03 numbers and how they can help your business


03 numbers and how they can help your business

Ian MitchellWay back in the 1990's De la Soul hit the charts proclaiming the virtues of 3 being the "magic number", it seems that they may well have been on to something. The rise of the 03 and 033 number range is giving the traditional non geographic number a run for its money and looks like it will be here to stay.  

A business' telephone number can say more about an organisation than any branding or marketing exercise.  On the simplest level, using a simple 01 or 02 number will put a company in a specific geographic region and can be used to promote themselves as a regional business or one that is headquartered in a certain city, while an 0800 number can suggest a positive approach customer services by offering a Freephone number.   

Conversely, many companies are now choosing to use a "non-geographic" number (NGN) such as "0845" to convey to their customers that they are UK wide, helping them achieve a sense of scale and reach in one simple step. 

Other organisations use their telephone number, such as "0871" or "0844"numbers, as a means of raising revenues by taking a percentage of the cost of the call as an income stream.  This works well if the company is providing a valued service or if it needs to raise revenue, yet may be inappropriate if it is a customer complaint line or needed in the case of an emergency.

The next step up are the "09" or premium rate numbers that cost callers more than 50p each time they are used, regardless of the telephone or tariff.  These numbers are more popular with organisations that use the call itself as the principal revenue generation device, so there is little surprise therefore that they are often associated with competition entry lines or even less savoury telephone lines. 

Other organisations focus on easy to remember numbers for marketing campaigns.  Working a bit like personal number plate they can say a huge amount about an organisation - whether an easy to remember number like those ending in "1234" or equally one of my favourites is the AA's number ending in "999", neatly fitting in with its positioning as the fourth emergency service.

The addition of "03" numbers by Ofcom as an alternative to higher rate "084" numbers or the "087" provide organisations with the perfect middle ground.  From a customer's perspective they provide a single easy number that is charged at a national rate regardless of where in the UK the call is made from.  The number is treated in the same way as 01 and 02 calls regardless of the type of line used whether mobile, BT, other fixed line or payphone.  All this gives the caller greater clarity and better rates.

The numbers have also proved widely popular with businesses because of their flexibility.  Not only do they have a national presence but the number can also be simply rerouted to any other telephone number including mobile and international lines if necessary.  This can help an organisation direct their calls to various locations at different times of the day depending on staffing resources, location of caller, day of the week or handling capacity.  It is now even possible to route calls to a mobile number when out of the office or on the move.

For additional clarity to consumers, Ofcom has ruled that organisations that use a "03" number are not allowed to use them as part of a revenue sharing device - where the dialled party can receive a share of the cost of making the call.  This sends a positive message to customers if marketed correctly.

The new numbers were so well received that the Department of Health contacted all Primary Care Trust Chief Executives to suggest that, as healthcare providers, they should consider adopting an "03" telephone number so that people "do not have to pay over the odds to contact their local services".   In a similar way to the public outcry of paying for parking at hospitals, the "03" numbers were supported by patient groups.

The "03" numbers have been quickly adopted by other public sector organisations such as the Government, Councils and non-profit organisations as public feedback suggests that they resent paying over the national rate for calls to service providers.  Again a number of police forces across the UK have adopted them as their non-emergency contact numbers to provide the public with an appropriately priced service.

The positive association with "03" numbers has been extended further for charities through the addition of a "033" number.  With the same technical benefits of a "03" number, these numbers areonlyavailable to charities and are increasingly instrumental in giving charities independent and immediate recognition and their donors a sense of security that they are dealing with a reputable charity when choosing to donate their money over the telephone.  

But where will it end?  As more numbers are released and available to be purchased for businesses there is more scope for organisations to make the right decisions to reflect their ambitions or attitudes to managing their customers. 

Equally, as awareness grows amongst consumers as to the difference between the numbers businesses may find themselves under pressure from customers or consumer groups to provide the most appropriate numbers depending on the service offered.  So when choosing a telephone number for your organisation, remember it may just be saying a little more than you originally thought…




Direct Response provides award winning voice, data and contact centre services to countries across the UK. 


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03 Numbers - These numbers are for exclusive use of charity and not for profit organisations. 

033 Numbers - These are for commercial use and are an alternative to outer Non Geographic Numbers. 


Written by Ian Mitchell at 11:00



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