What does your phone number say about you?

You’ve probably not given it much thought, you put a huge amount of effort into making sure your website reflects your brand and the ethos of your business but what impression to your prospective clients does your telephone number give?

Mobile Numbers

If you’re a mobile hairdresser or any other type of business that is focussed on visiting the client or if your business is conducted at the clients premises then a mobile should be prominent on your website.
If you’re trying to give the impression that your business is office based and using a dedicated landline number isn’t possible or practical for you (if you’re out of the office a lot then sending clients to voicemail gives a terrible first impression!) you should consider a ‘virtual’ number.

Geographic or Landline Numbers

A geographic number is a must for virtually every business, as it’s tied to a physical location (or at least is perceived to be – more on that shortly) customers are more likely to call a business with a geographic number in their area than a business with a mobile or ‘out of area’ number as the perception is that the business is local and ‘stable’ as they have a physical presence in their area.

These can either be geographic numbers (like your landline number) in any area code in the UK (and most of the world) and can connect callers to your mobile or any number of your choice. They normally cost a few pence a minute for calls to landlines and a bit more to mobiles but callers will get the impression your business has its own premises and as such is more ‘stable’ and reliable.

Freephone Numbers

Another option is a freephone number, depending on your type of business these can either help or hinder acquiring new customers.

Obviously if you’re using a freephone number and callers have a landline telephone beside them they are much more likely to call you before they make calls to competitors who have a chargeable number on their website.

The downside of a freephone numbers is that with the rise of households with no fixed phone line, or where the customer may only have access to a mobile, they will be charged for making a call to a freephone number by their mobile operator. In these instances a geographic number would be preferable as it would be included in their talk-time allowance.

0845 Numbers

These numbers tend to be used for customer service helplines and other helpdesk functions where the client is already a customer – and so the perception is there is no need to be competitive on the price of the call to the caller as they’re already a customer and so ‘won’t mind’ paying for the call. This mistaken belief is totally and utterly wrong on so many levels – more on that shortly.

Business’ sometimes wrongly take the attitude that if they’re providing a freephone number for sales they need to make this money back on after-sales or support calls. This isn’t something that’s gone unnoticed by the general public (your customers!) and it will generate bad feeling amongst the very people you spent so much effort getting to choose your business over your competitors.

That’s not to say these numbers don’t have their uses, as they do. As the number operator (the business) gets paid by their telephone provider (in most cases) for calls they receive they can be useful where the call is an ‘add-on’ service – such as for assistance with something not provided by the company but that is relevant to the product.

The cost of providing support to customers – and thus the cost of telephone calls for marketing numbers, etc – should be factored into your marketing plan from the start.

Who would you choose?

You’ve got a driveway that is uneven and cracking and you need someone to come out and repair it, which would you choose:

Company A – Have listed a mobile number on their website, the website is well designed but you can’t find any other contact number for them.

Company B – They have a mobile number and a geographic number (in your area listed), there’s no address on the website.

Company C – They have a mobile number, freephone number and geographic number on their website, along with a full address and information on opening hours and information on how much calling their various numbers will cost.

Personally I’d go with Company C (followed by B and then A if I couldn’t find anyone else!), information is key and all that hard work spent creating page upon page on how your products and services work and how you have hundreds of happy customers can all be undone if your prospective customer can’t find detailed contact information for your business that reassures them that you’re here to stay!