Using Toll Free Numbers – A Canadian Perspective

More and more companies are beginning to use the toll free business numbers as a powerful marketing tool to project a professional business image and promote their services. Customers also find it convenient to call an easy to remember and free toll free number. In addition, the ability to reroute international toll free numbers to a local landline or mobile phone has enabled even small businesses to expand their reach in the global markets. The use of personalized vanity numbers such as 1-800-FLOWER has promoted the toll free numbers as a viable and cost effective marketing strategy.

The recent technological advancements in telecommunication network design, VOIP and cloud computing have contributed in making the toll free numbers affordable even to small businesses. Before, the free toll numbers also referred to as free phones or free call numbers used to be the reserve of the large business franchises due to their high cost. The free call numbers were very expensive that even the top companies could only afford a single line.

Free call services offer businesses a reliable platform to efficiently manage and control their customers calling experience. The service provides businesses with the flexibility to forward incoming calls either to existing telephone numbers or to a live answering service. The portability of the toll free numbers provide businesses with the freedom to easily transfer their existing toll free numbers from one Phone Company to another. In North America (Canada and US) all that is required is for the business owner to fill a Responsible Organization Change Form which is faxed back to the existing phone carrier together with the Toll Free Birth Certificate.

With the free toll service, small scale businesses can easily set up virtual office environments at much lower cost compared to brick and mortar office with physical communication infrastructure. Small business owners also benefit from shorter deployment time, low setup and maintenance fee and an easy to use web based management interface. Some phone companies provide virtual fax numbers based on a toll free number to enable business owners send and receive faxes from virtually any part of the world. One such company is Ozetel; an Australian based Telecommunication Company that specializes on the 1300/1800 toll free numbers, live answering and Fax to Email services.

International Toll Free Prefix

Prefix for toll-free numbers is specific to each region or country. For instance a Toll-free number in the United Kingdom starts with 0800 or 0808, in Ireland 1800 and in Australia 1800 or 1300

The prefix for a free call number in the US and Canada is normally 800 and the toll-free numbers in these countries are popularly referred to as the “800 numbers”. According to the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), the toll-free numbers in the two countries can be called from any telephone in the US or Canada. However, some phone carriers restrict the use of NANP numbers and only allow calls from either the US or Canada –sometimes only from particular provinces or states.

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1300 and 1800 Numbers and The Do Not Call Register

Can you place a 1300 or 1800 number on to the Do Not Call Register?

The answer is YES and NO, based on what types of numbers can be registered and the definition of when you can register a number for the list. To be eligible, the number must be used primarily for domestic use or be a telephone line that is exclusively maintained for the transmission of incoming and outgoing faxes. Of course this definition extends to emergency numbers and numbers used by government bodies but we figured our readers were more of the small business type!

So, let’s break that down a little further to help explain the answer.

A 1300 or 1800 number is generally always activated for a business right so it would be pretty difficult to argue that the number is for “domestic use” any way you look at it. Based on that, you cannot register the 1300 or 1800. The register is designed to stop those annoying phone calls that invade your personal space. Businesses are still open slather, well in terms of phone calls that is.

Fax spammers however, are different. If your 1300 or 1800 is a fax line and you are receiving spam faxes to it then yes you can register the number. We suggest that you also consider the answer point of your 1300 or 1800 as well. So obtain the actual fax line or virtual fax to email service for that matter, and lodge that on the register at the same time. This way all bases are covered and fax spamming will stop.

Registering a number does not guarantee you will not be hounded with spam faxes completely. Some organisations are still permitted to contact numbers that are on the register. These organisations include charities, marketing surveys, political candidates completing surveys, educational bodies and religious organisations. They are still monitored in terms of how they contact that number by any industry standards put in place by the ACMA but it does stop the contact being made.

It takes 30 days for the number/s to be on the register officially in terms of all telemarketing and fax spamming stopping to your number. The telemarketers and fax spammers have the responsibility of ensuring they see the updates to the register and cease using your number for their outgoing marketing or calling. If they don’t, there are some major fines that will be enforced depending on the case. A Queensland based company, FHT Travel was fined $120,000 for calling 12000 phone numbers that were on the register so it is not something businesses want to mess with.

Resources:
Where to lodge a number on the Do Not Call Register
The governing body of the register – ACMA

Diverting My Business Line or Home Line Answer Point

We have been asked by a few customers this week, whether they can have control over diverting their home phone line or business phone line which is the answer point for their 1300 or 1800 number.

So, they want the 1300 or 1800 number to simply land all calls to their fixed line and then they want the control of diverting their land line when they go out of the office or are busy with another call. This all of course can be done on the 1300 or 1800 number but you can also choose to do it yourself. Why?

– Perhaps you get free calls to your mobile from your fixed line because you have a plan with your carrier,
– It provides more flexible control for the business owner, they can set and change whenever they want to.

