Get a Toll-Free Phone Number
If you are serious about providing customer support and service, install a toll-free number to make it easier for your customers to call and order from you. Toll-free numbers are so inexpensive nowadays that you really cannot afford to offer anything less. Note that with the increased demand for toll-free numbers, the FCC has added five additional toll-free prefixes: 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844.
If you do install a toll-free number, be sure to let your key customers and contacts know that you have such a number. Have it printed on all your sales literature, catalogs, news releases, business cards, out-going mail, email signatures, and your website. Above all, be sure it’s on your order forms.
To be sure its customers have the number handy, Peachtree Publishers sent a sticky label with its toll-free number highlighted. It added a toll- free fax number for orders as well.
The Advantages of 800 Numbers
800 numbers are more convenient for your customers to order from you. In a survey conducted by CMG Telemarketing, 65% of the consumers questioned said they would not shop by telephone if they had to pay for the call (not as true now as when the survey was taken).
800 numbers speed response to your direct mail and online offers. You can begin to receive orders as much as a week or two faster than by mail.
800 numbers can double or triple response to offers. The average order size from phone calls for Open Horizons was $57.19 as compared to an
average order size of $27.04 from incoming mail—that’s more than double the sales revenue!
800 numbers produce larger orders because they allow you to interact with your customers. If your phone order takers are alert, they can increase sales by letting customers know about other books you publish that are similar to the ones the callers are ordering. Make sure your agents know to suggest upsells.
People buying by phone are better credit risks and have a better payment record.
800 numbers encourage impulse buying. Open Horizons has found that upsell efforts work. When we told callers about related books and our 10% discount on orders of three or more titles, most callers immediately took advantage of the discount.
800 numbers build good will. They demonstrate that you are responsive to the needs of your customers and open to their feed back.
800 numbers allow you to offer better customer service. It makes you more accessible to your customers so they can clear up any questions they might have about your books or service. The sooner you clear up questions, the quicker you diffuse any possible dissatisfaction—thus ensuring that the word of mouth about your company and your books remains positive.
You will sell more books to bookstores since they will be able to place special orders quickly. As Penny Davis of the Earthling Book shop in Santa Barbara, California, once noted, “It would be great if more publishers had 800 numbers. I’d be much more likely to pick up the phone and place an order.”
You can save money on sending out review copies. Since a review copy is only a toll-free phone call away, reviewers are more likely to re pond to your news releases by calling for a review copy.
Get call-backs quicker. If you get the voice mail box when calling an important reviewer, editor, book buyer, or other contact, you can leave your 800 number to make it easy for them to call you back.
800 numbers are good for consumers. Reviewers and other media outlets are more likely to mention a toll-free order number where they might not mention a mailing address or ordinary phone number. They view toll-free numbers as a service to their readers while they view mailing addresses as a service (i.e., a free ad) for the publisher.
Vanity 800 Numbers
If you are going to get an 800 toll-free number, try to get one that is easily remembered, what is called a vanity 800 number. Examples include 800-THE-BOOK (Barnes & Noble), 800-9TRU-LUV (Bridal Solutions catalog), 800-FLOWERS (flower delivery service with a trademarked number), or 800-4BIRTHDAY (Birthday Express catalog).
When Viking Penguin published Stephen King’s The Regulators under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, they established a vanity toll-free number, 1-888-4BACHMAN, so readers could get the scoop on the “lesser-known” author, as told by Stephen King.
While vanity 800 numbers are hard to get (simply because there are so few numbers left), vanity numbers for the 888, 877, 866, 855, or 844 prefixes should be easier to obtain. With 844 being the newest prefix, it will probably be the easiest one to get a vanity number for.
Advice on Getting Vanity Numbers
Here is some basic advice on why you should get a vanity 800 number and how to get the best vanity number.
Spell it out. 800 numbers that are followed by random numbers are not recalled like 800 numbers that actually spell out a word or phrase. A D&M Research study found that phone numbers that spell out names are remember 5 times more often that phone numbers that are just numbers.
Get a number beginning with 800. 800 is the default number everyone remembers even when the number begins with 866 or 888. A Dial800 study found that up to 20% of people dial 800 when the number they really want to reach starts with a different toll-free prefix.
Trademark your 800 number. If you are going to brand your 800 number, trademark it to protect your investment.
Get the URL for your 800 number. If you are going to invest in branding a toll-free number, make sure you get the website URL for it as well; for example, 800-Flowers.com and 800Flowers.com and perhaps even 1-800-Flowers.com.
Make it easy to read and say. Don’t use an odd spelling or word that is not easy to remember.
Speak Español. If you are based in the U.S., consider getting your vanity number in both English and Spanish spellings.
Speak Canadian. Make sure your toll-free number works for people in Canada as well.
Go global. If you sell worldwide, try to get matching vanity numbers via the Universal International Freephone Numbers.
Use a non-toll-free vanity number. If you simply cannot get a good vanity 800 number, see if you can get a non-toll-free number that spells out your brand.
One drawback to vanity numbers is that some opportunist could piggyback on your promotions and siphon off some of your sales by getting a similar number. In one well-known case, the hotel booking service Call Management got the vanity number 800-405-4329, which mimics the heavily promoted 800-HOLIDAY (800-465-4329). As a result, Call Management received many calls that should have gone to Holiday Inns. They booked more than $275,000 in business as a result. When Holiday Inns sued for violation of trademark, the original judge ruled in their favor. However, the Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, thus allowing Call Management to continue to use the near vanity number.