How Toll-Free Numbers work in 2021 (+examples, benefits & best practices)

April 16, 2019
(This post was last updated on July 2021.)

 

Despite the growth of alternative customer engagement channels like email, live chat etc., research shows that most customers worldwide prefer to call the contact centre for their needs, be it before or after purchasing your products. One of the biggest hurdles to this is the cost of making such a call.

Customers do not like to pay for information they need to make a purchase decision or the support they need for the product they purchased. Moreover, they hate to pay for calls that also include IVR, hold time, transfer from one agent to another and so on. This has a negative impact on their perception of customer experience.

The easiest way to overcome these challenges is for businesses to offer toll-free numbers to their customers. Feel free to skip ahead to any one of the following sections:

 

What is a toll-free number?

A toll-free number allows callers to connect with businesses without being charged for the call. In other words, the business incurs the charges for all the calls landing on these numbers.

It is generally identified by a dialing prefix number (800, 866, 855, 1-800, etc.) which is specific to a geographic area code.

There is a public perception that the companies that have toll-free numbers are well-established, so having one for your business gives out the impression that your business is successful and operates on a national level. A toll-free number for your business can boost your sales opportunities.

 

How do toll-free numbers work?

Let’s understand the working process without getting to the technical side of things.

  • A customer dials the toll-free number publicized by the company
  • The call is routed to a cloud telephony company like Exotel
  • Exotel connects the customer and the business
  • The business that owns the toll-free number bears the charges of that no-call cost for the end-customer and pays an extra premium per call.


 

How to call toll-free numbers?

A business toll-free number is dialed out the same way as any other number. But how to dial toll-free numbers from mobile? Customers can call the toll-free number the same way they call other numbers. The cost incurred, however, depends on the mobile service provider.

 

Can toll-free numbers be called internationally?

Yes, they can. However, it might lead to additional costs. Toll-free numbers are designed to be country-specific, therefore being free of cost within the country’s borders. Every country has its own set of rules for accessibility, coverage and dialling format associated with toll-free numbers. When a call is made to those numbers across borders, it might incur international call rates.
However, businesses can get international business phone numbers, which are local numbers for each country, the calls to which are then routed through the Internet to your contact centre. You can see more about how it works here.

 

How does a company apply for this service?

Apart from telecom operators, there are cloud telephony companies like Exotel that provide business toll-free number services to companies looking for a free customer facing number. So any company no matter the size can opt for this service. If you are planning to get a toll free number for your business, it helps to have a checklist of your requirements and share it with the operator providing the service.

  • Why toll-free number is important for your business
  • What is the budget limit
  • Do you want an international toll free number

This is not an exhaustive checklist, but it gives you an idea to work with.

 

Who can subscribe for toll-free phone service

Toll-free telephone numbers are particularly common as customer care number and can be utilized by any organization irrespective of the size, such as:

  • Enterprises/organizations with a larger customer base
  • Retail and service industry
  • Hospitality business
  • Businesses that want to be available for customers all the time
  • Organizations providing after sales support

 

Toll-free number vs local number- what’s the confusion?

How do you differentiate a toll-free number from a local number? And are both the numbers the same? There seems to exist a confusion the two; let’s help you with that.

Toll-free number

A toll-free number is a free phone number that your customers can dial without being charged, no matter how lengthy or long-distance the call is. The call charges are incurred by the business availing the service. These numbers begin with a specific prefix depending upon the country of usage:
For example, In India, toll-free numbers begin with a prefix 1800, in Indonesia, the prefix is 0800, in the UK, they start with 0800 or 0808 and so on…

One question that we often get is “Are toll-free numbers free internationally?” Unfortunately, the answer is no. This is because a lot of factors are involved in an international call.

Local number

As the name suggests, a local number is a phone number with a city-specific dial-code. For example, numbers in Bangalore start with 080. The caller incurs the cost of the call, and hence it is not a free number. A local number is useful for a business with offices in multiple locations making it easier to reach out to local customers.
For example, a business in India can set up a local number in Singapore, allowing callers to reach their market across the world for the same cost as a local call.

