This year marks the 45th anniversary of toll free numbers being used in the United States; an invention that has revolutionized customer service.
In 1967, toll free numbers were introduced by AT&T as a way to reduce the usage of collect calls when attempting to reach customer service agents, and as a way to reduce the number of operators or customer service agents needed. In the early years of toll free numbers, nationwide coverage was not yet a possibility, and instead numbers were tied to geographic regions. This meant that huge companies who needed to have customer service available to all states had to possess multiple toll free numbers. It was also difficult to handle a large influx of calls, as well as distributing calls among call centers. In 1975, toll free numbers were completely revamped; instead of being an actual “number”, it became a pointer to a database. It connected to a computer, which then directed the calls to the correct destination. Finally, in 1993, toll free numbers became portable – meaning that a company could take their toll free number with them when they switched telephone carriers.
In this day and age, toll free numbers are used for a wide variety of things. A toll free number can be used as an effective marketing tool for businesses, a way for customers to easily and quickly reach a customer service agent, or used personally as a way for an individual to communicate with family and friends long distance.