Thursday, October 27, 2005

Toll-Free Phone Numbers: Still Needed?

As part of our moving into a new home, I've been making all the utility phone calls. In the process of changing phone service, I decided to cancel our toll-free phone service.

It just didn't make sense to me to continue the toll-free service when such a large percentage of our orders is coming via email and our web site.

Plus, with so many people now using cell phones, long distance charges have little impact on people choosing to make an order via regular phone lines.

I think toll-free numbers have seen their prime and will only decrease in impact and utility in the coming years. That doesn't mean they will go away, but many smaller businesses will choose to do without.

Toll-free numbers still make sense for catalogers, Fortune 500 consumer marketers, some information services, and business-to-business marketers (for example, publishers selling to and servicing book wholesalers and individual bookstores).

But our toll-free number was no longer generating enough orders to justify its cost. The cost of the toll-free number wasn't a lot, but the cost of handling phone orders versus web orders is significant.

Now I've just got to make sure that I haven't mentioned the toll-free number in the new edition of 1001 Ways as well as deleting all reference to it on my web site. That might take a few weeks to clean the site of every mention since I can't use search and replace to change every mention on more than 200 pages.

You, too, should reconsider whether or not you should continue offering toll-free service (if you do offer it now) or adding it (if you don't offer it now).

That's my key tip this week: Reconsider the expense of a toll-free number. My recommendation: Drop the service if you now offer it primarily for the convenience of a few consumers. On the other hand, keep it if your main customers are retail outlets.
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