So what will need to be done from the customer’s side?
Basically they will be setting a physical line diversion on the fixed line and it is a function built in to all Telstra fixed lines. If the call diversion function is not currently active, you will need to contact Telstra and add the function.

Once that is done you can simply pick up the handset on the fixed line and set a series of call diversions depending on what you want to achieve. The different types of call diversions include;

– Immediate call fwd for all calls,
– Diverting Calls on Busy or No Answer after a certain time,
– Choosing selected callers to be diverted and/or,
– Diverting calls by time of day.

Each of the types of diversions have their own key press code, for example immediate call forwarding is done with a *21 key press function. All of the different types of diversions can also be removed with a simply key press entry and the user can also check the status of diversions as well.

You can choose to have all of the diversions or a mix of the ones that you require for your business. It allows full control and management of calls when you cannot accept them yourself at that phone line.

The service itself is free of charge but you should consider any call charges that are instigated when you place that diversion function on your fixed line, for example if you divert to a mobile that is not part of a free call plan, then you may have to pay call charges for any calls diverted to that mobile.

The Telstra document that explains all of the different types of call diversion functions can be found within Ozetel’s descriptive website.

Remember, all of these functions can be done directly on your 1300 or 1800 number service but if you require control or may get cheaper call charges by doing it yourself, then this Telstra function may be the way to go! Good luck!

Using a 1300 or 1800 for my fax number

So can calls coming from faxes come through 1300 or 1800 numbers?

Yes, absolutely, the 1300 and 1800 number networks are intelligent enough to accept both phone and fax signals. They can deal with each and ensure the user receives calls to the correct device or network.

Often, a business will activate a 1300 number for phone and a separate one for fax. They will have the phone 1300 number land to their office landline or mobile phone and have the fax 1300 number land to their fax machine. Alternatively of course, the business can choose to land the fax 1300 number to a virtual fax, or service called a fax to email.

The 1300 or 1800 number is termed as a “shadow” number in that when called, it has a command telling the network where to land the call. It can be landed to any available line including virtual faxes. These fax to email services have an identity of course because they have their phone number. They can be called directly or they can be used as an answer point for 1300, 1800 numbers.

The benefit of setting up your business communications this way is that you present a larger, professional picture to your market. Having a 1300 number for your phone number but then just a normal phone number for fax really has shown to show weakness in a business model. Finishing off the set up with an additional 1300 number has shown that your market will see your business as a more complete, professional organisation.

Business owners could also choose to use a combination of one 1300 number and one 1800 number. If it is important for the business to be seen as a “free” phone call for their clients then they could activate a 1800 number for the phone line and a 1300 number could be the fax line. Either way, the fax signal will be accepted by the 1300 or 1800 network.

Do I own the 1300 or 1800 Number?

When a business looks to activate a 1300 or 1800 number, it is imperative that they keep ownership of the number. It is an integral part of their brand and must be available to them for the life of the business, A loss of the number may be extremely detrimental if you consider the difficulty business owners would face to attempt to introduce a new number to their customer base.

This is even more the case, if you consider the advent of the Phoneword, eg 1300 MY COMPANY. These phone numbers (phonewords) become almost the same as a domain name or business name. Losing it would mean certain problems.

With that in mind, the ownership of the 1300 or 1800 number is dictated by the path which is taken to acquire the number. There are basically 3 ways that a business can purchase or acquire the number;

Choose from a Public List
Every Telco in Australia has access to a FREE list of numbers. By free, we mean, they are free of any capital cost so the business will not be up for a “purchase” cost to choose one of these numbers from the public available list. There are in excess of 3000 of each type of number to choose from, and they are constantly being renewed so the choice is huge.

The downside: the good numbers will not be in this list. By good numbers we mean, numbers with double or triple digits in it or indeed numbers that spell words.

Ownership: if a business chooses a number from this Public 1300 Number List list, they will always own the number as long as they keep the number active and do not default with the carrier. A default may cause the number to be lost.

Purchase a number from Smartnumbers
If the number they want is not available in the free list, then they will need to buy the number from the, government run, auction system called smartnumbers.com.au. These numbers come at a cost, namely the auction price. Reserve prices start at $250.

The downside: You can get what you want but at a capital cost and, alot of the possible numbers have already been purchased.

Ownership: Yes, if you buy the number, you own the number as long as you connect the number within 3 years from smartnumbers.com.au. In this case, even if you default with your carrier, you will still keep the ownership because a cancellation by a carrier will simply return the number back to smartnumbers and will remain, owned by you ready to reactivate.

Lease the number
If the 1300 or 1800 number has already been purchased, then your only option is to lease the number of the owner of the number. The price can range dramatically depending on the number you are looking to lease.

The downside: You may pay a much higher monthly fee then normal, simply to have access to the number.

Ownership: NO, in this situation you will NOT own the number. It is owned by the purchaser of the number and the business owner is simply leasing it. It is in the best interests of the owner to keep you having access to the number but there is no guarantee.

