Unlike impersonal international numbers or toll-free numbers — which people tend to associate with giant, faceless corporate behemoths — local numbers provide customers with a level of intimacy and familiarity that makes hesitant callers more likely to dial. When someone shares an area code with a business, they are given the impression that they’re supporting a business at the community level that operates where they live. If your business is local, resist the urge to get one overriding toll-free number and bring your telephone network down to the most intimate level.

 

International Telephone Numbering Plans

 

Every country or region has its own specific telephone numbering plan, which subscribes numerical schemes and protocols (this is a fancy way of saying phone numbers) to subscribers on both the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and private networks. The PSTN manages administrative regions around the world, and each region adheres to its own telephone numbering plan. Many numbering plans — like those familiar to residents of the United States — further divide their region into sub-regions through the use of area codes.

 

Example: Local Numbers in the U.K.

 

So in order to procure a local phone number in a specific country or region, you would first have to understand the workings of how phone numbers work in that country or region. Let’s say you operate a business in the United States, but you want a local number in the U.K., where many of your customers are located, or where you plan to expand your operations. You would first need to reference the U.K.’s National Telephone Numbering Plan and see where you fit in depending on the locality where you want your number to be based, or — in some cases — the service you provide or the product you sell.

 

Regional Variations

 

Just as toll-free numbers have minor variations in the U.K. as opposed to in the U.S. (1-800 in the U.S. vs. 0-800 in the U.K.), local numbers will not only be structured differently than they would in the U.S., but they will have a different setup depending on where in the U.K. you do business. For example, the following locations will have the following layouts:

 

  • London: (020) xxxx xxxx
  • Liverpool : (0151) xxx-xxxx
  • Cambridge: (01223) xxxxxx
  • Oxford: (01865) xxxxxxx
  • Leeds: (0113) xxx-xxxx

 

Virtual Numbers

 

There are several ways to obtain and activate a local number after you’ve analyzed the country’s international telephone numbering plan and figured out how it plays out in your specific region. The most common and probably the easiest would be to obtain a virtual number. Virtual numbers are phone numbers that aren’t associated with any specific phone line, but instead are linked to a call-forwarding service that routes incoming calls to any number or series of numbers chosen by the subscriber.

 

A resident of Liverpool rings a local number that he or she saw in a local newspaper ad, and — without the caller’s knowledge — the call is routed to the phone line of a business owner in Toledo, Ohio (or anywhere in the world). The customer gets to dial a local number, but the business owner doesn’t have to establish a physical presence in the country where he or she placed the call.

 

To set up a virtual number:

 

 

  • Sign up with a provider, such as TollFreeForwarding.
  • Chose the number you want from their online database of available numbers.
  • Establish the line or lines where incoming calls will be routed.
  • Apply the appropriate features and customizations, including:
    Sequential dialing: Rings predetermined numbers in a set order. If the primary line is busy, it goes to the second line, the third and so forth.
    Simultaneous dialing: Rings several lines at the same time until the call is answered by any of them.
    Time-of-Day Routing: Directs calls on a set schedule depending on when the call is placed. This is especially important when time zone variations are involved.

 

Unless you’re a sophisticated world traveler, foreign phone numbers look, well, foreign — and they should. The point is, your clients or customers abroad will see them as a familiar, local number that they’re comfortable with and used to — and that won’t cost them exorbitant international dialing fees. Even giant global corporations know that all business is essentially handled at the local level — and their phone networks reflect that fact.