 

What’s the difference between DID numbers and toll-free numbers?

Direct Inward Calling (DID) numbers

DID numbers are virtual numbers that businesses use to route calls to their existing telephone lines. Usually, these numbers are programmed to direct incoming calls to specific team members, without each of those numbers having a physical phone line. 

Toll-free numbers

On the other hand, Toll-free numbers are regular telephone lines or virtual numbers that customers can use to contact your business. Calls to a toll-free number are free of cost.

 

Why you need a toll free number for your business- how it helps in brand building

A virtual toll-free number can offer huge ROI benefits for a customer facing company, the service is not only affordable but an indispensable asset for businesses with running helplines for after-service support.

Let’s take a look at why a toll-free number is important for your business:

1. Enhance customer satisfaction

With a toll-free number for your business, you can make sure that your customer can easily reach out to your business (at no cost!) without having to go through different numbers to reach out when needed.

2. Brand recall

All toll-free numbers generally begin with a prefix “1800” in India making it comfortable for customers to remember your business number. If you leave the 1800 bit, there are only 7 digits to remember after that. With enough advertising, people will start associating this number with your brand.

3. Adds credibility

Toll-free numbers provide brand value and help small businesses add a professional touch, making it seem like a big company. You could be working out of your garage, and no one would know. 

4. Portability

With a toll-free number, location doesn’t matter. Your customers can find you irrespective of your location. 

5. Marketing asset

Toll-free phone number is a business asset that promises you good ROI and helps in tracking your business campaigns by allowing you to create extentions, whoch you can link to a particular campaign. This lets your run different ads on different channels and also assess the ROI of each of them.  

6. Call Tracking & Recording

All the calls landing on the toll-free telephone number are tracked and recorded, thereby enabling quick and easy analysis.

A quick recap:

  • In India, it is normally a 1-800 series number (can be other numbers as well as 000800 starting) which can be dialed by anyone across the country. The customer is NOT charged for this call..
  • The company that owns the toll-free number service has to bear the charges of that call and has to pay an extra premium per call.
  • You can only RECEIVE Incoming calls on the toll-free number, this can be diverted and forwarded the way you want through Exotel. 
  • No SMSes are possible on the toll free number.

 

How different industries use the toll free number feature

Toll-free numbers help to create a brand image and to add a professional touch to your services, as clearly mentioned through the pointers above. Let’s dig a little deeper and see the value they add to different industries.

IT Industry

With the pandemic restricting physical movement, information technology (IT) and digital services have grown unlike ever before. As a result, more and more customers are using IT, and an increasing number of businesses are adopting digital solutions. Toll-free numbers can enable companies to generate leads, answer customer questions, even help them use their products and services. Let’s look at some examples:

Examples:

  • To build a website/app to sell your products online, call 1800-ggg-pppp
  • For tech support on our product, dial 1800-hhh-qqqq

Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies play an important role in connecting qualified candidates to job opportunities. So, they serve both job seekers and hiring organisations. They can use toll-free numbers to invite both parties to contact the recruitment agency free of charge. For example:

Examples:

  • If you’re looking for a career change, call 1800-nnn-yyyy to get personalised recommendations
  • To hire the perfect candidate for your vacancies, speak to a recruitment consultant now at 1800-ooo-zzzz

Ed-Tech Sector

The market for technology-enabled learning is growing. Not just for formal education to support school or college students but also across a wide spectrum of job-oriented skills and hobbies. From crocheting at home to advanced data science courses, there’s something for everyone. Ed-tech companies can connect with the right customer — whatever their niche — with toll-free numbers. For example:

Examples:

  • Are you looking to build a data science career? Call 1800-aaa-bbbb
  • For a crash course on improving productivity, call 1800-ccc-dddd
  • For personalised lessons in 12th standard maths, dial 1800-eee-ffff

Automotive Industry

New and used auto dealers, automotive parts suppliers, service and repair centers, and auto financers are a few segments that come under the vast gamut of this industry.
All these sectors can use the toll-free number feature for their business and get more in returns regarding response rates, new leads etc.

