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Toll Free Numbers - A Waste of Money?
Long ago, in the days of monopoly pricing for long-distance calls, a toll-free number was almost mandatory for a business with nationwide customers. Now, long distance calls are either cheap or free, especially when bundled into the price of phone products or service plans.
The obvious reason to have a toll-free number is to save money for callers. One advertised benefit is the (alleged) "increased credibility" that a toll-free number provides. I think this is no longer true, because almost everyone knows that it is now easy and cheap to get a toll-free number.
There are a few advantages for the owner of a toll-free number. Toll-free numbers allow an entity to capture names and addresses from calls.
Getting the name and address of callers who do not buy your product is of questionable value. One should gear their business toward people who buy, not to tire kickers.
Toll-free numbers also defeat most attempts to hide phone numbers, so concealed numbers usually are recorded on toll-free phone lines.
In addition to extra costs, there is another disadvantage in providing a toll-free number. When people do not pay anything, they may be somewhat more likely to not respect your services as much.
On their web sites, some businesses hide their phone number, partially because of phone leeches and growing tired of the stupid people out there.
One example of a phone leech problem, would be if one has a business selling a video tape-to-DVD transfer service. The web site clearly explains the simple business: Send us a tape and $20, and you will mail the customer a DVD of the video on the tape, and they will get it within a week.
Even though your web site has a good FAQ, and has simple and clear instructions, some people will call, and ask for your phone number, what is your web site name, how long does it take to ship?, etc.
Some people like to read as little as possible. Asking you for your phone number, the same number they just called you on, is very silly; however, this does not take up too much time.
A telephone leech often goes off on long detours that have nothing to do with your product or service.
A phone leech might share part of their life story, for example, "I have two wonderful kids, and they are getting out of school in a week for summer vacation. I am going to aunt Sally's party the week after that, and I will bring them, and I am going to bring my video camera and two extra batteries so I won't run out, and will bring some orange juice too, and..."
You can train your staff to quickly get wayward callers back on track, however, as long as you have a phone, some people will try to waste your time.
Having a toll-free number seems to attract phone leeches. Moving to a regular number will not stop silly and wasteful calls, however it will save you time and cut your costs.
In our business, we tested a move from a toll-free number, to a regular number. The move did not slow down our business in any way, and we saved money, and get less phone leech callers now.
It seems that when people need to think about the phone number they are calling, it attracts more serious callers.
If you move from a toll-free to a regular number, you do not have to give up your toll-free number, you just stop advertising it to the public. You can always tell your real customers about it, but why spend extra money on the unwashed general public?
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