800 phone numbers dramatically increase the professional perception of your business – especially if your phone number spells your business name or area of specialty (e.g. 800-GOT-MILK). Virtual 800 providers offer lots of features to make your small business sound more professional and streamline its communications by creating a virtual office that connects callers to employees wherever they are, on any type of phone – home, office, VoIP. or mobile – without any equipment to purchase or maintain. Have your 800 number calls forwarded to any number or to multiple numbers, simultaneously or one at a time.
Advantages of 800 number phone service
- Sound more professional with a custom recorded main greeting
- Better manage incoming calls with multiple extensions for employees and departments
- Simplify the ways callers reach you with live call forwarding and transferring
Better manage voicemails and faxes with message delivery – listen to voicemails and view faxes right on your computer. All of these providers have no contracts and offer vanity phone numbers for a one time setup fee of approximately $30. Once you pay for at least one month’s service, you then “own” the 800 number and are free to transfer it to another provider if you choose. Use the table below to help you narrow down the field of service providers. Just decide how many minutes and the exact features you need, and you’re set to increase your professional image and more easily manage communications.
800 numbers are numbers that begin with one of the following three-digit codes: 800, 888, 877, or 866. 800 numbers allow callers to contact businesses and individuals without having to pay for the call. The charge for using a toll free number is paid by the called party (the subscriber) instead of the calling party. 800 numbers can be dialed directly to your business or personal telephone line. These numbers are very common and have proven successful for businesses, particularly in the areas of customer service and telemarketing. Virtual 800 number service provides potential customers and others with a free and convenient way to contact businesses. Numbers are also increasingly popular for personal use. For example, parents can obtain a toll-free number to give to a young adult who is away at college, allowing that young adult to call home anytime without having to make a collect call or pay for the call. Most plans include a set number of minutes for a fixed amount each month.
Toll-Free Codes – 800, 888, 877, 866, Today, there are four toll-free area codes: 800, 888, 877, and 866. Although 800, 888, 877, and 866 are all toll-free codes, they are not interchangeable. 1-800-234-5678 is not the same as 1-888-234-5678. Calls to each 800 number are routed to a particular local telephone number.
800 Directory Assistance. Toll-free directory assistance for some 800 numbers can be obtained by calling 1-800-555-1212. With the yellow pages of today. the service is free. Not all numbers are listed – only those for subscribers that choose to list them. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to address how to promote competitive business among various providers of phone directory assistance, including directory assistance for toll free numbers. In the meantime, 1-888-555-XXXX numbers are not being assigned to subscribers.
How Are 800 Numbers Assigned? 800 numbers are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. 800 service providers have access to the SMS/800 database, which contains information regarding the status of all assigned phone numbers. Service providers can access the database and reserve a number for subscribers. There are several hundred toll-free service providers in the United States. You may find a list of all toll-free service providers on the SMS/800 Web site, www.sms800.com/ or you may call the SMS/800 Help Desk at 1-888-SMS-3300.
What Is A Vanity Number and How Can I Get One? A vanity 800 number is a toll free number that spells a company’s name or word or acronym that is chosen by the subscriber. 1-800-FLOWERS and 1-888-NEW-CARS are good examples. To find out whether a specific 800 number is available, contact any 800 service provider.
How Does an 800 Number Work and How Do I Get One?
Years ago, the expense of setting up a toll-free number prevented many small and mid-size businesses from getting their own 800 phone numbers. Even today, most people think of a toll free phone number as unattainable for most small businesses – which is probably why it impresses customers so much. On the contrary, though, a number is relatively easy to acquire. In most cases, all you need is an existing phone, even a cell phone. With cell phone accessories being quite affordable today, anyone can afford their own 800 number.
800 Forwarding Versus a Dedicated Line
For the typical small or mid-sized business, the 800 service provider forwards incoming calls to the designated number. Depending on your business setup, that could be your office phone, your home line, or even a cell phone. Some providers will even forward the call to multiple lines at once, allowing you to answer the call wherever you are at the time.
Businesses that receive a large number of calls might want to consider a designated line instead. Basically, you will need to have a new phone line installed, which will be used solely for incoming toll-free calls. Although you will need to pay for the installation and setup, you will get a better per-minute rate on incoming calls, which will more than make up for the initial expense. Today, more than ever, small businesses need to save money every way they can. Whether by lowering energy costs. outsourcing, or improved efficiency, if you don’t make the changes, your competition will.