Example:

  • Call on 1800-xx-xxx for authorized service repair centers near you.

Education

Things may get really confusing and busy, especially during peak admission season. With the number of calls everyday, it might be difficult for the education institutions to keep track. A toll-free number for your school/college/tutor center will ensure that all the calls are recorded and kept a track of.
Here’s how you can use education helpline toll-free number.

  • Give a call on 1800-vv-pppp to know about your school application status.
  • Call on 1800-gg-xxxx to learn about our programs.

Financial institutions- Banks/NBFC/ MFI

Financial institutions like mortgage companies, lending companies, brokers, management investment companies, insurance firms banks mandatorily need a toll-free line with complete details of their product offerings.This will ensure that the end-customer is not misled by the agents/brokers, which can be damaging to the brand value.

Example

  • To know more about the investment plans, give us a call on 1800-xx-xxx
  • Give us a call on 1800-xxx-xxxx to know your claim status.

Healthcare

A medical emergency no matter small or big requires an immediate medical response. In fact, ambulances were the first area to implement toll-free number. Here’s how you can use medical helpline toll-free number.

  • To book an appointment, call on 1800-xxx-wwww
  • For immediate medical assistance, call us on 1800-xxx-xxxx

Entertainment Industry

Toll-free numbers help a game show/ entertainment show decide a winner. Based on the number of votes received, a winner is picked. The number of calls received on the toll-free number can also be used to understand how well the show is doing.

Example

  • If you want XYZ to win, call on 1800-xxx-xxxx and select 3.

NGO/ Non-profits
NGOs can use toll-free numbers to conduct short educational courses, garner support for a cause, etc.

Example

  • Call on 1800-xxx-yyyy to register your support for QWERTY cause!

 

 

Toll free numbers in India – myths & facts

Most people are gazumped by how Toll Free numbers work and hence wanted to break a few basic myths:

  • In India it is normally a 1-800 series number (can be other numbers as well as 000800 starting) which can be dialed by anyone across the country and the person dialing the number is NOT charged.
  • The business that owns the Toll Free number has to then bear the charges of that no-call cost for the end-customer and has to pay an extra premium per call.
  • You can only RECEIVE Incoming calls on the Toll-Free Number, this can be diverted and forwarded the way you want using us (shameless marketing 🙂 ). No dialing out from the Toll-Free number. <Many aren’t aware of this>
  • No SMS’s are possible on the Toll-Free number, and the sender ID on SMS’s are typically anyway from a 6 character sender ID for Transactional or a random digit series for Promotional unless you have taken a Long/Shortcode.

 

Here is an example of how Agrostar uses Exotel’s toll free number solutions

Agrostar is a company that works at making life simpler for farmers. They connect farmers directly to manufacturers, thereby eliminating the need for middlemen.

Agrostar began with advertising a toll-free number in the states that (one in each state) they operated in. This was the number the farmers could call to order what they needed. The toll-free number was mapped to Exotel. So, when a farmer called on the number, they received an automated call back letting them know that an executive would call them soon. The executives who called the farmers back served as counselors as well. The agents then help them place an order for those products which will be delivered to their doorstep.

 

Ready to get a toll-free number?

All you need to do is get in touch with us!

Enterprises that want to make their customers feel valued should get a toll-free number for their business. The best part is that you do not need to invest in any equipment. A toll-free number for your business from Exotel comes with additional benefits like IVR, CRM integration, real-time analytics, call tracking and recording, to name a few.

Swathi
Written By
Swathi is a content marketer at Exotel. She is passionately establishing Exotel's voice in the form of content. She is also a self-proclaimed champion of Oxford comma.

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