A business phone number provides credibility, increases brand recognition, and keeps personal telephone numbers private. It makes it easier for customers to find--and remember-- how to contact your business, differentiates your company from competitors, and builds consumer trust.
In this article, we'll explore how to get a business phone number, available number types, key features, and top providers.
- How to Get
- Types of Numbers
- Must-Have Features
- Why You Need It
- When to Get
- How to Choose
- Top Providers
What is a Business Phone Number?
A business phone number is a customizable phone number assigned to a specific business, meaning it is not limited to a single physical location or device.
Business phone number providers offer a variety of number types, and most companies use several types simultaneously to meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
Today, business phone numbers are primarily virtual and cloud-based, meaning they’re accessible from any Internet-connected location and device via the provider softphone app.
The price of a business number can vary from $10 to $30 per user per month. It will depend on the number of lines, usage, features you choose, type of number, etc.
How to Get a Business Phone Number
- Choose a phone number provider: Decide if you want a more professional alternative to your personal phone number, or if you need the advanced features of a complete VoIP phone system provider that includes business phone numbers in their bundled plans.
- Check phone number availability: VoIP number providers provide searchable number databases that tell you whether or not your desired phone number/number type is available. Many will also provide similar alternatives if your desired phone number has already been claimed.
- Enter payment information: Once you’ve chosen your business phone number, enter your credit card information into the provider website. You can also add on additional features, set up automatic recurring payments, and specify if you want annual/monthly billing.
- Assign users and configure call flow paths: Once you’ve purchased the business phone number, assign it to specific users, add extensions, and configure voicemail boxes and call flow paths.
- Use your business phone number: Once you’ve paid for and set up your phone number, you can begin making/receiving calls from it and continue to update features and configurations. You can easily purchase additional business phone numbers, add lines to existing numbers, on the provider website.
Types of Business Phone Numbers
Not all business phone numbers are created equal, and the type you choose for your business is a key consideration.
The main types of business phone numbers are:
Local Phone Numbers
Best For: Small businesses that want to establish a local presence in their neighborhood/community while increasing customer answer rate
A local phone number begins with an area code that links a business to a specific physical location (county, city, state). These numbers give businesses a local presence in areas where their customers live. Local, familiar area codes build consumer trust and make customers much more likely to accept calls from numbers they don’t recognize.
For example, if the majority of your customer base lives in Miami, FL, you should select a local number with a 305 number prefix (Miami’s area code.) Businesses can–and should–purchase several local phone numbers across multiple area codes to establish a local presence across the country..
Affordable and easy to set up, local numbers are popular with mom and pop shops, restaurants/bars, salons/boutiques, and hyper-local service professionals like plumbers or real estate agents.
Toll-Free Phone Numbers
Best For: Businesses that want to appear more established and trustworthy, businesses that want to provide free long-distance calling for customers
A toll-free number is a business phone number with a fixed three-digit number prefix indicating the business owning the toll-free number, not the customer calling it, pays for the call. 800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, and 833 are all toll-free codes.
Toll-free numbers provide customers with free local and long-distance calls while helping businesses to appear more established–especially valuable for new companies.
Toll-free numbers can be local, international, or vanity numbers, and are available for purchase from RespOrg phone number/VoIP service providers.
Vanity Phone Numbers
Best For: Businesses needing to differentiate themselves from a high volume of competitors within their specific area or industry, businesses focused on brand recognition and reputation management.
A vanity phone number is a customizable personalized toll-free number that lets you spell out relevant words or phrases. (1-800-FLOWERS is perhaps the best-known example of a vanity number.)
Vanity phone numbers are an excellent way to boost name recognition and number memory. Even if someone who hears or sees your vanity number doesn’t need what your business sells now, they’ll know who to call when they do.
However, many vanity numbers are already taken, meaning you may need to come up with several alternatives. They are also more expensive than standard toll-free numbers.
International Phone Numbers
Best For: Businesses with a large number of international customers and/or physical locations in different countries
An international phone number is a phone number that establishes a local presence in another country, differentiated by a specific corresponding country code. International numbers can be local or toll-free.
