Toll-free numbers have been around for a long time, but what are they, exactly, and how did they come about? As a business owner, you’ve got to weigh the costs associated with every decision. Read on to find out more about the history of toll-free numbers, if you need one, and whether or not your company would benefit from implementing toll-free conference calls.
The History of Toll-Free Numbers
In the US, UK and Canada, the concept of toll-free numbers and toll-free calling has been around for a very long time. First introduced back in the 1950s, toll-free calling was a way for people to access businesses via telephone that were not physically located in their local community or area code.
While the initial iterations relied on basically the same concept, the process of completing a toll-free call was very different back then. In the 1950s when it was introduced, most calls were routed through an operator. If a caller wanted to make a toll-free call, they would dial “0” to reach the operator and ask for a specific “Zenith” number before being connected.
If a business had a Zenith number (that’s what toll-free numbers were called back then), the operator would then know to reverse the charges before connecting the calls. This would ensure that the business receiving the call incurred all associated long distance charges, as opposed to the caller who would normally be responsible for paying for a long-distance call.
Similarly to why businesses choose to offer toll-free numbers today, back then it allowed companies to reach more customers and people outside their local area. It was an affordable way for businesses to broaden their reach, as customers were more likely to call a toll-free number knowing they wouldn’t have to pay for it.
What Does Toll-Free Mean?
It’s a term that a lot of people use, but exactly what is toll-free? Simply put, it means that the call recipient gets charged for any long-distance fees for a call, as opposed to the person placing the call.
Toll-free calls are placed to specific numbers which have distinct three-digit codes at the beginning of the number. The most common (and famous) are 800 numbers. When placing a call to a toll-free or 800 number, the caller is not charged for a long-distance fee for calling out of their area.
While originally designed for landlines, toll-free numbers also work with mobile phones (though, unless they have an unlimited calling plan, mobile callers will still be charged by their wireless carrier for the minutes used). Check out the FCC’s official explanation of toll-free numbers and calls.
What Is a Toll-Free Number?
A toll-free number is the actual phone number used when placing a toll-free call. The numbers are assigned on a first come, first served basis by organizations called “RespOrgs,” which is short for “Responsible Organizations.”
In the US, there are specific three-digit codes designated for toll-free numbers. Everyone knows 800 numbers are toll-free. But what about 877? 866? Are 855 numbers toll-free?
Currently 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833 numbers are all toll-free prefixes. Calls placed to any number that begins with any of these three-digit combinations incur no long distance charges for the caller.
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Why Would You Need a Toll-Free Number for Your Business?
Toll-free numbers are especially useful for customer service numbers and main line sales numbers for businesses. Due to the fact that they are completely free for callers, they are an excellent way to ensure customers (and potential customers and clients) encounter the lowest barrier to entry possible when interacting with your business.
But more than anything, toll-free numbers are a status symbol. Since the 1950s when they were first introduced, having one meant you ran a well-established business that could cover the cost of calls for your customers. In the beginning, only the biggest companies could afford toll-free numbers – and while they are more affordable now, that mindset still exists for consumers today.
Businesses with a toll-free number come across as more trust-worthy and better-established. Whether you’re looking to impress potential clients or communicate to existing customers that you have a well-established brand and well-run business, they are an easy way to make an excellent impression.
Should You Use Toll-Free Numbers for Conference Calls?
So, it’s clear that having a toll-free number is a good look for every business. But, should you use one for your conference calls? It’s an excellent question, and there is a clear answer.
Most conference call providers assign random numbers each time you set up a call. If you’re not using a dedicated toll-free conference line, not only is it confusing for conference call participants, but it can be expensive if they’re calling into the conference from their office landline.
Landlines still charge long distance fees for any number dialed outside of the local area code. Unless you’re lucky enough to get assigned an area code that matches your conference call participant’s local area code, they are going to incur long distance charges for every minute spent on the conference call.
Plus, if you’re hosting a conference call with participants from different locations, the only way to ensure that no one is charged any long-distance fees is to use a toll-free conference number.
How to Get a Toll-Free Conference Call Number
The easiest way to get a toll-free number for your next conference call is to pick a conferencing service that offers them. Not all conference call providers have toll-free numbers, and none of the free service providers will be able to assign you a single toll-free number for your conference calls.
At Branded Bridge Line, we offer several different toll-free conferencing plans, plus the option to add a toll-free line to any plan whenever you might need it.
We make it simple and affordable to get your very own toll-free conference line, no matter what your specific conferencing needs are. Choose Branded Bridge Line to take your conferencing to the next level with a dedicated, toll-free conference call line.