Business Phone Numbers Explained – Forbes

  • by

Editorial Note: Forbes Advisor may earn a commission on sales made from partner links on this page, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

A business phone number is one of the first steps to creating a healthy, responsive business. When customers can call you directly and ask questions or discuss customer service issues, you have a much better idea of how people feel about your business. This is important for creating an agile, dynamic business that serves its consumer base well.

Find The Right Phone System For Your Business

Save by Comparing Phone System Prices

Finding a business phone number is easy, but you have to figure out which kind will work best for you.

Types of Phone Numbers At a Glance

Toll-Free Numbers

A toll-free number that begins with 1-800 has the association of an established business for most customers. It’s a familiar formation to so many customers because of decades of TV commercials, phone books and advertisements in general. Although it’s harder to find a free 1-800 number these days, many other toll-free prefixes are still available (like 888, 887 and so on).

How To Get a Toll-Free Number

You can sign up for a toll-free number for your business through your regular phone provider. Additionally, you can forward it to an existing line and stay on top of any calls that come into your business through a former number.

If you’re serving customers and clients in the United States, having a toll-free number is the best way to ensure a professional presence. In addition to being a recognizable business number, any customer from around the country can call without a fee. The cost for your business is usually about $10 per month.

However, international callers might face higher costs for calling. If you’re looking to expand globally, figuring out a different plan for your business phone number to be more internationally inclusive will be important.

Vanity Numbers

A vanity phone number is not necessarily about how it looks, but it can function well for marketing integration for your business and makes your phone number easier to memorize than the average string of ten numbers. A vanity phone number for a cleaning service might enable them to have a series of numbers that spell “CLEAN UP” instead of just random numbers.

How To Get a Vanity Phone Number

You might be able to find a vanity phone number with a local area code through your regular phone provider, depending on what they have available. You can try to get a toll-free vanity phone number that starts with 1-800, 1-888 or another toll-free prefix.

The issue with vanity phone numbers is that the most obvious ones are already taken (like 1-800-FLOWERS). However, the ones that you can come up with that are still available are probably more memorable than the obvious ones. If you can find one that works with your company, it could be a major boon to your business to have an odd or eye-catching vanity phone number.

Since vanity phone numbers are more specific, they tend to cost around $10-$50 per month.

Local Numbers

A local phone number has an area code that is specific to an area of the U.S. For example, area code 212 is associated with Manhattan in New York, while 323 is Los Angeles, California. These phone numbers tend to look trustworthy to local customers because it looks like it’s coming from a neighbor or a nearby business.

Where To Get a Local Phone Number

Any company, even a sole proprietorship, can get a singular business phone number through any phone company or cable provider. A small company that gets a business phone number with a local area code can easily establish itself as a reliable neighborhood business.

In addition to looking at your local phone company’s business phone number options, Google Voice offers free set up of business phone numbers for individuals. A Google Voice number with the basic ability to take calls and get messages is free. Local phone numbers can cost anywhere from $0 (single-user) to $30 per month for businesses.

Which Option Is Best for You?

Picking a business phone number plan depends on your own projections of growth and how quickly you want to pursue new markets and customer bases outside of the local area where your business is located.

A local phone number is important for your neighborhood dependability, but you might also want to have local phone numbers in different areas of the country to build that sense of trustworthiness in new markets. If your goal is to create and maintain this kind of reputation, a local phone number with area codes that customers recognize will serve this goal in the long run.

Vanity phone numbers will help you stand out from the crowd with a catchy name that is easy to remember. Luckily, you can find vanity phone numbers from both local services and toll-free phone number companies.

Investing in a toll-free number with a 1-800, 1-888 or other prefix is a good idea for building a different type of professional reputation. The customer gets to relax because they know they won’t be charged for calling the business to discuss an issue or ask questions.

How To Get a Business Phone Number

There’s a wide variety of internet-based “voice over IP” (VoIP) services available that make it easy to purchase toll-free numbers, vanity numbers, and local numbers alike. Be sure to compare the best VoIP providers on the market to find one that best suits your unique needs.

Local phone providers generally have plans that limit the number of phone numbers you have per user, but there are also plans where you can expand the phone numbers and extensions to a larger pool.

Other Factors To Consider

Many of the free or low-cost services will lack the extra services you need in order to grow your business and serve your customers. Constantly taking on new add-ons will take away the affordability of a free or low-cost service.

If you want customized greetings, the ability to forward calls and an auto-answering service, you might want to look into business phone numbers and VoIP services at a higher cost but with a higher return. You can also get business phone numbers with the ability to schedule calls ahead of time, transcribe calls and voicemails and route calls to multiple users.

Find The Right Phone System For Your Business

Save by Comparing Phone System Prices

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get an international business phone number?

Many providers offer international options. This is a good idea if you want to offer toll-free calls to international customers and expand your global presence.

Where can I get a free business phone number?

While most local phone providers will not offer free plans, there are several VoIP providers that do. Google Voice is a solid option for a free business phone number, and it works best for individuals. You can forward calls, block spam callers and transcribe voicemails.

How many business phone numbers should I get?

It depends on how large your company is and what kind of local, national or global impact you’re looking to make. One business phone number will get you started, but if you have some money to invest in the important operational sides of your business, getting several phone numbers will allow your employees to have dedicated voicemail boxes and answer customer questions with confidence.