Apple or PC

The battle between Apple and Microsoft really is no great secret – it’s been going on for years and will continue to do so. At the moment Microsoft hold the largest market share at around 82%. However, Apple are fast increasing in popularity with their Mac OS X and claim to be reaping a 70% year on year increase in ownership in Australia.

Whilst most Australian Businesses still use Microsoft Windows for their computing the last 5 years has seen an increase in the amount going over to the Mac. It is difficult to find actual numbers but the percentages speak for themselves: 5 years ago, Microsoft held 91% of the market share, that is down to around 82%, whilst Mac have risen from just 5% up to a massive 14% market share.

There are vast differences between the two, which makes it difficult to say which one is the best. The main difference between the Mac and the PC is the operating system. Whilst most PC’s rely on Microsoft Windows, the Apple Macs run their own operating system – the Mac OS X. This is not available to be run in any non-Apple product so if you want to use it you have to have a Mac computer. Microsoft however allows Windows to be run on just about any system going, which means they have a much higher rate of availability.

Whilst both the Mac and the PC are pretty much up with each other there are one or two differences that should be noted. Mac’s are generally much smaller than PC’s in both RAM and hard drive space. Whilst a PC typically has anywhere from 2GB to 8GB of RAM, the Mac will only have a maximum of 4GB. This is great if you don’t store much on your computer or are a heavy user.

Another difference is in stability and compatibility issues. Although much more improved now, PC’s are still more prone to crashing than their Mac counterparts. This is a huge issue and one that needs some addressing before PC’s start to regain lost market share. As for compatibility, the Apple Mac will run both Mac OS X and Windows whereas the PC is only really capable of supporting Microsoft Windows products.

The Apple Mac is more widely used by designers and developers, particularly because of its ease of use and its graphics capabilities. The PC tends to be more a free for all type, suitable for just about anybody, or any type of business to use. Which one you use for your business will depend almost exclusively on what you require it for.

Before his death in 2011, Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) were friends and business enemies for more than 30 years. Their relationship was based on a mix of personality and business rivalry and certainly had its difficulties. Although they remained close friends they also had several clashes over the years. In 1988 Apple sued Microsoft for an infringement on its patents but in 1997, when Apple were falling, Bill Gates stepped in and invested $150 million. In 2007 the pair appeared together on stage for the first time in over 20 years and, whilst some expected fireworks they were disappointed. The two demonstrated a long term friendship and a huge respect for one another and the meeting of two technologically advanced minds was deemed a massive success.

Which Accounting Software?

We wanted to submit some articles about some generic business topics and so this is a beginning to that.

Business owners always have to answer questions and make decisions, especially about their accounting methods. Once upon a time it would be a decision about which book-keeper to hire. The advent of accounting software has changed that. Now it is a question of which accounting software you should choose for your small business.

There are several options open to you. You can choose from traditional well known software, such as QuickBooks or MYOB. Or you can choose to go with completely online software such as Xero or Saasu. Each has it’s benefits and pitfalls so let us take a look at these four and compare what they have to offer and how they can help you.

QuickBooks and MYOB
QuickBooks and MYOB are two of the more popular pieces of accounting software. Both offer a selection of packages, ranging from basic accounting methods to the more complicated and involved. They both have a choice of either purchasing a subscription of 12 months or buying the full package outright. QuickBooks and MYOB have similar functions including payroll, time billing, and inventory control and accounts preparation. Another similarity between them is that that they both offer the facility for online accounting. This means that you can access your accounts from any computer that has access to the internet. They are both capable of automatic data-entry, which means you can hook up your bank accounts and credit cards and the data will be automatically imported to the system. Also, full back-ups, updates and technical support are offered as part of the service. One big difference between the two is QuickBooks ability to offer multi-user licenses – each copy of the program can be licensed for use by multiple individuals.

Xero and SAASU
Online accounting software is fast becoming a favourite method for small businesses. There are many companies that offer online accounting software, two of which are Xero and Saasu. Both of these are part of the latest in cloud based accounting programmes and are quite similar to each other in what they offer. They both offer a series of different packages, ranging from small and basic up to the most comprehensive package available. Each is priced separately and is available on a subscription basis. Both Xero and Saasu offer basic accounting functions such as payroll, sales orders and invoices, bank feeds and inventory control. They both have the ability to automatically produce invoices and both provide real time views of your bank balances, sales and bills pending. As well as automatic bank feeding they can both also update from your PayPal account as well.

We have only really touched on the basic features of all of these packages; you will need to go to the various websites for more detailed information.

MYOB
QuickBooks
Saasu
Xero

However, it is clear that the accounting software that you use really depends upon several factors: – the size of your business, how many users should have access, how detailed your accounts need to be and how much you are prepared to pay. It is worth bearing in mind that any software that is available online normally comes complete with automatic updates, back-ups and complete support, three very valuable requirements in the new digital age.

If you want to read more on accounting tips and techniques, have a read of this interesting article published by one of our team as well – Cash Flow Importance, an article on Anthonysblog