Non-geographic telephone flexible numbering

by Colin Bryant, TelecomsAdvice

You knew where you were when electricity was supplied by the electricity board on cables they owned, gas came in pipes from British Gas and your phone was BT's. There were no decisions to make and nothing to manage – and you knew whom to contact when things went wrong.

Today the old system has been torn apart and we have almost total freedom of choice. You can get your electricity from the water or gas company and your gas from the electricity company. If you came home to find water from the light sockets, gas out of the plugs and electricity coming out of the taps, you might not be too shocked!

What we all need is simplicity. A nice easy life, minimum brainpower and no rocket science.

How's your address book?

We rely on today's complex phone systems to stay in touch. But with so many new telephone and data systems and services (cellular, GSM, WAP, landlines, fax, e-mail, voicemail, mobile office…), each with its own phone number, we are faced with the daunting task of remembering a whole raft of numbers. And for most of us managing this mess has now become a major headache. The one thing you can rely on is that confusion reigns.

Keeping your contacts updated with your latest number is a chore we can all do without. How many contacts have you lost as a result of a number change? There is always someone forgotten from the mailing list. Anyway, it doesn't matter how hard you try to inform your customers, some will just keep on looking up your phone number from old address books, phone directories and brochures. Your most valuable customers will keep using all those costly promotional gifts, each beautifully embossed with your out of date phone number.

What is certain is that businesses small and large all have the same problem of maintaining good customer, supplier and workforce contact. But this is only the tip of the iceberg – they also have the problem of knowing if someone is at their desk, at home, mobile or working at a regional office…which number do you call? If you get a new service, you usually get a new number as well. Numbers may change when businesses re-locate or if they change their mobile or landline service provider to take advantage of lower cost deals. Emergency services, ranging from doctors, dentists and vets to plumbers and roofing contractors, need to be able to transfer out of hours calls easily. Clubs, committees and organisations face the cost of reprinting stationery and address books when new officers are elected. Charities need to produce brochures, which include contact phone numbers, before the geographic location of contacts can be determined and a landline number allocated. All these situations require management.

Wouldn't it be great if you could have one flexible number which could be routed to any of the services you use and re-routed to other services any time of the day or night, any day of the week, even Christmas Day? Free to set up and costing little or nothing to run – you don't get any more bills dropping through the letterbox, and your callers don't have to pay excessive call charges.

Using flexible personal numbering

Well utopia is here! It comes in the form of flexible personal numbering, a telephone number beginning with 070 that you can use for every type of call. First conceived back in 1993 when FleXtel introduced its service, flexible personal numbering has been slow to gain acceptance in the market place, but as more companies start to offer the service it is being acknowledged as an essential tool for the modern mobile workforce.

Several companies now offer personal numbers in one form or another, and their services can be moulded to suit your own particular requirements. Some providers include value added services in their offering, which could perhaps be better sourced from suppliers specialising in the particular service you require, but the choice is yours – you can make it as simple, or as complex, as you want.

Points to bear in mind:

        does your provider offer BT 1471 support?

        is free number selection offered?

        what are the helpdesk's working hours?

        how long does it take to activate your personal number? (this can range from 0.1 to as much as120 hours)

        is there a set-up charge?

        is there a rental charge?

In addition, the issue of control of your numbers is very important. Some providers have easy visual control of numbers over the Internet, while others control numbers only via a telephone user interface, which can be difficult if you have several numbers to manipulate.

Some providers offer customers a full choice of numbers and also allow them to choose whether callers pay a mobile rate (in which case you can divert to your mobile for free) or the national rate for fixed phone line applications. It's always worth trialing the free services, but bear in mind that the main aim of flexible personal numbering is never to have to change your number again.

One thing is certain – there is a lot of change still to come, but at least you won't need to change your phone number again!

Editor’s Note: If you get a personal or non-geographic number you should be aware that callers will generally have to pay more to call you than they otherwise would on a standard landline or standard mobile number. If they have gone to the trouble of finding their own low cost telecoms provider they may be put off calling what are perceived to be premium rate numbers.

Companies offering flexible personal numbering:

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011

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