Your Toll Free Number Could Be Turning Customers Away
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When I launched my company, Championship Communication, ten years ago, a
veteran entrepreneur advised me, "Get your toll free number right away." He
argued that I would attract more clients and keep ongoing clients happy if they
could call me at no charge.
"But," I asked, "isn't that quite expensive?"
"No, Bill, it's surprisingly reasonable, and it will be well worth the
moderate cost because of your increase in customers."
Following his advice, I got an 800 number and displayed it on my stationery,
Web site, business card, and E-mail signature. For a decade, I mentioned that
number when I was leaving a voice mail message for an out of town contact I had
called and missed.
Then not long ago, I started rethinking whether my toll free number was
gaining business for me. Discussing this with a professional speaker colleague,
I was surprised to hear him say, "People who want you to have a toll free
number, so they can save three or four dollars when they call you, are unlikely
to be able-or willing-to pay the professional fees your experience merits. If
they are so cost conscious that they don't think they could afford to call you,
then how will they change that mind set to invest in your services?"
His idea startled me. At the same time, his logic seemed sound. Over the next
few months, I started looking at my monthly telephone bill to see who was using
my 800 number to reach me. The answer: mostly friends and relatives.
Even worse, one company I had never heard about printed my toll free number
as the contact number for its customer service department. I spent some
agonizing times assuring callers I had nothing to do with that company.
Also, I reasoned, in the era when many calls originate from people using cell
phones, the savings an 800 number once promised are likely to be obsolete. With
most providers, cell phone minutes used are cell phone minutes, period.
Then I thought back to my twenty-three years in management. Like every
manager, I fielded numerous calls from sales people who wanted to talk with me
about their product or service. How did I decide which calls to return from
someone whose name meant nothing to me? Simple - I eliminated the calls from
strangers with toll free numbers. I knew I was in for a sales pitch, and with my
packed schedule taking time for those calls would not demonstrate wise time
Remembering that, I wondered how many people had filtered me out of their
calls-to-return list since 1996 because of my 800 prefix.
However, I didn't want to trust my intuition alone. So I surveyed twenty-five
professional speakers I had become acquainted with through our state and
national associations. Included in my survey: the speakers with the most book
sales, highest fees, packed calendars, and greatest reputations. Most I reached
by E-mail, and with the rest I simply checked their Web sites.
The results astonished me. Out of the twenty-five, only eight have toll free
numbers. The seventeen others were prospering nicely with ordinary phone lines.
The most significant indicator: a speaker with a $20,000 keynote fee publishes
his office and cell phones, but no toll free number.
So I took the logical next steps. I called the phone company and cancelled my
toll free number. I notified my friends and relatives who had been using the
number that it was no longer active. The tech professional who makes requested
changes in my Web site eliminated the number from those pages, and even from the
"landing pages" accessed through Google. And I eliminated the number from my
formal E-mail signature.
Do I fret because the toll free number remains on my business card and
stationery? Not really, certainly not enough to order a fresh batch of both.
I'll change those eventually. Meanwhile, from what I have learned I will not be
missing out with top-tier prospects.
I recommend that you evaluate whether my findings match your professional
niche. If your toll free number attracts mostly friends, relatives, and
marketers who want you to spend money on them, it's time to switch to a
traditional phone number. You'll save substantial dollars annually, and more
importantly you will attract the calibre of callers you want to do business
About the Author
Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations “Finish in First Place” by
strengthening their communication, motivation, sales, and customer service. His
speeches, seminars, and communication coaching have benefited numerous clients,
including the Ritz- Carlton Cancun, Gillette, Duracell, Procter & Gamble,
Missouri Bar, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Visit his Web site to
sign up for his complimentary monthly E-mail newsletter:
http://www.ChampionshipCommunication.com Call Dr. Lampton to discuss how his
services will benefit your organization: 770-534-3425. E-mail him:
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