Do you need a virtual phone service for your business? Here we look into the key benefits when choosing between local phone numbers and toll free 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 is a local business number better? And could having local presence be more beneficial to your sales?


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


Toll Free Numbers

Significant differences between local and toll free numbers

The key difference between local and toll free 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.


Choosing the right virtual phone 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.


Choosing between a local number and a toll free number can be 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.


When to use a local business number

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.


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.


A study by Accenture reveals that 89% of customers get frustrated when they need to repeat issues and complaints to multiple call handlers [2]. 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].


Having a local business number helps to boost your reputation in the local area, providing a more personal service to customers who want to feel that they are doing business with a company based in their own community.


There are some downsides to having landlines, but with today’s virtual local number services, you can have the same perks as toll free (such as call forwarding no matter where you are located).


The downsides:

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


When to use a toll free number

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.


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.


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.


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.


The biggest advantage of toll free numbers though is perhaps 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.


The downsides:

  • Not as good for targeting local communities



[1] Why Vanity Phone Numbers Work – by Mountain Marketing Group

[2] 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey Global & U.S. Key Findings – by Accenture

[3] STUDY: Over Half of Customers Prefer Speaking with Human Customer Service Agents via Phone – by Usabilla

[4] Global Consumer Insights Survey 2018 – by PwC