If you’re in the process of determining how to get a business phone number, it may be in your best interest to consider an 800 number. Even in the present cell phone and mobile-first environment, 800 numbers are an asset for business phone systems.
An 800 number makes it clear to callers that they’re dialing a legitimate business instead of a personal number. Local numbers tied to fixed area codes can also indicate your hours and reach are limited. But, an 800 number suggests your business can be reached by anyone at any time — at no cost to the caller.
When you buy an 800 number, it can serve as a centralized business phone system for all inbound communications. Features like call forwarding, voicemail, caller ID, and auto-attendant ensure your company never misses important calls.
Vanity numbers, like 1-800-Flowers, can also increase name recognition and positive perceptions of your brand. And, 800 numbers work equally well whether the caller is using a landline, cell phone, or an Internet-enabled Android or iOS device connecting via voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP).
But not all 800 prefixes are created equally.
When you’re looking into a toll-free business phone service, you need to determine the best 800 number service provider for your specific needs.
Here you’ll discover:
- How 800 numbers work
- What a toll-free number is
- How to get a toll-free business phone number
- How to select a “Responsible Organization” to register your 800 number
- How an 800 number elevates the value of your brand
How 800 Numbers Work
It is hard to imagine the telephone as digital technology — unless of course, you’re thinking of modern smartphones. But digital technology spawned the proliferation of toll-free telephone numbers in the United States and abroad.
According to a 2015 survey from SMS/800, toll-free numbers receive tens of billions of calls spanning over 40 million distinct numbers in the U.S. alone.
When toll-free service started in the mid-1960s, it was restricted by geographic boundaries because switching capabilities were limited. Then, in 1975, an AT&T engineer named Roy Weber transformed toll-free service when he realized digital functionality was the solution.
Weber figured out how to direct a phone number to a computer file. The file would give the telephone network instructions for the appropriate call routing. Then, programmed procedures in the file would deliver the call to the intended receiver.
What Does Toll-Free Mean?
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), toll-free phone numbers are telephone numbers people can dial from landlines at no charge to the caller.
Not long ago, toll-free numbers were significant for consumers making long-distance phone calls to businesses and individuals outside of their area. Today, SMS text message enabled toll-free numbers are particularly appealing to the large, cell-phone-toting population.
So, what is a toll-free number?
The term “800 number” is used synonymously with “toll-free number.” But, if you’re thinking about how to get a business phone number that will let customers call you for free, you don’t have to buy an 800 number specifically.
In the United States, toll-free numbers can begin with any one of the following three-digit codes:
These toll-free area codes act in place of the normal area code for local telephone systems. The seven toll-free prefixes now in use in the U.S. (and Canada) are free to the caller — the recipient pays the charges instead.
However, if you want to know how to get a business phone number, you should be aware that toll-free prefixes are not interchangeable. As with a local phone number, the same seven-digit phone number reaches a different recipient depending on the prefix.
How To Get a Business Phone Number With an 800 Prefix
The FCC monitors and administers the assignment of 800 numbers through entities called “Responsible Organizations,” or “RespOrgs.”
Most RespOrgs are also phone service providers, such as:
When you buy an 800 number, providers typically assigned them on a first-come, first-served basis. However, the FCC experimented with an auction format when the new 833 prefix was introduced.
If you want to know how to get a business phone number that is personalized or branded (also known as a vanity number), then start by checking its availability.
If the number is available, Somos can also guide you toward a toll-free service provider. There are myriad options, from large enterprise-level RespOrgs like Verizon or Centurylink to new web-based start-ups.
If you want to buy an 800 number, do some careful evaluation and planning before you decide on the best 800 number service for your business phone systems.
Determining Where To Buy an 800 Number
If you’re deciding how to get a business phone number, then you might benefit from a RespOrg that offers several services your budding business will need. It’s possible to bundle multiple services for your business phone systems, including record-keeping, management, and phone service.
With most service providers, once you buy an 800 number, you own it. So, if you decide to change carriers for a better price later on, you can take the number with you — but make sure the provider you choose offers portability.
Let’s explore some of your options.
Grasshopper offers end-to-end 800 number acquisition and service. You can search their inventory of 800 numbers, or you can search for a vanity number to see if it is available.
Key Features from Grasshopper:
- Mobile and desktop apps
- One or more 800 numbers
- Business texting
- Call forwarding
- VoIP and WiFi calling
- Call transfers
Pricing: Grasshopper offers pricing on both a monthly or annual basis. Like most online subscription services, the annual agreement comes at a lower cost per month. The Solo plans starts at $26, Partner plans start at $44, and Small Business plans start at $80.
Nextiva is a VoIP service provider with a focus on cloud-based communications. They offer features and pricing for both enterprise and small business phone systems.
Key Features from Nextiva:
- Voicemail transcription
- Call recording
- Reporting and analytics
- Voice analytics
Pricing: Nextiva’s pricing is based on the number of users and whether you pay monthly or annually. They offer four different packages with prices set per user: Essential (starting at $17.95), Professional (starting at $21.95), Enterprise (starting at $31.95), and Ultimate (starting at $52.95).
Like Grasshopper and Nextiva, you can buy an 800 number from RingCentral’s large inventory of toll-free numbers. Alternatively, you can create a memorable, easy to remember vanity number. Either type of number can be used for calling, faxing, or text messaging.
Key Features of RingCentral:
- Click-to-dial functionality
- One-click video conferencing
- International numbers for over 100 countries
- Dedicated Technical Account Manager and Customer Success Manager
- Integrations for Google, Microsoft, and Salesforce
Pricing: RingCentral’s pricing is based on the number of users and whether you pay monthly or annually. They offer four different packages with prices set per user: Essentials (starting at $19.99), Standard (starting at $22.99), Premium (starting at $32.99), and Ultimate (starting at $42.99)
The Value of Business Phone Systems With an 800 Number
If you want to know how to get a business phone number for free, then an 800 number is probably not the right choice for you — toll-free numbers are free to the caller, not the company they dial.
However, there are plenty of benefits to toll-free phone numbers that can easily justify the cost:
- Increase your company’s geographical reach: 800 numbers can extend your presence nationally (or internationally) with a minimal increase in operating expenses.
- Make your company more accessible: Customer service departments are the greatest users of toll-free numbers. When you buy an 800 number, you give your customers a convenient, toll-free service to place an order, get information, and have their issues resolved.
- Facilitate better customer relationships and engagement: Most toll-free phone service providers include standard features like call forwarding, voicemail, faxing, caller ID, and text messaging. You can be sure you and your clients are receiving important communications, no matter what.
- Create and track marketing campaigns: You can create toll-free numbers that are sales and marketing campaign-specific. These numbers can increase the effectiveness of the campaign by making it easy for prospects to reach out. You’ll also be able to track the success of the campaign by evaluating responses centralized to one 800 number.
The advantages and ease of incorporating an 800 number into your business communications strategy are real and tangible. When you provide a free and convenient way for customers to get in touch, you enhance and facilitate long-term relationship building.
With advances in technology, it’s easy to obtain a toll-free number you can connect to your office’s landline, and forward to your smartphone. When you buy an 800 number, you’re telling customers that it’s free and easy to contact your business, no matter where they — or you — are. Once you know how to get a business phone number, it’s time to decide how to get a business website up and running.