Does a toll free number add credibility?

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Many businesses who wish to sell further afield than their own town or state, invest in a toll free number.  But is it really necessary?  And will it enhance or harm your business?

Popular wisdom advocates toll free numbers as the best way to encourage sales from out of town customers.  A toll free number, ‘they’ say, adds credibility and legitimizes your business, making it appear large and reliable.

But… are ‘they’ right?

While toll free numbers are shown to have a higher recall value than url’s across a variety of age groups, they do not necessarily add credibility as opposed to a normal telephone number.

The reasons are:

  1. with the increased outsourcing of telephone call centers to off-shore locations, a toll free number immediately raises the question of where the company actually is and whether it is off or on shore.  This obviously has an impact on the trust factor.  An off shore company is perceived as a risk.  A purchaser is never sure of whether they will have proper recourse should the purchase not be satisfactory.
  2. A toll free number can also indicate that customer service issues are dealt with by someone other than the sales and manufacturing company – once again creating a measure of insecurity.  Are support questions going to be answered from an FAQ list by a barely trained telephone operator instead of a knowledgeable staff member.
  3. a regular phone number gives customers a sense that the company is real and traceable.
  4. although smaller companies often use toll free numbers to project a ‘larger’ company image, customers don’t always perceive a large company as being more credible.  Many like to know that they’re dealing with a company of a size that makes the management accessible and accountable.

In my experience as a consultant and writer, my toll-free number has not added to my business at all.  In fact, 90% of the calls received are wrong number calls.  I have stopped advertising my toll free number and have not found this to be at all detrimental.

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