As a business, investing in a phone number seems like a simple thing to do. At one time it was – it simply meant investing in a landline – but with the Internet comes the opportunity to invest in a phone number in other ways. Here’s what you need to know.
It isn’t just about investing in a business phone line or the channel you use, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), but about the phone number you choose.
When the only option was a ‘fixed’ landline, a business would often be assigned a phone number. As a business, you would have to use the local area code of where your business was based too.
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But today, with the different means of getting a business phone number, you can now opt for either a non-geographic or geographic number.
What options are available? The types of UK business phone numbers available
In some instances, opting for a non-geographic number sends out all the right signals to potential clients and customers.
Consider, for example, a startup that is currently being run from the spare room in someone’s home. A business mobile number may suffice but the impression that the company has a landline number is much better.
Building trust in your business is essential when it comes to winning customers. Sending all the right signals, such as how to get in touch, are key. So why not invest in a business phone number that really does work for your business.
What type of number is best for your business?
This type of number is not attributed to a location and so it doesn’t matter if your startup is being run from the kitchen table or an office located on a busy city street.
There is a growing range of prefix numbers, the costs of calls varying from one to another. Choosing a non-geographic business phone number brings many benefits:
- Create a national presence – using a non-geographic number for your business means not being affiliated with one area or location. This in turn can boost credibility.
- Increase sales – using a freephone number can be a significant boost to sales as well as reputation, especially if people can contact you using this freephone number. But you’ll need to consider the cost of a freephone number to your business which can vary from 2p to 5p per minute.
- Additional source of income – premium-rate numbers (0844, 0871 and 09) can be an additional source of revenue for a company.
- Flexible – no matter where you are based now or where you relocate in the future, the flexibility of non-geographic business numbers is that they move with you. And that means your business number stays the same on printed materials as well as online channels.
- Customer experience – customers who have an excellent experience when they contact a company are likely to use them again. This experience also includes being able to contact them easily. It is also important if you choose a non-geographic phone number that the customer would pay to call, that you also provide a free or very low-cost contact phone number too. This is covered by UK regulation.
How do non-geographic numbers work?
When you opt for a non-geographic business number, it is pointed to an existing telephone number. This means that any system you have in place, such as voicemail, call diversion and so on, will work as they always have done.
Comparing non-geographic numbers and charges
Choosing the right number for your business is essential but how do they all compare:
|Business phone number||Key benefit||Cost to the customer||Connection fees||Monthly line rental|
|Freephone: 0800 or 0808||Calls are free to the customer boosting business credibility||Free||Up to £1k or more||£5 to £75 + additional fees paid by the business per call, per minute|
|Local rate: 0845||A cheaper rate for the customer||7p per minute + any network access charges||Up to £25||£0 to £40|
|0843 and 0844||Generate revenue from calls||7p per minute + any network access charges||Up to £25||£0 to £40|
|National rate: 0870 and 0871||The possibility of generating revenue from calls received||13p per minute plus network access charge||Up to £25||£0 to £40|
|UK wide: 03 and 0345||A low-cost option for businesses||Up to 9p per minute via landline and 3p to 55p per minute from a mobile||Often free||Up to £25|
|Premium rate: 09||Has the potential to generate large amounts of revenue||Up to £3.50 per minute plus network access charges||£100 + £250 annual fee||Varies depending on the provider|
|Personal numbers: 070||Calls are automatically forwarded||4p to £3.40 per minute via landline and 30p to £2.50 via a mobile, +_51p per call||Usually free||Free|
Do I need a dedicated business phone number?
In short, no. No rulebook says any business must have a business phone number. Many small and new businesses operate perfectly well in the first few months with nothing more than a mobile number.
But, as a business grows, it may be that its phone system needs to scale too. It could be your employ people and that they need to make business calls on behalf of your business, just as you need to receive them.
As a business, you can opt to have a landline installed (or, if there is one already in the building, you’ll only need to pay an activation fee). This means you have one phone number per phone line.
A virtual landline is one that uses the internet to provide phone services. These are known as VoIP. There are pros and cons to both systems but with VoIP, no matter where your business is located, whether that is the kitchen table or a busy office (or both!), the number is easily transferred between one location and the other.