While some VoIP providers include a limited number of international minutes to specific countries in bundled plans, most international calls are charged at the country’s per-minute rates.
Direct Inward Dial (DID) Number
Best For: Businesses with a high daily inbound call volume and/or a large number of employees
Must-Have Business Phone Number Features
Your virtual business phone app will only be of service if you find one with the features that will best serve your unique business needs.
- Mobile App: A mobile application is one of the most important features to consider in your phone service. It allows you to take your conversations with colleagues and customers on the go.
- Call Forwarding: This feature gives you the flexibility to direct your calls to any other number that you need them to go to.
- Auto Attendant: Auto attendants are automated menus that use a voice prompt to navigate your customers’ calls to the right department. These are a great way to manage calls and ensure your customers don’t have to be on hold for too long.
- Voicemail Transcription: Finding a VoIP service that offers voicemail-to-email or voicemail-to-text would be a benefit to your business, since it would automatically provide you with notes from any voicemail.
- Call Recording: While voicemail transcription offers a hard copy of your voicemail, call recording will make sure you don’t forget a thing from any outgoing or incoming calls. Be sure to follow applicable call recording laws.
- Call Parking: This feature will allow you to put a caller on hold in the cloud and enable any employee to pick the call back up. That way, the most qualified person can handle the call without having customers on hold for too long.
- Analytics: This will give you all the data you need to make sure that your employees are as effective as possible on their calls.
Why You Need a Business Phone Number
Having a business phone number offers several benefits over traditional landline and even smartphone numbers.
Aside from a more professional appearance, we’ll outline some of the other reasons why you need a virtual business phone number number below.
First, you’ll be able to use a business phone number on the device of your choosing, whether that’s your standard desk phone, a laptop or desktop computer, your smartphone, or even a tablet.
These numbers offer excellent portability and flexibility, so you’ll no longer be constantly tied to your landline waiting for that all-important call.
Plus, basic features like call forwarding mean that if you miss a call on one of your devices or phone numbers, it will be forwarded to another. For example, if a customer calls your business phone number but doesn’t get an answer, the call will be forwarded to your personal cell phone number.
Additional Communication Channels
Though virtual phone numbers are best known for voice conversations, many providers offer additional communication channels, namely SMS texting and online faxing.
Virtual faxing allows you to send customers important files like contracts or project documents without all the bulky equipment -- and without tying up your business phone line, since you can make/receive calls with online faxing.
SMS and MMS business texting lets you instantly respond to simple customer questions or tell them when you’ll be able to speak via phone if you miss a call while in a meeting.
Advanced Features For Better Call Management
Though virtual business phone numbers don’t have all the advanced features of VoIP business phone systems, their capabilities still streamline call management better than standard landlines.
For example, Call Screening (Caller ID) lets you know who is calling, making it easy to decide whether or not to take the call and ensuring you’re better prepared for the conversation if you do pick up.
Real-time notifications for missed calls and voicemail messages, along with call logs, prevent you from failing to return calls in a timely manner (or from forgetting to return calls at all.)
Many virtual phone number providers also offer voicemail transcription, so you can read, not listen to, voicemail messages. This saves time and allows for better callback prioritization.
When to Get a Business Phone Number
The best time to get a virtual business phone number is when you start your business, even if it’s before you think you “need” one.
Doing so prevents competitors from claiming the best/most relevant phone numbers for your business and makes your company look much more established than it currently is.
If your business has been open for a while and you still haven’t gotten a virtual number, the sooner you do so, the better.
