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A Single Toll Free Number

Most large enterprises have thousands of toll free numbers. As enterprises work to improve the quality of their customer interactions, they should drive towards a single toll free number.The reason for so many toll free numbers in the past was primarily for the benefit of the enterprise. In the future, enterprises should become customer centric; which having a single toll free number is part of.

* Brand--A good and consistent customer experience for all customer calls that reflects the company's "Brand" and enables the company to track all customer interaction.

* Easy to Remember--A vanity number that customers remember so they choose to call this enterprise versus the competition.

* Multi-Channel Integration--As enterprises support multi-channel communication and encourage their customers to first try an automated system, the URL, email, chat, and toll free number need to align.

The traditional reasons for having multiple toll free numbers include:

* Marketing Success--Marketing offers TV, direct mail, magazine advertising campaigns, and they need to understand how successful each is. Each campaign thus has its own number.

* Custom Greeting--Prior to an IVR asking who the caller is and why they are calling, the caller hears a custom greeting that lets them know they have dialed the right number.

* Speed--When dialing a toll free number, the objective is to reach the right resource (automated or human) as quickly as possible. By having a unique toll free number, an enterprise knows why someone is calling--sales, service, billing--and can route them quickly.

* Different Business Units--Most large enterprises have many smaller business units that may have their own name, brand, and processes for treating callers.

To move towards a single toll free number, an enterprise should:

* Define the Primary Number--Define the one primary toll free number for the enterprise, that if anyone calls, they can reach the right resource. Marketing should build the brand around this number so that customers know it. IT should make sure all customer contact across the entire organization is integrated, along with understanding where each customer is in a given business process.

* Focus on Who is Calling--When a caller uses the primary toll free number, the IVR should first ask who they are before asking them why they are calling. By determining who they are via their ANI and/or customer ID number and correlating this to contact history and recent transactions, a dynamic menu can be built based on the most likely reason why they are calling, which saves the customers from having to go through IVR hell.

* Extensions--If knowing why someone is calling prior to going through an IVR is critical, add an extension number to the primary toll free number which can be used as a reason code to trigger a custom greeting, to further help automate the routing, and/or track a marketing campaign.

The traditional business mindset was; why someone is calling is more important than who they are. For example, sales calls would be given a higher priority than service calls. As end-to-end customer experience becomes more important, the focus should now be on who is calling and correlating this to where they are in a business process to determine the most likely reason why they are calling.

I would hazard a guess that there is a direct correlation that the more dysfunctional an organization is, the more toll free numbers they have. Do you think this is true?