In terms of the phone number, both options give your business a number that can be used across your online platforms, as well as offline materials such as business cards and letterheads. This number will become part of your business identity.
Both also offer the option for a non-geographic number, such as a freephone 0800 number or, as some businesses opt for, a premium rate 09 number.
There are other reasons why a dedicated business phone number makes sense too:
Your own personal mobile might suffice in the early days but there comes a time when you need to up the ante in terms of professionalism. A dedicated business landline sends that signal.
- Separate personal and professional calls
It also allows you to switch off and to separate business and personal calls, important to work/life balance as your business grows.
- Smart telecommunications
A business phone line can do so much more than simply make and receive calls. It can be part of your smart business, such as call diversion and forwarding. With a responsive smart system, you can improve customer experience when they call.
Mobile phone signals in some areas of the UK are notoriously poor. With a reliable ‘landline’ type phone system, you have the reliability needed to never miss an important call again.
What are the regulations around business phone numbers?
Whilst opting for a non-geographic business phone number makes sense, there are a few regulations you need to be aware of especially concerning premium business numbers.
In 2014, there was a change to consumer law in the UK namely that of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
Amongst other things, this regulation prohibited businesses from requiring consumers to use a premium rate telephone number to contact the business as their only source of contact. In other words, if you operate a premium rate number, you must also provide another number by which people can contact you.
This affected many businesses including those offering ’helplines’, complaint lines and customer care lines.
The UK Government said that consumers shouldn’t be expected to pay no to phone a business or company than it would to call a friend.
The following numbers would comply with the regulations:
- Standard geographic numbers such as 01, 02 or 03
- Numbers that are free to call such as 0800 and 0808
- Mobile numbers that usually begin with 07
Premium rate numbers – 09 numbers – or revenue-sharing numbers such as 084, 0871, 0872 and 0873 would not comply with the regulations, and neither would 0870 numbers where the cost to call it are higher than standard geographic costs.
As a business, if you choose to operate via premium numbers, you need to carefully consider the scope of your telephone service and assess if it falls within the parameters of this important piece of regulation.
In terms of charges, in 2019 Ofcom introduced charging caps on calling premium-rate numbers. This is because the telecom regulator believes that the range of non-geographic telephone numbers is now so wide that consumers are confused about charging.
A business phone number is essential for modern businesses, offering a range of smart solutions. And when it comes to winning new customers and keeping hold of existing ones, there is no doubt that being able to easily contact a business is key.
Business phone numbers FAQ
The cost of a business phone line depends on the type you opt for, as well as the additional extras you need to build a smart, responsive phone system for your business. You’ll need to consider installation costs, and any monthly line rental fees, as well as the costs of making calls and for services such as call conversion, call waiting, music for on-hold calls and so on. A traditional installed landline with BT, for example, can cost upward of £140 + VAT. For a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) business phone system, charges can be as little as £7.99 per month, per user.
The cheapest means of acquiring a business phone number is to opt for one of the online companies that offer phone numbers, both geographic and non-geographic. You opt for the number that you want, with the area code that you want and pay a monthly fee. With the cheapest package, all incoming calls will come to this number which you then divert to another landline or mobile phone. You can also set up a message for unanswered calls. However, with the cheapest package, when you call someone back it will be from the number of the phone from which you are calling. Step up the package to have a number that can be used for incoming and outgoing calls.
In technical terms, there is no difference between a business phone line and a residential one. Where they do vary in cost, usage, equipment and features. A business phone line is likely to be used more, both incoming and outgoing calls. A business phone line can also benefit from a non-geographic number which gives the impression of the business being both professional and trustworthy, as well as one that operates nationwide.
There is no regulation that states a business must have its own dedicated phone number. Some businesses operate using a system of mobile phones but a dedicated phone line and number bring a host of benefits including looking for professional, improving customer experience as well as your business and employees benefit from a smart phone system.
Yes, you can. Most business phone number providers allow a certain amount of freedom in choosing a number. However, with some companies, what you cannot choose is the geographic or area code. If, however, you opt for a non-geographic phone number such as freephone 0800 number, you won’t need to worry about a geographic area code.