Common signs you need a virtual business number include:
- Customers say they have trouble finding how to reach you
- Personal phone calls often interrupt business calls, or vice versa
- You’re no longer a solopreneur, but now have either full-time or part-time employees
- Your daily call volume has increased
- You have trouble managing voicemails and callbacks
- You need advanced features like call forwarding, voicemail transcription, call recording, and other capabilities that your current phone number provider doesn’t offer
- You need to increase the legitimacy of your business in the eyes of consumers
- You need a scalable phone number service to keep pace with your growing business
Best Practices For Choosing a Business Phone Number
The best practices for choosing a business phone number are:
Consider Use Cases
The ideal type of business phone number varies by desired use case:
- Toll-free numbers should be assigned to customer service departments, as customers should not be charged for support calls
- Sales calls should be made from local phone numbers, as customers are more likely to pick up
- Vanity phone numbers should be linked to ad campaigns and connect users to an IVR call menu to better direct their call
Consider Business Size
The ideal business phone number type also depends on your business size:
- Local phone numbers are best for startups/solopreneurs
- Toll-free numbers are best for SMBs and growing businesses
- Vanity numbers are best for businesses of any size struggling to outpace tough competitors
- International phone numbers are best for global, enterprise-level corporations
Consider Required Features
Does the virtual phone number provider offer advanced VoIP features like:
- Call forwarding, call transfer, call routing
- IVR and editable call flow paths
- Historical/real-time analytics
- Virtual voicemail and call recording
- Ring groups, call queuing, etc.
- Third-party integrations and APIs
Consider Provider Scalability
How scalable is your business phone number platform, for example:
- Does the VoIP provider offer pay-as-you-go, metered calling plans or unlimited local/long-distance calls with bundled toll-free minutes?
- Are calls to some countries, like Canada and Mexico, included?
- Does the provider offer add-on features or multiple tiered plans with monthly/annual billing?
- Does your business need a complete VoIP phone system or a standard VoIP phone number provider?
Top Business Phone Number Providers
RingCentral MVP (Message, Phone, Video) is a leading business phone system bringing messaging, video, and phone together in a single VoIP software application.
In addition to the impressive functionality offered by RingCentral, each plan offers a business phone number. When you sign up for a plan, you’ll be asked to choose one of the following types of business numbers — toll-free, local, international, or vanity. Toll-free international numbers are available in 1000+ countries, and local phone numbers are available in over 200 area codes.
Additional numbers are available for purchase. Up to 8-digit extensions with site codes let users add the same dial plan to multiple locations. RingCentral ensures that your calls are protected by encryption. The provider offers features such as call forwarding, call routing, caller ID, call screening, and more to manage every call that comes in.
RingCentral pricing offers three monthly or annual business phone system plans: the Core plan from $20/user/month, the Advanced plan from $25/user/month, and the Ultra plan from $35/user/month. All plans include a local business phone number with unlimited domestic calling in the US/Canada. Users can also choose a toll-free phone number with account-wide monthly pooled minutes. The Core plan includes 100 monthly toll-free minutes, the Advanced plan includes 1000 monthly toll-free minutes, and the Ultra plan includes 10,000 monthly toll-free minutes.
Additional toll-free or local numbers are available for $4.99/number/month, additional vanity numbers carry a $30 one-time fee/number, and additional international numbers start from $5.99/user/month.
RingCentral is best for:
- Franchise businesses that want to implement a uniform dialing strategy across multiple retail locations
- SMBs needing business phone numbers with advanced SMS/MMS capabilities
- Remote/blended teams looking for advanced UCaaS/team collaboration features like video calling with breakout rooms, team chat, and whiteboarding
Grasshopper is a virtual phone system geared toward small business owners, designed to help its users save money and look more professional.
Their plans offer dedicated business phone numbers to help keep work and your personal life separate.
Grasshopper offers multiple types of business numbers, including toll-free number prefixes like 800, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877, and 888. You can also choose a vanity number, a local number, or port your existing business or virtual number to Grasshopper. At this time, international phone numbers are not available.
Grasshopper pricing includes four paid plans billable monthly or annually. Each plan includes the same features--the only difference between the plans is the number of users, phone extensions, and business phone numbers
The True Solo plan ($14/month), includes 1 user, 1 phone number, and 1 extension. The Solo Plus plan ($28/month) includes unlimited users, 1 phone number, and 3 extensions. The Small Business plan ($80/month) includes unlimited users, unlimited extensions, and 5 business phone numbers. Users can add more extensions or phone numbers for an undisclosed fee.
