I think about how 800 numbers have evolved. The toll-free numbers used to be utilized by businesses to allow consumers to call without incurring long-distance charges. With the proliferation of cell phones, those fees have become a thing of the past and now plans track calls the same way, whether an 800 number or not.

But instead of the 800-number fading into obsolescence, the demand for them continues to grow. An 800 prefix now signals “a business number” rather than “a toll-free number.” As a result, the prefixes 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833 are all currently in use with more on hold to accommodate future demand.

The “toll-free” prefix has become a national prefix, giving geographic neutrality to clients who use them. It creates a cache that a local number does not provide and for those who have the original 800 prefix it communicates a sense of longevity as well.

It would have been easy for the toll-free prefix to disappear along with night calling rates, collect calls and long-distance charges but instead, it morphed into a new identity that enhanced its value. What in your organization once served one purpose but could now fulfill another?

 

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