Do you need a virtual phone service for your business? Here we look into the key differences between toll free and local numbers.


As mobile phones and other smart devices grow in their billions, businesses need to consider how toll free numbers will fit into the digital landscape. Whilst email, instant messaging, social media messaging, and virtual chatbots help to diversify customer contact routes, phone services are still very much in demand.


Research reveals that 90% of Americans have used a toll-free number at one point or another to contact a brand after watching an advert. Of the 90%, the ads with vanity numbers generated a response rate of over 30%.There’s no question that toll free is an incredible marketing tool. But when considering toll free vs local numbers, which is better? Could having local presence be more beneficial to your sales?


Below, we explore the history of business phone numbers and the differences between toll free and local numbers, whilst also discussing some of the pros and cons of each.


Why is it important to have a business number?

Before we discuss toll free numbers vs local numbers, it’s important to understand the benefits of having a business number. Smooth communication is an essential foundation for growing a successful company and having a business number is a key part of this. It helps establish a report between an organization and a customer, and having one recognizable number builds trust and security. This applies to customer service and conversions; your consumers need a single point of contact but also want to use a genuine phone number when making a purchase. Retaining this number throughout the growth of your business means your customers will see it as a trust signal and instantly associate it with your brand.


Toll Free vs Local Numbers: Business Basics for Your Virtual Phone Service


Significant differences between toll free and local numbers

The key difference between toll free and local numbers is that the former is linked to a specific location, and the latter isn’t. If you get a local number for your business, you will have a designated area code for your chosen town or city. Local numbers are available through a traditional landline, or virtually.


With a toll free number, your exact town or city location is not visible to the dialer. But the primary distinction with toll free is that your customers can call you completely free of charge.


How to choose the right toll free number service

A virtual phone service allows you to create phone numbers outside of your geographic location. For businesses with more than one target area, or companies operating internationally, this can be highly advantageous.


When comparing a toll free number vs. a local number, it can become complicated. The infographic highlights their key differences, but which one is right for you? When deciding on the best telephone number to handle your customer calls, it’s important to consider the following:


  • Do you need a local presence to target a specific neighborhood/community?
  • Do your customers find value in buying from a local company vs. a national/international brand?
  • Does your company need to increase its global presence and improve communication with international callers?
  • Is your business looking to expand beyond your local area?

As well as asking these important questions, you may also want to consider costs when deciding on the type of virtual phone service to go for. Local business telephone numbers and national telephone numbers can be cheaper than vanity numbers or true 800 numbers. But paying more for toll free might have other cost benefits in the long run (such as higher customer reach and better return). It’s important to weigh up both options and consider the pros and cons of both.


Toll free vs local numbers: Benefits of using toll free

Toll free numbers can really transform your business, particularly if you are in the process of scaling up or expanding overseas. They have unlimited international reach, with a prefix that is recognized in most countries, making it the ideal choice for your virtual phone service. Toll free numbers can also be forwarded to any phone or office, giving your team complete flexibility.


Toll free numbers are accessible

They’re accessible from mobile phones and landlines, so your customers will find it extremely easy to get in touch. On top of that, there’s also a choice of memorable vanity numbers that are and other toll free numbers that may be more affordable if you need to keep costs down.


Toll free numbers are professional

In the same way that a local number holds weight with a targeted community, toll free numbers can indicate professionalism, and help to improve your global reputation. It can make your brand seem bigger and more established, which is important for gaining customer trust and loyalty.


Toll free numbers are trustworthy

More than a third of customers ranked ‘trust in a brand’ as a top three reason to shop with a retailer, according to the latest insights from PwC [4]. So choosing a toll free number for your virtual phone line can be hugely beneficial when it comes to building your name in multiple geographical locations.


Toll free numbers increase engagement

The biggest advantage toll free numbers have in the debate vs local numbers is that they’re totally free of charge for the caller. This can significantly boost inbound leads and enquiries, encourage more international customers, and increase response by a massive percentage.


Toll free numbers are easier to transfer to new carriers

Tollfree numbers are held in a national database and in many leading markets around the world, regulators require toll free numbers to be transferrable and will hold carriers responsible for not responding to transfers in the requested timeframe. This doesn’t apply for local numbers, and the process for transferring numbers can be chaotic and slow. For more information on transferring toll free numbers to a new carrier, see our guide here.


The downsides:

Not as good for targeting local communities


Toll free vs local numbers: Benefits of using local

It’s a bit of a misconception that local telephone prefixes are outdated. There are of course huge benefits to toll free numbers, particularly for big businesses with a large client base, but sometimes a local presence is more effective.

Local numbers increase loyalty

If your goal is to get more local customers, then a local phone service works best. There’s a very personal and tangible element to dealing with local companies on the phone. And there’s plenty of research to suggest that customers still like to deal with humans over bots, someone they can trust – and not a large call center based halfway across the world.

Local numbers use human operators

A study by Accenture reveals that 89% of customers get frustrated when they need to repeat issues and complaints to multiple call handlers. And despite the growing popularity for bots in resolving problems online, over half of people still prefer to speak to a human operator when they are on the phone [3].


Local numbers provide a more personal service

An important difference between toll free and local numbers is that by using a local number, you can provide a more personal service to customers who want to feel that they are doing business with a company based in their own community. This allows you to boost your reputation in the local area.


The downsides:

  • Not as much global reach
  • Calls will cost your customers money
  • Implies that you’re a ‘small company’


Get the benefits of toll free and local numbers with

You don’t need to let the differences between toll free and local numbers impact your business decision, because with’s virtual local number services, your local number can have all the same perks that come with toll free (such as call forwarding no matter where you are located). We supply both national and local area toll free numbers for over 120 countries. Simply choose your package and we can have your local area number set up in a matter of minutes!