Grasshopper is best for:
- Solopreneurs getting a basic business phone number for the first time
- Growing businesses looking for high-value plans offering savings on multiple (or unlimited) phone numbers/extensions
- Small, in-office local businesses/retail shops that don't need a complicated business phone system with advanced features and automations
8x8 is designed to help you work from anywhere. They have multiple plans to ensure businesses of every kind can meet their needs in the most cost-effective way possible.
8x8 earned a spot as a leader on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications for 9 years in a row.
8x8 Unified Communications offers toll-free, local, vanity, and international phone numbers on its two quote-based plans, X2 and X4. The X2 plan includes unlimited domestic inbound calling, unmetered outbound calling, and unlimited voice calling to 14 countries. The X4 plan gives businesses unmetered outbound calling to 48 countries. All plans come with unlimited extension-to-extension calling.
8x8 is best for:
- Medium-sized businesses that want the option to scale from a standard business phone system to an omnichannel AI-powered contact center over time
- SMBs that need unlimited international voice calling on a budget
- Teams that want the option of choosing between metered or unmetered call pricing
Nextiva allows you to connect your phone system with business apps, AI, and automation all on one platform. With its cloud-based VoIP service and 99.999% uptime, the service provider was rated the best business phone service by U.S. News.
Nextiva boasts of being the largest local business virtual phone provider in each country. The phone provider offers local VoIP numbers in many major cities in most states. Also, they offer area codes in every state across the US.
Nextiva pricing options include 3 monthly and annual paid plans: the Essential plan from $18.95/user/month, the Professional plan for $22.95/user/month, and the Enterprise plan from $32.95/user/month. All plans include one free local number with unlimited US/Canada calling, plus one free toll-free number. Toll-free minute bundles range from 1,500-12,500 monthly minutes. All plans also come with limited video conferencing capabilities.
Nextiva is best for:
- Teams needing business phone numbers that come with unlimited audio conferencing
- Remote/blended teams looking for a phone number provider offering both voice and video calling
- In-office businesses with existing equipment requiring BYOD compatibility
Vonage makes communications more flexible, intelligent, and personal in order to help their 100,000+ customers stay ahead. They boast major businesses among the ranks of their customers, such as DHL, Dominos, and Glassdoor.
Vonage Business pricing includes 3 paid plans with user-based pricing: the Mobile plan from $13.99/line/month, the Premium plan from $20.99/line/month, and the Advanced plan from $27.99/line/month. All plans include a local phone number with unlimited domestic calling with SMS/MMS, but no plans include a free toll-free number.
Add-ons include secondary line appearance ($14.99/month), mobile unlimited extensions ($24.99/extension/month), additional local phone numbers ($4.99/month), toll-free numbers ($39.99/month), virtual phone extensions ($24.99/month), and international phone numbers.
Vonage is best for:
- Teams that want to build a custom phone system via add-ons instead of opting for a monthly bundled plan
- In-house teams needing a secondary line appearance feature to avoid the expense of additional hardware
- On-the-go teams needing a business phone application tailored to mobile devices
Ooma has features specifically curated for small businesses and those who are running their businesses from home.
The phone service provider is designed to cut its customers’ phone bills in half, as its website states that users save an average of 50% on each bill. Their cost-saving plans also include a free business phone number.
You can sign up for your number right on the website. It will prompt you to select a country, state, city, and area code. You can choose if you want a default, repeating, or vanity number, and then pick the specific number you want.
Ooma Office pricing includes three plans: the Essentials plan from $19/95/month, the Office Pro plan from $24/95/month, and the Office Pro Plus plan from $29/95/month. All plans includes a local phone number with 1 user extension plus unlimited calling to the US, Mexico, and Canada. Additional local numbers and Toll-free numbers with 500 minutes/month are both available for $9.95/number/month. Users can upgrade their toll-free calling plans to include 1,500 minutes/month ($15/month) or 3,000 minutes/month ($30/month.)
Ooma is best for:
- Healthcare/medical professionals needing a business phone system with industry-specific integrations
- Teams looking for a flexible number plan offering custom extensions
- Businesses needing only basic phone system features, like conferencing calling, Caller ID, and call recording