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What is a Toll Free Number and Who Provides One

A toll free number can be a very valuable tool for your business. They are commonly used for customers to place orders and other customer service support. The biggest benefit is that customers can call your business without incurring any long distances charges.

Other great benefits of a toll free number include:

  • Portability. You can take your number with you if you change locations or carriers because once you buy the number, it is yours for as long as you like.
  • Give your business a more professional appearance.
  • Allow you to brand your company. Vanity toll free numbers can include the type of business or special service you offer. It is a proven fact that people can remember words easier than numbers.
  • Reduce the barriers associated with buying online. Many people still prefer to speak to real people as opposed to ordering products online.
  • Nationally accessible. Customers can call you from anywhere in Canada and the US. Not all toll free numbers work internationally.

Toll free numbers are very popular these days, and easy to get.

How It Began

The first toll free numbers where introduced by AT&T in 1967. Since then the demand for this service has sky-rocketed. By 2008, North America had over 24 million active toll free numbers. At first, the numbers where commonly known as 800 numbers, but the supply for numbers beginning with 1-800 ran out in 1996, and new prefixes were introduced to keep up with the demand.

Today, toll free numbers can start with 1-800, 1-888, 1-877 or 1-866, and the recently introduced, 1-855. They all work the same.

Until 1991, only telephone companies could provide 1-800 numbers, but the FCC changed that to allow toll free numbers to be fully portable. Portability allows customers to change carriers at any time and still keep the same phone number. This opened up toll free industry.

Who Provides Toll Free Numbers

Once toll free numbers became portable, many companies were able to provide this service. Two of these companies include Grasshopper and RingCentral. Each company offers different plans so that you only have to pay for what you need. As your business grows, you can expand your plan as needed.

Special features the plans offer include:

  • Get your toll free numbers instantly
  • Customizable vanity numbers
  • Use your existing toll free numbers
  • No expensive hardware required
  • Multiple extensions
  • Local numbers available
  • Caller ID
  • Call forwarding
  • Voice mail and voice mail to email with transcription available
  • Professional greeting
  • Select your own “answering rules”
  • Fax service on the same number
  • 30 day free trial or money back guarantee

The toll free number phone service offered by both companies is similar, however the prices varies.

Grasshopper Pricing

There are four plans to choose from:

  • Pay as you grow – a flat fee of $12 per month plus 6 cents per minute. There are no free minutes included. You get one toll free number and unlimited extensions.
  • RAMP – $24 per month, includes 500 minutes. You get one toll free number and unlimited extensions.
  • GROW – $49 per month, includes 2000 minutes, two toll free numbers and unlimited extensions.
  • MAX – $199 per month with 10 000 minutes, three toll free numbers and unlimited extensions, plus unlimited use of voice studio, which is a professional service for personalized greetings, recorded by live actors.

All plans include free activation and 30 day money back guarantee.

Check out Grasshopper’s full review.

RingCentral Pricing

RingCentral offers three plans:

  • Standard – $24.99 per month, per user. Includes 1000 minutes.
  • Premium – $34.99 per month, per user. Includes 2500 minutes.
  • Enterprise – $49.99 per month, per user. Includes unlimited minutes.

These prices reflect 100+ users. In each plan the price per user increases as the number of users decreases. The price per user is lower if you pay for an annual membership. All plans come with a 30 day free trial.

Check out RingCentral’s full review.

Cloud based services allow you to integrate your toll free number with your mobile phone. This means that you can make and receive calls from your cell phone, and the number displayed will be your toll free number. Customers and clients will never know that you are using your cell phone, making it possible for you to conduct business from any location. And you can choose which calls to take, and which ones to send to voice mail.

Grasshopper and RingCentral have opened up new possibilities for businesses, no matter how small they may be. You are no longer stuck in an office, at one location. You can have a professional presence in the world, even if you don’t have any employees at all.

With a toll free number, even a one person operation can have the professional appearance of a large corporation. 

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