The 800 Prefix
It used to be that an 800 number was the only kind of toll-free number. However, as these numbers became more popular for businesses, other prefixes were added in order to increase availability. The benefit is that if an 800 number you want – such as one that is similar to your local number, or one that spells something out is already taken, you can get it using another toll free number prefix.
The prefixes for toll-free numbers are:
Finding an 800 Number Service Provider
Unlike creating a website. getting a toll free number is easy. There are many telephone service providers to choose from: the big, well-known providers such as AT&T and MCI, as well as many smaller providers. Perhaps surprisingly, larger providers cannot offer you a greater choice of numbers. Although each provider typically has a pool of available numbers under their name, you can choose any 800 phone number that is not already in use. Since the availability of numbers is the same for every provider, you are free to choose your provider according to the rates and features they can offer.
Finding the Best 800 Number Rates
Rates can vary widely between cheap 800 number service providers. Although many people believe that large service providers will be able to offer the best rates, in fact the opposite is often true. Your best bet is to shop around, comparing the rates and features offered by different providers.
There are two basic types of rates you will need to compare:
- Monthly rates Most toll-free service providers will charge you a base amount every month, whether or not you receive any incoming calls. Monthly usage costs may be as much as $20, or you may not need to pay any at all.
- Per-minute rates On top of the monthly fees, you will need to consider how much you are charged per minute for incoming calls. In general, these rates range from 5 cents to 35 cents per minute, although smaller businesses will pay more per minute than those that receive a higher volume of calls. You should also compare 800 number service plans and the cost of billing increments between plans – the smaller the additional cost, the better – and avoid 800 number providers that require you to pay for a certain number of minutes every month.
Deciding What 800 Number Features You Want
There are a number of features available for 800 phone numbers. You will need to decide which features you would like to have, and then compare the availability and price of these features between different providers.
Some of the features offered on Toll Free numbers include:
- Call blocking This feature allows you to block callers who are not within your coverage (and would therefore cost you more than other callers), such as calls originating from pay phones.
- Account codes By requiring employees and/or customers to enter an access code, you can ensure that only authorized callers get through.
- ANI ANI service tells you who is calling before you answer. This feature can also be set up to display the caller’s information on a computer.
- Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) If you have more than one 800 number, DNIS lets you know which number was called. This is particularly useful if you are running multiple marketing campaigns, and would like to know which is the most successful.
Choosing an 800 Number
As already noted, your choice of a toll-free service provider will not limit the variety of cheap 800 numbers available to you. You can either choose a number from the provider’s pool, or a vanity number.
Choosing from the Provider’s Pool
Service providers generally have a pool of toll-free numbers that have been set aside for them. Because these numbers are already in the provider’s system, your 800 number can be set up much more quickly than if you choose a number from outside the provider’s pool.
Selecting a Vanity Number
A toll-free number that you choose yourself, either because
it is similar to your office number or because the corresponding letters spell out something memorable, is known as a vanity number. As long as the number is not being used by another business, you will be able to claim it. However, if it is not already in your provider’s pool of numbers, you will need to wait about a week for the number to be transferred and your account to be activated. The good news is that once you have claimed an 800 number, it is yours: Even if you decide to change providers, you can take your number with you.
Call Center Service
Call centers serve as a centralized office used for the purpose of receiving and sending telephone calls, usually in large volume. Call centers are used to administer product support or information inquiries from customers. Outgoing calls are typically used for the purposes of telemarketing, product services, and debt collection. In addition to call center service, handling of letters, faxes, and emails at one location is called a contact center.
Using Your 800 Number
Once you have selected a phone number and a provider, you need only to wait for your account to be set up. Before you start giving your 800 number out to customers, you should test it with the help of family and friends in various locations. After you have ensured that the toll free number works and the sound quality is acceptable, you are ready to benefit from the added credibility an 800 number gives to your business!
Business Phone Systems
In this age of communicating via email and social media, many business owners overlook making phone systems a primary method of contact. Whether you’re a one-person operation or have an office full of employees, you will need a way to efficiently communicate with your customers, suppliers, and colleagues; phone systems are still a tried and true way to make that happen. Toll-free numbers, conference calling, VoIP, and online faxing are telecommunications systems that a wide range of businesses will find useful. Here is why you should consider putting these options to work for your business.
You may not think you need a toll-free number unless you run a business with a storefront or one which retails products and services to consumers, but entrepreneurs in the B2B industry and those without a physical store can definitely benefit from having a toll-free number. Not only does having a toll-free number prevent you from having to use your personal cell phone or landline number for your business, it provides clients, suppliers, and colleagues who are not local a convenient way to contact you. Another bonus: having a toll-free number can boost your business’s professional image and help assure new customers that you’re running a legitimate operation, which can be especially helpful for startups.
