In today’s global economy, expansion doesn’t just mean opening an office across town. And in reality, it doesn’t have to involve a new office at all. Global toll free numbers can allow customers in multiple countries to contact your business by calling a single telephone number.
Businesses that interact with customers around the world have unique communications needs. They must be able to seamlessly connect with their clients in order to provide exceptional customer service; and their customers need to be able to reach them without fear of racking up a huge phone bill.
So, if you have customers in multiple countries around the globe, how do you connect with all of them? Many businesses choose to use a global toll free number, like a UIFN (Universal International Freephone Service) number.
But, what many business owners don’t realize is that UIFN numbers are not a “catch all” solution for worldwide communications. In fact, many customers who come to us looking for global toll free numbers are surprised to learn that they come with some restrictions.
In thi post, we will discuss global toll free numbers, and what you need to know about them before you decide to purchase one for your business.
What is a global toll free number?
Technically speaking, there’s no such thing as a “global” toll free number, although we hear this term used all of the time. But, a UIFN number is a fairly close approximation. Instead of having toll free numbers for each country, companies sometimes choose to use this type of virtual phone number.
UIFN numbers are different from international toll free numbers in a few ways. First, they’re actually formatted differently. UIFNs are comprised of a 3 digit country code, followed by an 8 digit numerical code, resulting in a number that is 11 digits long.
UIFN numbers also have different restrictions and accessibility standards, which can differ depending on the country from which you are dialing the number.
How do UIFN numbers work?
Just like international toll free numbers, UIFN numbers are free for a customer to call.
But, as we mentioned before, UIFN numbers are a little different when it comes to formatting and dialing. International toll free phone numbers are formatted a certain way depending on the country that they are based in; this makes it easy for in-country customers to recognize the number as free to call. UIFN numbers need to be able to be called the same way in multiple countries, so they follow a different standard. This can make it hard for customers to know if these numbers are free to call.
What rules and restrictions are associated with UIFN numbers?
While UIFNs can be a valuable business tool, they are by no means a “one size fits all” solution for global communications.
The biggest downside to UIFN numbers is that they’re only accessible in about 40 countries. If your customer base (or potential customer base) lives in these countries, a UIFN number might be a good option. But, if you are trying to reach customers outside of these areas, you might want to consider alternative solutions.
There are also a lot of rules and requirements when it comes to purchasing a UIFN number. The phone number must be registered in at least two different countries, and it can take as long as 180 days to provision.
UIFN numbers also require a hefty one-time setup fee; so, this is something to take into consideration before you make a commitment.
A UIFN number isn’t right for me, but I still need a global toll free number. What do I do?
Honestly, international toll free numbers are the best option for companies who serve customers around the globe. True, you will need to buy a toll free number for every country in which you have customers. But, you’ll also have a way for customers to contact you free of charge. (And if you’re only targeting a few countries, you may actually end up spending less money than you would on a UIFN number.)
If you want to make sure that the right numbers are displayed to the right customers, you can always use dynamic number insertion. It may sound fancy, but it’s really just a feature that allows you to show different phone numbers on your website based on the IP address of your web visitors.
While a UIFN number may be a good addition to your business, remember that it is not a complete phone solution that will allow you to touch everyone across the globe. If you’re looking for a way to connect with customers in multiple countries, you may want to purchase individual international toll free numbers.
As always, take the time to truly evaluate and document your communications needs and consult your provider if you need more information.