The cost of using mobile phones whilst abroad has yet again hit the headlines with the EU imposing reduced call and data roaming charges from 1st July. From that date, excluding VAT, mobile calls in the EU should cost no more than €0.24 to make and €0.07 to receive. Costs for texting and downloading data are also falling with the maximum download charge now standing at €0.45.
However, this only applies to EU countries so those travelling to Croatia which joined the EU on 1st July will benefit but those holidaying to places outside the EU such as Turkey, Switzerland or the USA will not benefit from the reduced rates.
The EU move will help tourists and those travelling on business alike. This is particularly good news for exporters; particularly given the British Chambers of Commerce’s recent report which revealed that in the second quarter of 2013 the balance of service export deliveries rose to +36% which is the highest level seen since the BCC survey began in 1989. Manufacturing too is reportedly experiencing a resurgence in exports.
With this growth in overseas markets comes the inevitable dilemma about the best way to reach out to and correspond with overseas customers. The availability of internet telephony (VoIP) has helped to slash the costs of calling international contacts but many businesses are still not maximising the opportunities available to them when it comes to opening up overseas markets. Simple measures such as setting up an international number can instantly bring a local presence without having to set up a local office.
International number options include national numbers, local regional numbers and freephone numbers. This last option is one of the most powerful and popular options for businesses opening up overseas markets. Using an international freephone (ITFS), or toll free number encourages potential customers to call and with calls being switched to an office anywhere in the world, businesses don’t have to have a local presence. For example a single China 401 toll free number covers the whole of China, opening up your business to a potential 900 million fixed and mobile phone holders.
Mixing international numbers with call transfer and caller recognition means that businesses can ensure that calls are directed to an appropriate department or language speaker. And for those businesses with multiple international offices, adding a “follow the sun” option to their switchboards means calls are transferred across offices depending on the time of day.
Just one word of caution. If you follow up your international phone number presence with a visit to your new clients watch out for those roaming charges. Outside the EU they could still catch you unawares.