1800 Numbers: From humble beginnings to industry changers
1800 Numbers are a very common part of today’s business landscape. Companies of all types and sizes offer these numbers so that customers can phone them for FREE from any landline in Australia. 1800 numbers are also very popular with government and not-for-profit agencies, who want to provide people with an easy and inexpensive way to contact them.
Which is why it might surprise you to learn that these numbers were not initially intended as a business tool!
A Brief History Lesson
In 1967, AT&T rolled out the first 1800 numbers.
Prior to that, any reverse charge (or “collect”) calls had to be connected by a telephone operator. AT&T’s telephone operators were becoming overwhelmed by the number of collect calls that were being accepted by businesses, so they introduced the 1800 number as a way to lighten the load on their operators and automatically connect the calls for them.
To start with, these numbers were a bit of a novelty and experienced modest growth. Then in the 1980s, AT&T’s centralised network database allowed businesses to have a single nationwide free-call number instead of requiring different numbers for each state. That’s when things exploded, and most smart businesses started to advertise 1800 numbers.
What started out as an internal solution to help out AT&T’s operators soon turned into a necessity for businesses in the US, and then the rest of the world.
The Power of 1800 Numbers
When a caller dials a 1800 number, the network recognises it as a free call number and passes it through to the 1800 network management system. This system contains all of the information needed to send the call to the right place.
Each business specifies where its calls should go. This is called “routing” and here are a few examples:
- Ring an office landline during business hours, and then ring a live answering service or mobile number after hours.
- Ring the office closest to the caller’s location (right down to the local Telstra exchange)—for example, direct all calls from Victoria to the Melbourne office and all calls from Queensland to the Brisbane office.
- Share incoming calls equally between a sales or support team.
All this happens instantly as far as the caller is concerned, and their call is connected through to the correct number quickly and efficiently.
Not only do 1800 numbers help to make callers happy (FREE calls, fast connection to the right person), they also provide a number of benefits to businesses including detailed call reporting and portability, which allows a business to keep the same phone number as they relocate and grow.