If your business serves more than one geographic area, you understand the importance of establishing a strong local presence in each one. While there are many different ways to do this, offering your customers a local phone number is perhaps one of the best ways. Luckily, this is now easier to do than ever before.
This article looks at what local phone numbers are, why a business may want multiple local numbers, and how a business can get them.
What are Local Phone Numbers?
A local phone number no longer needs to ring to a specific place. If your business is centralized in one city but serves people in many cities, you can establish phone numbers with area codes appropriate to each one. Calls to these numbers can essentially be forwarded to the number or device of your choice - in the location of your choice.
There is no real need to search for a nearby provider to offer this service, unless you really find it necessary to have some level of local support. Since WhichVoIP is located in Washington state, we have pulled together a list of service providers offering VoIP solutions in the Greater Seattle area.
Why Would You Want Multiple Phone Numbers?
There are several benefits for your business when utilizing local numbers. Customers like doing business with local companies. They appreciate knowing that businesses understand their area as well as specific needs. Calling a local number is more personal than calling a toll-free number. For this reason, many consumers are more willing to call local numbers.
From a cost perspective, you can often save money by establishing local numbers compared to the cost of setting up and paying for toll-free numbers. While a toll free number can typically cost in the region of 5c per minute, a local incoming call will only cost your business in the region of 0.5c per minute. Add to this the fact that most callers already have unlimited nationwide calling plans, even callers from outside your area will likely not think twice about calling your local number.
Additionally, a local phone number can help your company’s local search results. This includes searches on mobile devices, which account for a large percentage of local searches.
If you want the ability for employees to be reached directly by callers, they will need their own unique local number. This enables direct-inward-dialing (DID) and avoids forcing every caller to go through an attendant when trying to reach a particular employee.
How Can You Get Local Phone Numbers?
You can obtain the local numbers of your choice through many companies. The option to claim these phone numbers is generally part of a more comprehensive communications package and gives you access to many other features that your business can benefit from. Here are some popular places to look:
- Your existing provider
The easiest place to get additional local phone numbers is from your existing service provider. Just give them a call to find out what numbers they have available in a specific area code, and they will let you know exactly how much extra it will cost. Adding a phone number in this way will typically cost an additional $4.99 per month if you are just planning to route the calls to an existing device or extension. While this cost is typical with VoIP service, some providers (such as your cable company) might only give you the option to purchase an extra line which could cost upwards of $40 to $50 per month.
- A virtual phone service provider
If you are looking for a new provider or simply don't want to buy new phone numbers from your existing provider, then look no further than a virtual phone service. These services are effectively a sub-set of a full featured hosted VoIP solution as they offer fewer features and are only for inbound calls in most cases. This makes them a great option if you are looking for access to new phone numbers at a low cost, they will forward all calls to whatever device (or devices) you wish. These solutions are also referred to as business call forwarding services or find me follow me.
- Move your phone service to a new provider
If your existing provider is asking too much money for additional numbers, or simply does not have numbers available in the area code that you want, then now is as good a time as any to ditch them and move to another provider. There is a good chance you will also end up saving a lot of money on your monthly phone bill if you do this. Be aware that different providers have access to different inventory of numbers so it is worth shopping around if necessary. It is also very easy to port your existing numbers to a new service.
- Free services
You can still pick up a free phone number through the use of services like Google Voice and Skype. While this can be a cheap or even free option, it is unlikely to be a good long-term solution. After all, you really want to own your phone numbers and maintain full control over them. If a free service suddenly disappears then say goodbye to all those customers that were using that number. In addition to this, please be aware that these free serves have an extremely limited inventory of available phone numbers. So you will very lucky to find one that is in an area code near you.
What you need to know about a Phone Number
When most people request a new number, they will simply state the area code and then choose a number that is too their liking within that area code. The catch here is that you also need to consider the next 3 digits of the number, as while the area code covers a large geographic area, the following 3 digits are specific to cities within that area. Here is how the North American Numbering Plan is broken down:
- Numbering Plan Area Code
Simply put, this is the area code of your phone number. For example if you are located in Seattle then you should ideally have a 206 area code.
- Central Office Code
This is the next 3 digits of the number. While the area code covers a larger area, this code is specific to certain cities within that area code. For example if you live in Redmond, WA you would ideally want to get a number that begins with 425-256-XXXX, 425-572-XXXX, 425-585-XXXX, 425-657-XXXX, 425-835-XXXX, 425-836-XXXX, 425-868-XXXX, 425-898-XXXX or 425-945-XXXX. If your caller ID does not work for some reason, then the people you are calling will at least receive information that the call is from Redmond, as opposed to another city within the 425 area code, such as Everett.
- Subscriber Number
This is the part of your number that makes it unique to you.
For additional information, please visit wikipedia.
The bottom line with local numbers is that every business should have at least one to establish a local presence. While numbers are cheap and easy to purchase, take some time to consider if the number is easy to remember. After all, the number you choose could be with you for a lifetime.