History of 1-800 Numbers and Benefits of Toll-Free Calling

What is the History of 1-800 Numbers?

  1. Collect calling
  2. The first toll-free telephone numbers
  3. The invention of the 800 number
  4. Roy Weber and the second generation of 800 number technology
  5. 888 area code, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833 numbers
  6. Toll free numbers in the internet age

1967 was a big year – Elvis Presley married Priscilla, protests erupted over the Vietnam War, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as the first black Supreme Court justice, the first successful human to human heart transplant was performed, and the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. That same year, an unassuming invention which would soon be a staple in the world of communications was introduced: the humble 1-800 number.

The 800 number was an important step in the evolution of telephone technology, revolutionizing the phone industry by allowing businesses to offer their customers the convenience of direct toll-free calling; customers could call the business and the business would foot the bill for the call. But where did the idea for toll-free calling from, and what is the history of 1-800 numbers?

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​​What Does Toll-Free Mean?

Toll-free numbers are phone numbers with distinct three-digit codes that allow the caller to place a call with no responsibility for any charges associated with the call. The charges are paid by the owner of the toll-free number. In the United States, toll-free numbers begin with the area code 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844 or 833. The FCC governs the rules regarding toll-free numbers, and assigns most toll-free numbers on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Businesses can also purchase vanity numbers, a toll-free telephone number that spells a word or acronym chosen by the customer.

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What is a 1-800 Number?

A 1-800 number is a toll-free telephone number that allows you to make free calls from landlines and mobile phones by dialing the 800 area code plus a given 7-digit phone number. Toll-free numbers are often used for customer service lines and business phone numbers, allowing customers to call without having to pay for the call. The 1-800 number has become an integral part of modern communication since its inception, becoming a vital connection point between businesses and consumers.

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Timeline of 800 Numbers

The history of 1-800 numbers and reverse charge calling, or calls which are charged to the receiving party, have evolved since their primitive beginnings from simple operator-assisted collect calling to the toll-free numbers we use today.

Collect Calling

The first reverse-billed calling was done via collect calls, in which an individual presses ‘0” to call the operator, and asks that the call be placed with a request to charge the recipient for the toll fees. The caller gives their name, which the operator relays to the call recipient, asking them to pay for the call. This service was labor intensive for the phone companies, since the operators had to connect and request payment for each call manually.

The First Toll-Free Telephone Numbers

The very first toll-free telephone numbers were operator-assisted and date back to the 1930s. These were known as the Zenith number service in the U.S. and Canada, and the Freefone service in the U.K. Both of these services allowed a person to give the operator a number, listed in local directories, which corresponded to the receiving party, and the operator would complete the call in the manner of a collect call, charging the toll fees to the receiving party rather than the caller. These numbers declined in popularity with the rise of direct dial 800 numbers in the late 1970s.

The Invention of the 800 Number

The first 1-800 number was introduced in 1967 by AT&T. The number was initially used for long distance calls, and was known as the “toll-free” number. The toll-free call allowed customers to directly call businesses and other organizations without being charged for it.

The first iteration of 800 number technology was fairly rudimentary. Because AT&T was only able to provide local toll-free coverage, 800 numbers were tied to geographic locations. Companies with a national presence had to maintain several 800 numbers. Also, AT&T’s monopoly on the service meant it was too expensive for the average business to afford.

Roy Weber And The Second Generation Of 800 Number Technology

Roy Weber, a scientist working for AT&T in 1975, was tasked with improving 800 number technology. Weber’s genius invention led to toll-free service as we know it today. Weber designed the toll-free number to function like a “pointer” to a database. Rather than a number which connects directly to a phone line, the toll-free number in Weber’s system connects to a computer file, which in turn provides instructions on what to do with the call. The call may be sent to the same number 24 hours a day, or there may be more complex procedures, such as routing the call to different locations based on parameters such as time, location of the caller, and availability of call centers.

With the rollout of Weber’s system in 1981, 1-800 numbers began to be used for more than just long distance calls. Businesses began to use them for customer service inquiries, sales calls, and for taking orders over the phone. By the late 1990s, 1-800 numbers had become an integral part of customer service operations.

888 Area Code, 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833 Numbers

In 1996, toll free numbers expanded when the 888 area code was introduced, followed by 877, 866, 855, 844 and 833 numbers. These numbers are used for business and customer service lines, as well as for personal use. Despite the variety of available prefixes, many people still refer to all toll-free numbers as 800 numbers.

Toll-Free Numbers in the Internet Age

With the advent of the internet, toll-free numbers have become even more popular. Businesses have been able to take advantage of toll-free business phone numbers via both landlines and virtual phone systems to provide customer service and facilitate reliable communication with customers.

Today, 1-800 numbers are used by businesses of all sizes and types. They are one of the most popular methods of communication between businesses and customers, and have become an invaluable tool for customer service departments.

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The Benefits of Getting a Toll-Free Number for Businesses

The 1-800 number has become a vital connection point between businesses and customers. Toll free numbers are an essential tool for businesses of all sizes to provide their customers with easy access to their customer service and other support. Not only do 800 numbers make it easier for customers to reach the company, but they also offer a number of other advantages, such as:

1. Improve Customer Service

One of the biggest advantages of 800 numbers is their ability to improve customer service. Customers are more likely to call an easty-to-find 800 number than search for a company’s customer service number on the web. This makes it easier for customers to reach the company and get their questions answered quickly. 800 numbers also make it easier for customers to leave messages and contact the company at any time.

2. Increase Sales

Another benefit of 800 numbers is that they can lead to increased sales. 800 numbers can be used for marketing and advertising, and customers who are able to conveniently contact the company via toll-free calling are more likely to make a purchase. Additionally, customers are more likely to remember the 800 number, especially custom vanity numbers or easy to remember strings of digits. This can help to increase the company’s customer base and overall sales.

3. Enhance Customer Loyalty

The 800 number makes it easy for businesses to track their calls. With the introduction of the 800 number, businesses have access to detailed call records that can be used to track customer trends and analyze customer behavior.

4. Call Tracking

When customers are able to quickly and easily reach the company, it can create a sense of trust and loyalty. This can lead to long-term relationships with customers, which can help to increase customer retention.

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Boost Your Business with Toll Free Calling

With all these benefits, you may be wondering if you should get a local or toll-free business phone number. Toll-free numbers have been around for over 50 years and have become an essential part of doing business. Having your own 800 number is a great way to provide customer service and facilitate communication with customers. It is a convenient and cost effective option for small businesses looking to increase customer satisfaction and sales, and to generate customer loyalty.

Ready to find out what a 1-800 number and complete virtual calling system can do to boost your business? Sign up for a 7-day free trial of LinkedPhone and let the toll-free calls start rolling in!

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A special high five to Faith Dickens for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs. Thank you Faith! ❤️

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