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Zenith Dealer Solutions Blog

Industry Debate: Local Phone Numbers or Toll Free Phone Numbers

The Internet has changed how customers decide what to buy. In 2011, Google began referring to this online decision-making moment the Zero Moment of Truth, or simply, ZMOT. The ZMOT refers to the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase. When customers can’t find the information they are seeking online or choose to take action on their decision they click to call dealers from their phone. In that ZMOT, the phone number displayed, toll free or local, has little impact on whether the customer will dial it at that moment but it does impact continuous communications with your customers.


I have been managing hundreds of thousands of toll free and local numbers for more years than I care to admit. The business conditions and technological capabilities have changed quite a bit over the past 20 years. One obvious change is that no one cares about “toll free” calls because no one pays tolls anymore. There are pros and cons between replying on local phone numbers and toll free numbers in your marketing. To breakdown which is better, local phone numbers or toll-free phone numbers I look answer this question through my clients’ and more importantly through their customers’ eyes.

Let’s consider your callers experience first. The first call to your dealership is not the only communication you and your customers will have, hopefully. Every inbound call deserves a follow-up call back to the customer. When you call your customer back does the toll-free number your customer dialed show on their phone display? Likely not. A local line the caller doesn’t recognize shows. Voice and text are one, customers will bounce between calling and texting with your store just as you do with your family and friends. Are your toll-free numbers setup for texting? The overwhelming majority of toll free numbers are not text enabled. Ideally all inbound and outbound calling and texting between you and your customer is done on one phone number. While toll free and local lines have the same capabilities, everyone with a phone understands local works. It’s that simple.

What’s best for your dealership? Toll free numbers have a lot of benefits that local phone numbers do not have and vice versa. Toll free has a redundancy edge but its small enough that I don’t consider it in my determination of what to use. The main determining factor for your dealership using local lines is that you have complete control over those numbers. Local number portability (LNP) for fixed lines, and full mobile number portability (FMNP) for mobile phone lines, refers to the ability of a "customer of record" of an existing fixed-line or mobile telephone number assigned by a carrier to reassign the number to another carrier. The carrier cannot stop this port unlike with toll free numbers where the carrier absolutely controls the port. Many dealers have remained with their current call tracking vendor because the vendor is holding their dealers’ numbers hostage.

This is a dynamic time in the industry, let’s keep it simple for us and our callers. It’s time to move to local. 

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Topics: Trackable Phone Numbers Toll Free Numbers texting