I find it interesting that prior to toll free numbers, the only way to get a hold of a company for sales or customer support was via a local, LEC provided 10 digit telephone number that the caller paid the toll fee on or a customer calling collect (then called transferred-charge service). It wasn't until 1967 that toll free numbers were introduced by AT&T and at the time, only major hotel chains used them.
Since then, toll free service grew to huge proportions to the point where the industry ran out of 800 prefixes and moved on to consuming 888, 877, now working on 866 and have in reserve 855, 844, 833, 822 and several more. But enough of the history lesson. This is about Local Numbers, an alternative to Toll Free.
Local numbers these days have become virtual in that they don't have to be tied to a copper wire running to a home or office. They act more like a toll free number in that they are a place holder or an address used for routing vs.. the old POTS line that was very geographic specific.
Functionally, the local number works like this: caller goes off hook and dials a number local to her. This number is routed from the calling party's handset to the calling party's LEC and the LEC forwards the call to the local number owner (CLEC) and the owner routes the call to the wholesaler who maintains the number, typically an IXC or applications service provider, who will further route it to an application or a call center agent (after being intelligently routed by NICE of course).
The cost of that call is handled by the customer who 'owns' that number, not by the calling party much like a toll free, because the calling party is calling a number local to their city and state.
Similarly, an International Local Number is a number that a US based customer can obtain from NICE that is local to an international destination and can choose from many cities in 50 countries (and growing). This is helpful and is a great alternative to ITFS or UIFN (different flavors of international toll free numbers) since these toll free numbers often carry a rate of $1.00 per minute or more depending on geography, and take 90 + days to provision a new toll free.
International local numbers can be turned around in 5 days and does not carry a per minute charge whatsoever, just a flat monthly rate for call paths/channels allowing the transport from any international destination (channels can be shared by all of your numbers regardless of country) to NICE in the US.
Local Numbers and International Local Numbers are great alternatives or great supplements to Toll Free Service. It makes your company look local, and many prospects and customers want to do business with a local company, as well as gives customers one more way to reach you.
One application I'll share that makes a lot of sense is this: a customer of ours with over 600 locations nationwide had retail establishments in all of those 600 locations, often several in the same city. Before meeting NICE, all of those calls came into the local number in that area to the local establishment in that local area. While the local feel was accomplished, it does not scale well and corporate was constantly worried about the quality of the phone skills of the folks sitting in the local store.
NICE ported all of those local LEC numbers to us and we were able to route all of those calls to an IVR that gave the caller the choice of talking to a customer service rep who could help them with pricing, billing, or general questions, or they could be routed back to the local retail site around the corner from them.
This upgrade to NICE gave them consistency, better quality in their customer interaction, no missed calls if the local rep was busy with another customer, and all of the other intelligence that comes along with NICE as well.
Customers experienced a better experience as they could always reach a representative, the caller continued to call the number they always had been calling and the company gained visibility and unification of their customer service environment.
Check with your client support rep if you have questions about Local Numbers, either domestic or international or call 888-826-0080 or 801-320-3200