support or helpline, so only essential queries are received, a national rate number is it a great choice. The additional costs attached to this type of number encourages customers to call only when necessary. The extra call fee will also subsidise the cost of providing this service. This feature may be especially useful if you offer out-of-hours support — a national number will encourage customers to make contact during office hours.
As the number of businesses with remote employees increases, so does the popularity of national rate numbers. By passing the cost of call diversions on to the customer, you can keep costs down and boost profits.
The UK regulator for premium-rate numbers, The Phone Paid Services Authority, has set eligibility rules and standards for the use of “0871” numbers. You must register with them before you can use a national rate number.
UK Virtual Numbers (Local Numbers)
UK virtual numbers, or local numbers, allow small businesses to build their brand reputation and reach target geographical locations — even if their premises are elsewhere.
For example, a heating company based in Newcastle may wish to target London with its advertising campaign. By purchasing a number with a London prefix, such as “0203” or “0207”, the company will increase the number of calls from people living in their target destination. As with all virtual numbers, calls can divert to any device. So potential customers who call the London number will reach the sales team in Newcastle.
Even established companies can benefit from this tactic as consumers tend to favour local companies or businesses with local branches. So a major brand could purchase a local number to extend its reach.
Worldwide Virtual Numbers
Similar to the UK virtual numbers, worldwide numbers allow businesses to demonstrate a presence in a geographical location where they are not based. If your offices are in New York and you know customers in London will only buy from local companies, purchasing a worldwide virtual number can help to boost your brand in your target destination.
Another great benefit of international numbers is a small business can give the impression they have multiple offices in different countries — even if they are based in the UK. This makes your company appear established, successful and with global reach.
If you’re considering branching out beyond the UK, an international number will allow you to test the waters in your chosen market before investing serious capital in expansion.
The phone number you choose for your small business can help you to keep costs down, boost profits, increase sales and enhance customer satisfaction levels. All of this will help you on the way to business success. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to alternate phone numbers for business. Consider how your business operates each day, your goals and your budget.
If you’re still not sure which phone number type is right for your business, get in touch. Our friendly team of experts will be happy to help. We have over 20 years experience in the industry and we can supply, test and support numbers in many international locations.