For Goodness Sake! Don’t Hide Your 1-800 Number!


Last week I decided to cut a business trip a day short and get back home to my family. I quickly found a flight using my iPhone, but for the life of me I could not find a phone number for the airline. After searching for several minutes I gave up and went to and within about 4 seconds, I found a toll-free number for the airline. was created by a frustrated consumer named Paul English who believes that customers should have easy and immediate access to the humans that run companies. What a novel idea. The site indexes hundreds of companies’ toll-free numbers and even gives consumers company-specific secrets to get out of IVR hell and immediately connect with a live person. I keep the site bookmarked on my iPhone.

Seriously, why would a company hide their toll-free number from consumers? I’m a numbers person and business owner. I get the need to slash costs and work smarter. But is it really smart to block consumer access to your company by telephone? Do you really want to make it harder for your customers to reach you with questions and when they experience problems?

While many companies are hiding their toll-free numbers and some are outright removing contact numbers from websites and product labels, online shoe retailer is aggressively promoting its toll-free number on EVERY page of its website.

Zappos encourages customers to call them about anything. Zappos views its 1-800 number as a branding device. They take over 5,000 calls every day and Reps are not bound by any maximum talk-time targets. And it’s paying off. Zappos was founded in 1999. In 2007 the company grossed over $800 million in merchandise sales and grossed over $1 billion in 2009.

I love this! Armstrong Floors prints its toll-free number on its no-wax floors with a message for consumers to call them to learn how to remove the 1-800 number. (It’s actually easy to remove the number with warm water.) The company wants customers to call them and they use this call as opportunity to explain to customers how to care for their new floors so wax build-up is avoided. Armstrong World estimates that this “toll-free training course” controls customer dissatisfaction and earns Armstrong $12,000 per customer over time based on customer retention.

Armstrong views their toll-free number as a revenue generator.

Companies, think about it. Do you really want to block consumer access to you after they’ve chosen to do business with you? Is it really your goal to make your customers work hard to find your contact number just so they can talk to you? Do you truly want to frustrate and tick off your customers just so you can save a buck?

Why not find other creative ways to save money? Like investing in improving the customer experience so you improve customer satisfaction, increase customer loyalty, and generate priceless word-of-mouth advertising. Or, maybe you could focus on innovation so you can bring in more customers. But for goodness sake, don’t attempt to save money by blocking customer access to your customer service team.  

That’s my two cents.