I came across a post about toll free numbers yesterday on a blog post from Cloud Contacts that I thought was interesting. It’s a question that I think other people might have and want to read about or comment on, so I thought I’d include it here as well.
As we process more and more business cards, one thing I’ve noticed is that some of them have toll-free numbers listed for phone or fax. Toll-free numbers use the following prefixes: 800,877,866,888 and are typically “free” to call.
Taking a random sample of cards, most of the larger companies (especially banks) have toll-free numbers listed while startups and small businesses list local phone numbers.
I asked my followers on Twitter for their thoughts on toll-free number usage and my favorite reply came from Kathryn Finney of TheBudgetFashionista who noted, “(there’s no need for toll-free numbers) because most people use cell phones as their primary phone”.
While I am not sure if everyone is using cell phones as a primary phone, I wonder how many people aren’t on a flat local- and long-distance calling plan.
You’re assuming that the only reason for a toll free number is to pay for the incoming calls. Although that is the original and most obvious reason, there are certainly a lot more benefits than that, the most obvious of which you illustrated in your own simple observations. Toll free numbers provide greater control, flexibility, and a more customer focused image not to mention a larger company image. And that’s not even getting into the branding value of a more memorable vanity number.
Like you said, larger companies use them, which means both that there are probably reasons why larger companies use them, and that having a toll free number makes you look like a larger company. In fact getting a toll free number is one of the easiest ways to create the image of a larger company, for almost nothing. What else can you do to make your business look bigger for literally just a couple dollars per month?
If the only reason to get a toll free number was the cost of the calls the number of toll free numbers would have certainly gone down with huge percentage of flat rate services and cell phones that don’t charge long distance. However, even on a slower lazy August holiday week like this past week, there were 27,030 more active toll free numbers this Saturday 9/5 than there was the following Saturday.
Calling a local number might not technically cost many of the callers any more than calling a toll free number, if they’re using a cell phone or voip phone, but the perception is the key. I could go into all the nuances of it and point out more studies and statistics but the simple fact is that using a local number in advertising, as you yourself detected, still just makes you look smaller.