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Blog - July 16, 2018

Just a phone number, big impact!

Telephony is about the same everywhere, right? So, when expanding your business abroad, the least of your concerns is to arrange a telephone number for your customer services. Or is there more to consider? Rhetorically: yes, there is. Wherever you go around the world, phone number plans, rules and regulations, telecom infrastructures and traditions are pluriform.

Just a phone number

Hints for setting up customer services abroad

When setting up your customer service abroad, choosing the right service number may seem like a minor detail, but if done wrong, the impact can be substantial.

To make sure your customer service will not fall quiet and to keep authorities off your back, here are 4 tips to do things right:

1. Regulations

Make sure the number you choose is compliant with the regulations set by the authorities.
For example, you can’t always decide to charge customers for calling you. In Europe, companies are obliged to provide a customer service number that won’t cost callers more than a local call, because customer service is an essential part of the service according to the European Council. This is valid in the European Union, but regulations for charging customers will differ per country worldwide.

Also, the way tariffs are announced or published are bound to different rules depending on the country. Make sure you get it right.

2. Number options

Unfortunately, there is no global ‘One Size Fits All’ solution for toll-free, shared cost or premium numbers.
The range for toll-free numbers usually starts with 0800 or 1800, but there are quite some exceptions to this ‘rule’. For example, in Sweden, toll-free numbers start with 020 or 0200. Japan uses both 0120 and 0800. Shared cost and premium number ranges are even more versatile. So are the consumer tariffs that are permitted. So make sure to use the right (type of) service number per country, while remaining compliant to local rules and regulations.

3. Accessibility

When choosing a telephone number, check if your customer service can be reached by all customers you are aiming at. Can anyone call you no matter the (mobile) provider they are subscribed to and no matter where they are calling from?

  • Domestic toll-free numbers usually can’t be dialed from abroad. Depending on your type of service it can be worthwhile to offer an alternative geographic number to accept calls from customers abroad.
  • UIFN numbers (universal international freephone number) often can’t be called from national mobile networks. Also, they are not as ‘universal’ as the definition suggests.
  • Premium numbers may be blocked when calling from a (prepaid) mobile.

Make sure you know the restrictions because a bad choice could unintendedly limit the accessibility of your customer services.

4. Cultural perception

Of course, you want an easy to remember telephone number or a number that is similar to the numbers you already use in other countries. Keep in mind though that every country has its own traditions and cultural perceptions. In China, a telephone number with a 4 might be cheap to acquire but that is for a reason many people are unaware of. 4 is an unlucky number, whereas 8 will bring you fortune according to their beliefs.

Not just a phone number

As you can see, choosing a telephone number for your customer service in a new country is not that straightforward. Regulation, accessibility, tariffs and even cultural perceptions are different by definition and can change over time. It is a continuous task to keep up with these changes.

We are pretty sure you have better things to do, so why not leave it with us. We know all about the rules, options, and restrictions per country and work with legal advisory firms to guarantee your compliance is covered. So, while you focus on expanding your business internationally, we make sure you get the right service numbers and subsequent call routing to support your success.