“Mr Watson. Come here. I want to see you”.
These were the first words ever spoken on the telephone, as Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone’s inventor, to beckon his assistant from the room next door.
At that time, there were only two phones in the world.
Phone numbers were not invented until over 40 years later when the innovative technology became more accessible.
Now over a century since Bell’s invention, telecommunications are absolutely essential in a modern society. This is particularly true in business.
Technology is used every day to facilitate business transactions; customers from all over the world can purchase or hire goods from a wide-spanning marketplace with ease.
This makes having a physical location almost futile today: does only perceived location count? Bell would’ve been impressed.
Further technological advances, like cloud-based telephony, means it no longer matters whether businesses are based next door, in the next town, or on the next continent: companies are now able to choose any phone number with any prefix to meet their specific needs.
Cloud-based communications have given businesses of all sizes the opportunity to choose between geographic (local) or non-geographic (national or international) numbers. Or if they want, they can use both.
For example, a company in Italy can have an American number, and/or it could even have a number for Lafayette, Louisiana.
The capabilities of cloud-based telephony transcend geography and innately makes the world a more connected place.
This is great for businesses and saw the emergence of an entirely new industry: telephony solutions.
Choosing between geographic or non-geographic numbers is the first decision businesses must make. Both have their advantages:
Geographic numbers are locally-familiar numbers. When customers see a number with a local prefix, it’s likely to be trusted more. People prefer dealing with local companies and benefit from low-rate charges that are associated with these numbers.
Although small businesses should opt for a local number to cater to their clientele, larger companies may operate a series of numbers for a series of locations. At a time where perception is everything, big, national companies may appear friendlier and more accessible when using a cluster of trusted area codes in conjunction with one another.
Non-geographic numbers, on the other hand, come with a certain prestige. National and international prefixes reinforce a company’s stability through widespread familiarity and reputation of the prefix. A company may look more established using a non-geographic number, leading to further geographically-widespread customer acquisition.
Large companies like national numbers because they reflect their national reputation. Conversely, aspiring SMEs benefit from non-geographic numbers for a similar rationale; they can establish a national presence without multiple, costly offices in various countries. With a perceived national presence, small businesses also appear bigger than they actually are which helps them compete with established brands.
Non-geographic numbers also give businesses further options that suit varying business models. We explore these options below …
National numbers come in both freephone and caller-pays forms.
Freephone numbers are proven to boost inquiries for obvious reasons: they’re trusted and customers know they won’t be ripped off.
Caller-pays options, meanwhile, are more complex and come in different shapes and sizes. The cost of calls can be shared between both the business and customer or said business can profit by charging callers a premium rate. This is evident across industries where companies do this to subsidize technical support lines or simply raise revenue.
The ability to choose any local or national prefix (irrespective of where a company is based) is also replicated on an international scale. A one-man business in Belgium, for example, can use a single international number (or several international numbers) as well as local and national Indian numbers at the same time.
The increasing popularity of Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFNs) – unique toll-free numbers that can be called from any country in the world – has also aided the internationalization of business. Companies prefer having a single number they can advertise globally as a central point of contact, but calls are then routed to the company’s main call center.
UIFN’s allow businesses to take on international clients more easily, particularly beneficial to SMEs. This means a company can reliably be reached on the same number across the word; whether their clients are in New York, New Delhi, in the office, or on the move. All without the worry of cost.
The telephonic revolution has led to increased competition for phone numbers.
In one report, a British newspaper claimed numbers are running out. While we have not yet run out of digits, memorable combinations are continuously sought after by businesses.
A number that customers can remember is a huge asset: it boosts inquiries, increases trust, and makes a business look established in the same way that short domains boost a company’s website. The psychology of phone numbers is, therefore, an important consideration.
Telecoms providers that offer numbers containing catchy sequences like 1234, 4321, 1122, or 9900, therefore, have a competitive advantage. Businesses crave these numbers and will pay good money for them.
Cloud-based communications give businesses unprecedented choice, but they offer important practical advantages too. For starters, cloud-based telephony lowers costs.
A company no longer has to set up a new office in a new town to attract new customers there. It can simply buy a number with the town’s local prefix and route calls back to its existing premises. Businesses are therefore able to cast their net far and wide without a huge outlay.
Meanwhile, large organizations can cut overheads by connecting multiple offices around the world on a single phone network. They also won’t have to deal with national operators in individual countries, saving both time and money.
There’s no doubt that a new chapter in the history of telephony has begun. Cloud-based telephony has changed the game, and telecoms providers offering a full spectrum of on-demand numbers are seen as industry front-runners.
Fortunately, offering an on-demand service is easier than you think. SpeakIntelligence, for example, has created an online webshop that can be quickly integrated into a telecoms provider website via an easy-to-install widget.
This revolutionary widget allows customers to select their preferable numbers in just a few clicks where numbers are in stock/via API and and do not demand documentation. The numbers are then live within minutes – gone are the days of waiting 24-hours or longer.
This webshop concept has also introduced an unprecedented level of self-service. It saves customers time and telecoms providers money through automation in ordering and processing procedures, and it vastly improves customer experience.
Alexander Graham Bell was a demanding man. He demanded the very best. It’s a fair assumption, therefore, that on-demand numbers would’ve been right up his street. Imagine the scene: “Mr Watson. Come here. You’ve just got to see this”.