Dialling the Code
Following successful introductions elsewhere in the country, Ofcom have taken the next step in its phased move towards maximising the availability of telephone numbers for new users within an area. With effect from 1st October those making a local call in five areas of the country will have to dial the full telephone number including the area prefix.
The areas affected are Aberdeen (01224), Bradford (01274), Brighton (01273), Middlesbrough (01273) and Milton Keynes (01908). Although callers will have to dial the prefix when making local calls within these areas, they will still be changed for a local rate call; meaning that phone bills will not be affected by this change.
Ofcom say that the change is necessary as it will enable them to make some 200,000 new phone numbers available in each of the five areas. When a similar change was made in the Bournemouth area in 2012, the switch over went smoothly; partly thanks to an excellent advertising campaign to ensure that local callers were fully aware of the change of dialling pattern.
For businesses, changes of this nature tend to have little impact. The tendency is for businesses to advertise their full telephone number including dialling code, so switches of this nature don’t tend to involve businesses in expenses such as reprinting stationery. In fact, for businesses the widening of available phone numbers can only be a good thing. With the advent of virtual switchboards and automatic call divert, more businesses are looking at the potential to be gained from advertising local numbers in local areas. This enables them to offer a local outlook to a national, or international, service.
Whilst some are going down the local route, others are opting for a national rate number. Here the choice is broader with 0333 numbers becoming increasingly popular. 0333 numbers are charged at the same rate as a standard rate call. Perhaps more importantly 0333 numbers sit within a standard minutes package for landline and mobile services, making these numbers far more cost effective for mobile callers than 0800 numbers which tend to be charged.
Whatever the choice of number, it is important that businesses opt for a number mix that sits well within its marketing strategy. Local businesses, national businesses, even international businesses have the chance to choose numbers which best reflect their marketplace and their customer base.
For example, a local bakery which only serves customers within its immediate catchment area may well decide that a local regional number would resonate best with its customers. On the other hand, a large wholesale bakery which makes bread or cake for ongoing sale in a variety of outlets may be looking for a more widespread customer base and may therefore decide that a national telephone number is more appropriate. In fact, the wholesale bakery of this sort may even opt to offer a VoIP number and encourage its customers to adopt a VoIP number with the same provider in their turn. This will enable VoIP to VoIP calls to be carried out without charge and will therefore encourage ongoing discussion between the bakery and its business customers.
Once upon a time there was little choice for business when it came to telephone numbers. Nowadays businesses have a variety of numbers from which to choose, and they can choose as many or as few business phone numbers as they require to meet their ongoing development needs. Ofcom expects that in time further areas of the country will go down the full dialling code route but organisations don’t have to wait for that to happen before they can start to use telephone number choice as an important part of their business marketing plan.