Freeing Up Freephone Numbers

In May, we highlighted a number of changes which Ofcom were bringing in to make it easier for people to understand the cost of making phone calls. These included highlighting the split between the broadcaster charge and access charge for calls to competition lines and a change in respect of the way in which 0800 and 0808 numbers were charged from mobile phones.

Complete details in respect of the change are available on the UK calling website (ukcalling.info) and Ofcom have been publicising changes through a series of adverts on various media. In total, Ofcom say the changes represent “the biggest overhaul of phone calls in more than a decade.”

At the beginning of July, these changes came into force and will potentially affect the way in which every business operates its telephone matrix. Although competition lines are confined to the few, the change in respect of freephone numbers could have a profound effect on the decision which businesses make in respect of their marketing mix.

Up until 1 July, whilst calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers were generally free from most landlines, they often attracted charges if called from mobiles. For businesses which offer products and services to the general public, this meant that the use of freephone lines was often not in their customers’ best interests. Now that these numbers are free to call from mobiles, businesses may well wish to look again at the way in which they encourage their customers to contact them and potentially add a freephone number to their offering. This can be done quickly and easily; and with calls to the freephone number being seamlessly diverted to business line, additional phone numbers don’t generally come with the expense of additional phone lines.

Of course, freephone numbers are not the only ones which businesses have available to them. Local regional numbers, national numbers and even international numbers are freely available as are 03 non-geographic numbers. With the option of seamlessly diverting all or any of these numbers to a single landline or mobile, businesses have freedom and flexibility in the way in which they advertise their contact details.

03 non-geographic numbers can also be a good solution for charities and other qualifying non-profit organisations. Numbers in the range starting 0300 have been exclusively reserved for public sector and charitable bodies. This means that charities which opt for numbers within this range are not only signalling their charitable status; with 0300 numbers being generally included in inclusive minutes packages they are also make it easy for people to contact them without worrying about cost.

Thanks to virtual switchboards and automatic divert, organisations are no longer confined to a single telephone number, enabling them to offer a range of telephone number types to suit their differing customer base. With the new charging structure for 0800 and 0808 numbers, businesses whose customers tend to operate via mobile have another cost effective option to add their telephony mix.

Customer contact is the first step in building a lasting business relationship. Being able to get in touch, being able to communicate quickly and easily without cost constraint, can encourage customers to interact with the business. This means that businesses which take time to think about potential customers and to identify their preferred method of contact can make a measurable difference to their sales volumes. Put simply, the more you can encourage customers to engage with the business, the more chances you have to generate sales. Offering a number of telephone options is only one part of the communication mix but it is one which businesses would do well not to ignore.

Written by Alison