Blog - December 19, 2018

All you need to know about UIFN numbers

In our previous article, we covered the most important pros and cons of national toll-free numbers. But there’s an international version of this number as well; Universal International Tollfree Numbers (UIFN in short).

UIFN numbers

One number for various countries

This is an international toll-free number that allows you to have one number that can be called from multiple countries. It sounds like a perfect number if you’re active in various countries worldwide and you want to avoid the hassle of having different toll-free numbers in each country. But are these numbers as beneficial as they sound?

What are the benefits?

The main benefit is obvious. It’s also why these numbers are mostly used by large multinationals for customer and technical support. But what are other gains and features of a UIFN number?

  • UIFN allows you to advertise 1 service number for various countries. Both convenient and money-saving for international marketing campaigns and for use on brochures and product packaging
  • Free to call for consumers, which increases customer satisfaction
  • They are geographically independent; calls can be routed to any other country
  • Allows you to establish an international presence and accessibility without the need for a physical office
  • Provide an easy way to enter new markets; just activate the same number in a new country and you’re good to go
  • You can choose your own number (depending on availability). Vanity numbers are also possible
  • UIFN can be supported by all kinds of additional services such as IVR’s, routing schemes, overflow in case of (un)expected inbound peaks and extensive call statistics

Don’t forget these drawbacks

Despite these highly interesting advantages, UIFN numbers aren’t used as widely as you might expect. This is because there are also some important drawbacks:

  • Though the name claims a worldwide reach, UIFN numbers are not really universal. UIFN service is regulated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Meaning it is only available in countries that participate in the UIFN program. Currently, they cover just over 50 countries worldwide which is considerably less than regular toll-free availability
  • Free to call yes, but there are restrictions in various countries. This means UIFN numbers aren’t accessible via mobile lines or providers don’t allow the use of UIFN numbers
  • UIFN numbers use international formatting meaning that a caller must dial their country’s international access code to connect. In many European countries the access code is the same: 00 meaning you can promote the number as 00800-XXXX XXXX but 00 isn’t a universal access code
  • To avoid the previous issue, UIFN are also communicated as +800 XXXX XXX but not everyone knows what their country’s international access code is and therefore what number to dial
  • The international format can cause confusion; is the number free to call or not? Most people aren’t used to calling abroad for customer service, so they can be hesitant about calling
  • Because these numbers are regulated by the ITU, UIFN acquisition costs are significantly higher than other (toll-free) numbers
  • Monthly costs and costs per minute are also considerably higher
  • And finally, UIFN numbers have longer lead and activation times. It can take about 6-8 weeks to get a number up and running so if you need a number quickly; a UIFN number is not a match

Is it the right fit for you?

When going through the points above, what stands out for you the most? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Are UIFN numbers the right for your business? Or do you have additional questions that need to be answered to find out if this type of number really works for you? In that case, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Given our years of experience in the number-business, we’re sure we can answer any questions you have.