By Rory Whelan, Marketing Manager, eReceptionist

A telephone number is one of the first points of contact customers will have with your business and it needs to make a good first impression. Displaying a mobile number, can give off the impression that the business is somewhat transient, which is to be avoided where possible.

On the flip side of this, many small businesses serving a local demographic and using a local number, dream of expanding their operations to deliver services to the rest of the UK. But the types of numbers available to businesses have changed in recent years, and 03 numbers are now making it easier than ever to give companies the national presence required to access new markets.

03 numbers were introduced by Ofcom in 2007, as an alternative to chargeable 08 numbers, to give consumers the confidence about the cost of calls. Dialling 03 numbers cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number, and must count towards inclusive minutes on tariffs. This gives businesses a single national point of contact for all consumers, without charging them extra to do so. A non-geographic 03 number can give broader appeal to consumers up and down the country, because regular 01 or 02 numbers that reveal your geographic location can deter potential customers from further afield.

As a relatively new number range in the UK, the other advantage to 03 numbers is that there’s still many memorable numbers available. Laying claim to such a ‘golden number’ not only improves recall among customers and prospects, but it can also have a positive impact on the wider brand.

There’s another important reason to give 03 numbers serious thought, and that is legislation enacted on the 13th June, which has made it illegal to use premium rate 084 and 087 phone numbers for customer service and complaint lines. This is part of Ofcom’s Draft Bill on Consumer Rights, which implements the EU’s Consumer Rights Directive.

As a small business you may very well believe that Ofcom’s change is not going to impact you, but with 084 ranges popular for sole traders and tradesmen - many of these businesses are unaware that they risk a fine as they are not providing an alternative to their single point of contact.

These businesses have historically used 084 and 087 numbers will have in part done so to generate revenue or to cover the cost of their service, however this change by Ofcom now poses a challenge for these businesses. How do you stay compliant whilst at the same time not have to go to the expense of changing your 08 number?

This is where 03 numbers come into their own – many telecoms providers can supply the 03 variation of their existing 08 number. So if for example your number is 0844 123456, your provider should also be able to supply you with 0344 123456. With a small business phone system it’s cost effective and easy these days for businesses to route this 03 number to existing landlines or mobile numbers. So your business is now compliant and you can retain numbers that existing customers already know.

As usage increases on these 03 numbers, businesses will soon reap the benefits. It’s likely that most businesses using 08 numbers will see an increase in call volume – customer service calls and new business enquiries alike – as potential customers not scared off by the possibility of an expensive conversation at the first hurdle. At the same time, you keep the regulators happy, which is in everyone’s best interest!