The 800 number is commonly used by businesses and organizations to generate sales and leads, and facilitate customer communication. This article will provide information about the background and history of the toll free number. While these numbers may seem to be ubiquitous nowadays, but when they were first introduced, they changed the face of the telecommunication industry, and opened up the possibility for businesses and corporations to use the telephone as a powerful lead generation, marketing, and promotional tool.
The first 800 numbers were created in 1967 by AT&T as a way to reduce the need for extra human operators, who were becoming overwhelmed by the number of collect calls that they were required to process daily. This service was called INWATS, or Inward Wide Area Telephone Service, and the first business to officially adopt the new system was the Sheraton Hotel Chain in 1970. Roy P. Weber is credited with inventing the modern toll free number system, which he called the Data Base Communication Processing Method. This was slow to catch on, and AT&T did not anticipate that in a few short decades, the toll free number would become an integral part of the marketing strategy for countless new and established businesses.
Until the break up of AT&T in 1984, AT&T was the sole proprietor of 800 numbers. The FCC ordered the implementation of a number portability process in 1991, as a way to increase competition. This allowed toll free number subscribers the option of switching carriers without losing their original numbers. Many phone carrier began to offer these numbers as well, and soon consumers had a variety of carrier options to choose from, which resulted in an increase of new numbers, and the widespread usage of them by the consumer, due in part to the increase of usage of the vanity number, as well as the traditional randomly generated toll free number.
Nowadays, the most common type of toll free number is the vanity number, which uses mnemonics to spell out something, usually the name of a business or a catch phrase related to it, like 1800-FLOWERS, or 1800-YELLOWPAGES. These numbers are a good way to brand a company in the minds of the consumer, so choosing just the right number is vital. Since these numbers are free for customers, they are more motivated to call them, and these calls often result in sales, and increased customer service and satisfaction.
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