What Does Your Business Phone Number Say About You?

Penelope Gayle Smith

A new law hits the statute book on June 13th which makes it illegal for companies to use premium-rate telephone numbers for their customer service lines.

It has never been more important to make sure you have the telephone number that best suits your business, whatever its size.

Telephone numbers are more than just a means of customers and prospects getting in touch with you – vital though that is to a thriving enterprise. They can also reveal more than you think about your business and have a direct effect on your reputation.

Learning Curve

The Environment Agency hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons during the UK flooding earlier this year for charging flood victims up to 41p per minute (via an 0845 number) to get through to its designated helpline service. The Agency has since changed to a standard-rate 0345 number and also changed its general enquiries number from 0870 to 0370 with many other large companies and organisations also moving away from costly 08 numbers ahead of the changes.

But having the right number isn’t just for the big players, and getting your number right from the start could make all the difference to the way you are perceived in an often crowded marketplace.

Time to Change

If you provide only a mobile (07) number, people may think your business is small and lacking credibility. Choose a geographical number (beginning with 01 or 02) and you appear to be tied to a specific area – which, of course, is fine if you wish to operate on a local or regional basis, but not ideal if you have ambitions to trade nationwide.

Opt for an 09 number and people will know you are looking to make serious money from the call, perhaps, quite rightly, for a cause or a competition but in a business context it could be construed as greedy.

First impressions count. The customer or prospect may not make the call, potentially losing you a new client or existing customer.

Playing the numbers game when it comes to choosing a phone prefix for your business or organisation can be daunting – but for smaller businesses, 03 could be your lucky number.

While it may not suit every business, 03 has the following advantages:

• It will be free to use for the majority of callers as, by law, it has to be included in free minutes and free call deals.
• Even if paid for, a call to 03 will be at no more than the basic rate.
• You may attract more enquiries from outside your area – with an 03 number, you won’t be judged on your location.
• A non-geographic number like 03 may also give the impression your business is bigger than it really is in the start-up and development phases.
• It is a less costly alternative to 0800 ‘freephone’ numbers, for which the business has to bear all the costs of incoming calls.

Even now however, public awareness of 03 numbers is relatively limited and more could be done to promote the benefits of using these numbers for callers and business owners. So, in what can be a confusing picture, think hard before you commit to a telephone number and choose one that’s right for you and your business.

By Gayle Smith, Client Support Manager for Penelope, the virtual phone system for start up and emerging businesses.

Note: From 13th June 2014, it will be illegal for companies to provide premium-rate numbers (including 0845, 0870 and 09) for their customer service lines. This law was passed as part of “The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013″ on 13th December 2013 and applies to any phone line that is in place for existing customers to make a query or complaint (it does not apply to value-added services, such as technical support or sales lines).

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