Magazine article Marketing

Cracking the Codes

Magazine article Marketing

Cracking the Codes

Article excerpt

Use an 0800 number and consumers will expected service. Kate Barry looks at recent research on special-rate numbers

The amount of time consumers spend calling Freefone and Lo-call numbers has increased dramatically in the past year. According to the latest DMA Census and research by BT Inbound Services, volumes of 0345 calls rose by 140% in the past year to 3.4 million minutes, with 0800 call time almost doubling to 2.7 million minutes.

Special-rate numbers have become an essential ingredient in the responsive marketing mix, and choosing which code to use needs as much planning as any other medium. And that means understanding how consumers feel about the codes, and what each communicates about the business that subscribes to it.

To understand better how different special-rate numbers are used, BT Inbound Services and Prodata Partners, a consultancy specialising in communications research, conducted a survey of 314 consumers.

"People come to us and expect us to know which is the best code for their business," says Steve Kempt, marketing manager at BT Inbound Services. "There are a lot of false rumours about what represents a good code and a good number. We want to be in a position to tell customers what effect which numbers have on their call volumes. That's why we did this research."

There is another, possibly more pressing, reason behind the study. The national code and number changes in April 2000 could affect many of the special-rate numbers, including 0800, and BT and the telemarketing industry are lobbying to protect them. This research, revealing that consumers are surprisingly sophisticated in their recognition and use of different numbers, adds weight to their plea to retain the status quo.

The BT study reveals that average accurate recognition of the 0800 code as a Freefone number is 92%. For 55- to 64-year-olds this rises to 98%. None of the other codes comes close to this; 0345 has awareness of 57%, 0898 44% and 0990 23%.

The awareness of 0800 is not surprising considering it has been used for more than 15 years. What concerns telemarketers is that should 0800 cease to exist in its current form, consumer confusion will follow. Businesses which have invested in Freefone codes, particularly those with a 'golden number' such as 0800 40 40 40 (Trusthouse Forte) or 0800 28 28 20 (Guardian Direct) will see not just their response rates, but their business identities, affected.

Subscriber interest

"Clients which have built numbers like these into their branding may see the whole marketing of that brand affected quite dramatically if 0800 changes in one of the proposed ways," says Res Williams, general manager of Readycall. "I think that if we are going to go up to seven digits instead of six for the 0800 suffix, then the subscriber should have a say in what the extra digit is and where it appears."

Since 0800 is the best known, the research's conclusion that it is the consumers' preferred code is hardly rocket science. But there are interesting findings about how other numbers are used, particularly concerning which codes respondents said they expect to see on what type of ads and which codes they are most likely to respond to.

To determine the codes consumers consider most appropriate for differing applications, respondents were shown three press advertisements: a book club ad for simple order taking; a holiday ad which requires a longer call to request more details; and an ad for a product for backache sufferers whose suitability for the item is assessed during the call, which would require the longest call of all.

Over 80% of respondents expect an order-placing call to be free. "I am spending my money with you, so why should I pay for the call," is the attitude. Closer examination reveals a less clear-cut reaction from a substantial minority.

When asked which code, if any, would deter them from calling to buy books, one-third of respondents said none of the special codes would put them off making the call. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.