First of all if a phone company sent you here, you can and probably should transfer the number back to them. That's the simple answer. Beyond that there are hundreds and hundreds of phone companies and each one has a myriad of different options and plans. So it definitely gets a little confusing. They're also not all selling the same things and most make it intentionally difficult to compare them. Unfortunately the bottom line there is that like every other industry, there is honestly no one phone company that's the BEST for everyone, despite what the person trying to SELL you that service wants you to believe.
My goal here is NOT to suggest that there's one best phone company. Every company has different strengths and weaknesses, and any page purporting to prove or say one company is the best for everyone, is a fake sales site and you can bet that it's just a sales page or tool of that one service it's saying is the best. Our first goal here is to explain the different TYPES of toll free service so you understand that and are looking at the right type of service for your business first of all. Then once you know the type of service you need, we want to give you real customer reviews and insights that you won't get from the websites. Reviewing a number of actual customer reviews will give you the good and the bad and insights into a company that you never find from their website or sales hype.
How to pick a Phone Company?
After you understand the different types of companies and you know that you're in the right general area, you're ready to dig a little deeper. To me the most important thing to look at once you've narrowed it down a little, are the customer reviews. You won't find honest review that you can compare from company to company on their website. And it's often the negative reviews that give the most insight into issues or items to watch out for. Even the negative reviews of other companies can suggest things to check with the other companies too.
After you've read some customer reviews from several of the top rated companies in the category you need, you're ready to look at their website for the pricing and service details. I can't maintain the pricing and plans and features of all these companies and besides I'm just trying to give you the things you can't get on their sites.
This process of breaking down the options uses our experience in the industry, and the experience of other customers to help you get the information you can't get from wondering from sales pitch to sales pitch, I mean website to website. You'll be better educated and know what to look for and find the actual best service for you!
8 Different Categories of Toll Free Service
It's funny that you never really see any toll free service explain the different types of services or what type they offer or how it fits in versus other services. It's like they are trying so hard to sell every single customer that they can't even admit there even are other types of toll free services. Imagine if car companies all tried to make you think there was only one type of car, or one type of cereal, or sneakers or.... anything?!
I use a milk analogy to explain the different types of toll free service. Regular toll free service just forwards the toll free calls to your local number. It comes in different sizes or from different size companies but it's a commodity and tastes the same (works the same) whether you get it at a giant superstore or the gas station down the block. Nobody will notice any difference in regular toll free service whether you get it from AT&T or Zone Telecom or anywhere in between. Milk from large national companies is like milk in a gallon container.
Milk from the medium sized regional companies is like milk in a quart container.
Milk from smaller competitive resellers is kind of like milk in a half pint container.
The next type of toll free service, you see a lot of on the Internet, is what I call Milkshakes or enhanced voicemail services. they take regular toll free service and add extra things to it, like voicemail, menus, routing options etc. These companies use names like Virtual, Hosted, Office, PBX, Cloud, Mobil IP or IVR Integrated or Enhanced this or that, and they're usually not brick and mortar companies or names you've heard of before.
These companies tend to vary more from company to company too. Just like milkshakes vary more from store to store. You don't want to judge a milkshake solely on the price the way you might regular toll free service, because a milkshake at McDonalds isn't going to be the same as a milkshake from an ice cream shop. The ingredients they add and the names of the flavors or options they offer vary from service to service too. So you need to pay much more attention to actual customer reviews for these than you do for regular toll free service. They may also be harder to switch away from if you get your toll free number from them directly because they often consider the toll free number a "component" of the virtual office hosted blah blah blah service, that they provide. They won't say it up front, but the bottom line is that they may not let you take the components (aka. the toll free number in all your advertising) with you if you cancel their service.
Voip Service is like milk through a crazy straw, because the calls go through the internet instead of regular phone lines. They are often very similar to milk shakes and many milkshake companies try to look like voip services. The main difference is often whether they started as a voip service that added toll free service or if they were a toll free service that is just trying to sell voip service with their toll free service.
SHARED USE COMPANIES
The next type of toll free toll free company you'll find, especially if you search for a generic vanity number on the internet are the Shared Use Companies, or Brokers. In my milk analogy I call them COWS (because of the expression about "Why buy the cow") or sometimes I describe or draw them as sharks because they kind of are.
They usually don't sell numbers but want you to RENT it because they know that the more you advertise and use the number and the more memorable it becomes the more at their mercy you become. They know this and no matter how nice they sound ahead of time when they're trying to SELL you, once you are stuck with that number and it's in all your advertising, they kind of own you and will milk everything they can out of you.
They tend to focus on generic numbers because they want them to apply to as many different companies as possible and if you stop renting a number they want to be able to rent it to your competitor if you do stop paying them. They act like or imply that you can't own a number but somehow they can. Unfortunately it's a small little niche and most of them get away with an awful lot of crap.
Call Centers and Resporg Services
The last two types of Responsible Organizations, Call Centers and Resporg Services are more specialized and a little different. Call Centers are essentially large answering services and typically have a network of operators and stations set up to handle large call volumes. In my milk analogy, I picture those as a large glass of milk with a lot of straws so the calls can be distributed to a lot of representatives. This can give you the benefit of a large network when you need it without as much of the expense.
Resporg services give their customers the control, security and functions of a resporg along with someone to manage it for you without the cost and expense of being your own resporg. In my milk analogy I picture these as Milkmen because they are delivering the functions of a resporg or phone company.
Both of these last two are fairly specialized and not what most customers are looking for so we won't go into them in as much depth.
Click on one of the 5 Main Types of Companies to see a list of those companies then look at Customer Reviews!
We try to do more than just research and explain the industry, we want to give you the experience of the thousands of customers that have gone before you. There are a couple other sites that pretend to evaluate services and they do it with check lists of features and prices but that tends to be VERY one sided and misleading. They can make a list of features that their company or the one they're pushing, has that other companies don't simply because they have different names and may be only slightly different.
Pricing is often even more misleading, because the prices are always MUCH more complicated than they want to admit. Even the salespeople that sell it have a hard time understanding or explaining it because it's never as simple (or as cheap) as it seems on the surface. Most customers never look at their bill because they just never understand it and phone companies seem to intentionally make it complicated for exactly that reason and they all tack on extra fees. Sure price matters but picking a company based on price is kind of like picking a spouse based just on looks.
There is no replacement for the experience of other customers. And just because a service is popular doesn't mean the customers all like it better. Read lots of reviews. Read reviews. Read Reviews!
Read reviews of several companies to get an idea of the issues other companies (and the one you may be considering) have. Look at negative as well as positive reviews and THEN go to their sales pitch website with your eyes open. You'll not only make a better decision this way but you'll be able to feel more confident that you've made the best decision too.