If you run a small business, start with a toll-free number service that is inexpensive — there are several providers that cost less than $10 per month — and one that isn’t loaded with features you won’t use. If you’re constantly on the go or your business is mobile, you may find it helpful to get your toll-free number from a provider which offers free call forwarding to your cell phone and does not require you to use any special hardware. Those who manage larger businesses should look for toll-free number service providers which offer technical support, unlimited calling, and the ability to forward calls to multiple phone extensions. Be sure to note whether the toll-free number providers you’re considering offer the ability to accept international phone calls if you have clients or suppliers outside of the country.
Conference calling, or teleconferencing, is not just for huge enterprises. Conferencing can be very useful when it comes to communicating with staff and clients, but some solo business owners also use teleconferencing to make money, especially those who provide coaching services or earn part of their revenue from selling audio seminars.
This is generally how conference calling services work: you’re provided with a call-in number to give to call participants, and everyone dials in at the time you specify. Some services allow, or even require, call participants to reserve a space or virtual “seat”, while others offer unlimited space and reservation-free conferencing. If you want to have large numbers of people dial into your conference, choose a service provider which offers unlimited space.
Features often provided by conference calling service providers include the ability to record your calls and replay them online, lecture modes, online controls, and online conference registration and automatic reminders for your participants. There are many free teleconferencing services, but the more full featured ones require a monthly or one-time fee. Whether you’re running a large or small business, save yourself money by choosing a conferencing provider that does not require contracts or charge setup fees.
Want to cut the cord and completely ditch your business’s landlines, or add some versatility to your business’s phone system? Then Voice over Internet Protocol — more commonly referred to as VoIP — service is what you need to look into. VoIP makes use of high-speed Internet to convert analog phone signals into digital signals, and therefore eliminate the need to use a landline for your phone service. Business owners who frequently travel and are on the move will likely find the convenience of VoIP well worth its nominal cost. Nowadays, there are many VoIP providers and the cost of service is quite affordable. VoIP phone service typically costs less than traditional landline or cell phone service, as there is no need for special wiring and most VoIP service providers don’t charge extra fees and taxes. A few VoIP service providers even offer reliable, free basic VoIP services, but be prepared to pay a bit extra if you need multiple lines or want to take international calls.
One concern about VoIP centers around the reliability and clarity of calls, compared to using a traditional landline phone service. If you have broadband Internet service, it’s likely that your VoIP call quality and reliability will be comparable to having a good cellular phone service provider. If you have DSL Internet service and want to use VoIP for your business, it’s advisable that you get a splitter in order to increase your call quality.
Don’t overlook the benefits of having both landline and VoIP service for your business, especially if you are looking for an all-in-one telelcommunications system. An increasing number of VoIP providers are offering not only calling service, but teleconferencing, voice mail, and faxing as well. If you choose to double up, or are a small business owner looking to save, go for a VoIP service provider that is low-cost and does not require a monthly commitment.
Faxing is still seen as a go-to method for sending time sensitive or confidential documents, but having a traditional fax machine can be costly and take up much-needed physical space in your business setup. Enter online faxing, a more convenient, and much less costly, alternative. This type of faxing allows you to upload documents online and then send it to the recipient of your choice. You don’t need any special equipment or even a landline to use online faxing, just an Internet connection.
Business owners often use a scanner to get their documents to their computer or tablet in order to upload and fax online, but it’s also possible to photograph documents with your cell phone and upload it that way. Many online fax service providers offer mobile apps just for this purpose, and cloud based document storage can allow you to eliminate having to physically scan your documents as well.
While there are some free Internet faxing service providers. they typically limit the number of pages that you can send, do not allow you to receive faxes, and do not provide you with a fax number. These features cost extra, but the good news is that online faxing is generally very affordable, and some service providers will allow you to pay per fax instead of paying a monthly service fee — this is especially convenient for business owners who do not send faxes often.
Using the aforementioned telecommunication methods can help your business run more efficiently. Remember to carefully evaluate your budget, along with the type of features and support your business needs. before choosing any telecommunications service providers. Be sure to also check the uptime and track record of the service providers that you consider — your business’s telecommunication systems will rely upon their quality and dependability. Follow these suggestions, and you will be well on your way to choosing the right phone system setup for your business.
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