Want help choosing a phone number for your business ?

choosing a phone number

Are you a startup wondering which type of business phone number is best ?

All phone numbers are not created equal, research shows us the number you choose for your business will affect the behavior of callers.

So what’s the best number for your business ?

Well.. we can’t tell you exactly because there are many factors, but we will give you some data backed up by market research that will help you make a decision.

First let’s review the common UK number types available by prefix

  • 01 or 02 – Known as local or geographic numbers  (for example 0207 is a London number)
  • 030 – UK-wide,  Nationwide for public bodies and non-profit organisations
  • 033 – UK-wide, Nationwide non-geographic numbers
  • 056 – New voice services (normally VoIP)
  • 070 – personal numbers
  • other 07 – mostly mobile numbers
  • 0808 or 0800 – known as freephone (confusingly so because not free from mobile)
  • 0844 – Non-geographic special rate a.k.a. fixed rate
  • 0845 – Non-geographic special rate a.k.a. lo-call
  • 0870– Non-geographic special rate a.k.a. national rate
  • 0871 – Non-geographic special high rate (regulated as premium rate)
  • 09 – premium rate numbers

Now let’s take a look at the factors which will determine your decision to choose a particular number.

Running Costs:

One of the first questions you will have when choosing a number is “how much will this number cost me?” .  The reason phone numbers have different running costs is because of the way they work,  each carrier in the call chain gets a % for their ‘work’ in processing the call.  The regulator (ofcom) sets out usage and pricing guidelines for each number type, this  influences  the value chain and ultimately determines your running cost for a number.

To put this in simplified terms,  some numbers cost more to call so they cost you less to have. As a business this means you need to consider who your callers are, and why they are calling your business.  For example callers to a sales lines are very different to those calling support lines, hence a different number type may be used.

Bear in mind that number regulations can and have changed which can have a significant affect on number pricing in the future.

Our numbers ranked from cheapest to most expensive are as follows

Lowest Cost – 070 Personal
– 0844 fixed rate
– 0845 lo-call
– 0870 national call
– 033 UK-wide
Highest Cost – Local Number

(you can check actual rates on our pricing page)

However you can’t make a decision based solely on what the numbers going to cost you. Let’s take a look at some other important factors.

Perceived Call Cost:

In most cases the cost of calling the number will be the primary influence on making a call. We say the perceived call cost because it often happens the tariff for a number type is not known or misunderstood (not without good reason!).  Research tells us in most cases consumers actually tend to over-estimate the costs of calling all number types, but they do broadly understand the cost hierarchy.

Ofcom (the telecommunication regulator) research tells us;

  • There is a clear correlation between estimated call cost and likelihood to call number types.
  • Normal geographic landline numbers are well recognised by consumers and perceived as the cheapest to call.
  • Mobile phone numbers are perceived as more expensive to call than fixed lines.
  • 64% recognise 0800 numbers as free to call from fixed line phones.
  • 09 premium rate numbers are correctly perceived as the most expensive.
  • Consumers make relatively little distinction between prices for calls to 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871.
  • Consumer awareness of the 03 type is relatively low.
  • On average 8% said they couldn’t estimate the cost of a mobile or fixed landline call, in comparison an average of 15% couldn’t estimate the cost of calling  0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871.

Finally, and possibly the most interesting, consumers were asked the following question “If you saw a phone number on an advert for something that you were interested in how likely or unlikely would you be to call the number if it was …?

Normal landline 0800 0845 Mobile Phone 0870 0844 0871 09 03
Wouldn’t or unlikely to call (lower is better) 34% 37% 65% 70% 73% 76% 78% 82% no data

We now have a better understanding of how the perceived call cost is likely to affect a call decision but there are other factors which will affect your choice.  If you want to see the REAL costs of calling numbers from mobile we covered that in a previous post.

Regional or National or Mobile

Being ‘local’,  ‘national or ‘mobile” can influence callers to your business, you will need to choose your number(s) to suit your business needs.  A national (non-geographic) number can make you seem larger than you are, and capable of having a national presence. On the other hand a local (geographic) number (or many local numbers) shows a regional presence which indicates your ‘on hand’ and will respond quickly.

Here’s some interesting research to aid your decision;

  • 43% of business consumers and 46% of residential consumers said that they would be concerned if the ability to identify location was lost from phone numbers.
  • Those who appeared to value geographic significance gave a number of emotional and practical reasons for this, including it being ‘nice to know’ and for businesses using it to identify where a customer is located.
  • 69% of business consumers and  70% of residential consumers said that they would be concerned if the ability to identify mobile numbers was lost.
  • Distinction of mobile and fixed is valued on a social level, as calling behaviours could differ depending on whether a fixed phone or mobile phone is being called.

Clearly your choice of national, local or mobile number will have an influence on the perception of your business.

Our Advice

The number you choose will make a difference so decide carefully.  Here’s what we advise

Freephone – 0800 & 0808 are a let down because of the high cost of calling from a mobile (this is likely to change in the future).  However the free cost from a landline is widely known so they can be effective if used appropriately. The receiver of the call (you) will be charged per call so this must be taken into consideration.  In our opinion they are more suitable for ‘campaigns’ than general business contact numbers.  (LazyPBX don’t supply this type of number)

Local Numbers are a good choice if you are running a regional business, the calling costs are well known and perceived as being the cheapest to call. Local numbers are typically bundled with inclusive minutes on call plans so they are often free to call.  If you service many regions getting a local number for each region can boost customer confidence.

UK-Wide 033 were introduced to solve confusion over some 08 numbers.  They are a choice alternative to local numbers if you are running a national business. 033 numbers numbers MUST be bundled with any inclusive national calling minutes provided on call plans (including mobile) and can’t cost more than national calls. The only down side to 033 numbers is low consumer awareness, but that is increasing.

Mobile Numbers are best kept for personal use or direct points of contact. If you want to use a mobile for taking business calls we would advise you choose another number type and divert it to the mobile.

Fixed Rate 0844 Numbers are a good choice if you want to keep your own costs down.  There’s a poor perception of calling costs (even though they are only 5p a minute from a BT landline) and often confused with other 08 numbers. Because of this they are best kept for lines where you can display call costs alongside  your number or there’s a strong need to call.

Lo-call 0845 Numbers are a good halfway house between 0844 and 033.  0845 are generally cheaper to call than local numbers and sometimes bundled with call plan minutes.  Unfortunately they are sometimes confused with higher cost 08 number ranges which may put some people off calling.

National call 0870 Numbers are generally obsolete since changes were made to regulations in 2008.  They are often confused with higher cost 08 number ranges which may put some people off calling.  There’s no real reason to choose 0870, you’re better off choosing an alternative non-geographic range.

High call 0871 Numbers provide revenue share to the call party and are regulated as premium rate numbers (you must have an in call announcement indicating this).  If you have a service which adds real value for the caller they can be considered useful, but we advise they are never used as regular contact numbers. (LazyPBX don’t supply this type of number).

In summary all we can say is  – “thanks to LazyPBX you can choose several number for you business !




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