In this edition of the serie: “Countries in the spotlight”: Germany and German Phone Numbers.
Germany has quite a big economy with the 4th highest GDP in the world – so that makes it a relevant market for most. Everybody knows, they generally adhere to structure and document everything. They prefer direct and formal communication and do not beat around the bush. But did you also know that no less than 3 out of 4 people in Germany work in the service industry? That means they are used to- and expect an excellent customer experience. Therefore, having the right German Phone Numbers and call routing is critical if you want to be successful in Germany. Let’s dive into the options and best practices specifically for Germany.
Source locally – is a slogan valid for almost every country but a bit more so for Germany. That has impact on the best choice of phone numbers to use. For instance, a German is not likely to use services from a company that is not reachable via a German phone number. So, having German phone numbers is critical, but which one? These options are available:
German Local Number
German local numbers are – as in any other country – tied to a specific area and are reachable against standard caller cost. Area codes range from (0)20 to (0)99. Download a map with the local number prefixes as issued by the Bundesnetzagentur here.
What is noteworthy is that you need an address with proof in the area of the number to be able to request a German Local Phone Number.
German National Number
German Freephone Number
Germans are a big fan of standardisation and follow the ITU recommendations where they can. German Freephone numbers have the recommended 0800 prefix and calling is free for the caller. Freephone numbers are generally only reachable from within the country – although international calls in some cases do come through.
Freephone is a German number type that is relatively easy to request. You do not have to take any special conditions into consideration.
Universal Freephone Number
An International Freephone – officially a Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) – is a global number. It is not regulated in Germany itself. The ITU has defined this type of number as an international alternative for the regular in-country freephone. This type of number can be activated in Germany and the exact same number can be activated in other countries as well.
Infographic – German Phone Numbers. You are free to use this infographic in your own publications provided a link to this article is placed as well.
German Premium Rate
Germany has reserved 2 main number rages for added value German phone numbers: 0180 and 0900. The 0180 range is intended for lower caller tariff general business services. While 0900 can have very high caller rates and is intended for the following services:
0900-1 for business services
0900-3 for entertainment
0900-5 for adult
Please note German premium rate numbers require attention. Regulation is tight and elaborate. Besides the tariff announcement, the first 30 seconds of the call must be free for the caller. A number needs to be activated separately for fixed- or mobile callers. There is no 1-to-1 relation between the fixed caller rate and the mobile caller rate.
German Mobile Number
Germany has reserved 3 prefixes for mobile usage: (0)15, (0)16 and (0)17. They are reachable against mobile cost and internationally.
Important to know about German mobiel numbers is that they are not available as virtual numbers. So you will have to get an actual SIM for this type of German phone numbers.
You should always be careful when choosing a phone number type. This guide provides excellent guidelines for your selection process. But here are some considerations to make with the specific German market in mind.
Support for contracted services
As stated, Germans expect a flawless customer experience and support. They have even included this in their regulation. It is not allowed to utilise a premium rate number for support on services contracted or products purchased.
For this type of support Local, National and Freephone numbers can be used. The highest customer satisfaction is achieved in Germany with Freephone numbers. They welcome the caller with open arms and that is what a German expects.
Although Freephone is preferred, local and national phone numbers are accepted as well. More pointers on these number types later on.
What is valid for support, is even more valid for sales phone lines. You want to welcome callers with open arms. Confirm to the potential customers they can expect an excellent customer experience. Any possible threshold must be removed.
Renowned organisations – like E.ON (the biggest energy supplier in Germany) even set up a separate phone line with a German Freephone number specifically for sales calls.
There can be a specific reason to choose a different German phone number type, but in general freephone numbers are the most effective option for a phone line.
Local businesses with local clientelle should take local phone numbers. In Germany even more so than in most other countries. The statement ‘Source locally’ is valid but you also need to consider the size of Germany. Someone with a leakage in Brandenburg is not going to call a national number because they could be located in Bayern. The entire house would be flooded when driving from Bayern to Brandenburg.
In Germany local business should choose local numbers – no question. The only thing to consider is whether 2 numbers are required to service the 2 neigboring cities. Both can be forwarded to the same destination(s). So you can keep working as you are used to but your potential callers have confirmation you are able to service them in both areas.
The obvious choice for a nationally operating company is a national phone number. However, it is not the best choice for all situations. And in some case, it might even be worthwhile to opt for multiple types of numbers.
If you have an organisation which is targeting customers with multiple locations spread out over Germany, a national number is definitely the best choice. If you are operating nationally but targeting local customers, it is better to opt for local phone numbers in the areas where your customers are since Germany is such a big country. Remember the example of the leakage in Brandenburg?
And there are always the sales and support lines to consider. A freephone number remains the most effective option. Based on these guidelines, it should be easy to make the best choice for you.
The best advice for a multinational is to do localization for their phone number the same way as they do for their website. Most corporates put effort in fine tuning their online presence and keep on tweaking their localisation. But somehow optimisation of the phone numbers stays behind while the same results can be achieved. So, per country look at the specifics and determine the number types to be used based on these specifics. Do not underestimate the importance of localisation of phone numbers.
An additional option for multinationals is an International freephone number. This type of number can be activated in multiple countries and therefore there is only one number to remember by the caller and a single phone number can be printed on documentation used in multiple countries. This can be quite the optimisation. Do check up front if calling such a number is acceptable for your specific audience.
When providing consulting or other professional services via the phone, you expect to be rewarded and that is understood by the caller.
Due to the extensive regulations and complex tariff model, make sure to elaborate and verify your project in detail before proceeding. Detailed regulation can be found on the website of the Bundesnetzagentur. And obviously, we are happy to help as well.
No Address in Germany
An address in Germany is required for a lot of German number types. If you do not have an address available, a freephone number is an excellent German phone number option. It is a good number type to unlock a market in general but as stated previously, it fits even better with the German market.
Unlock the full potential of this big country with massive economy via German Phone Numbers that fit your business.
A very extensive guide to optimise your call routing can be found here. This guide is applicable for all countries including Germany. What should get additional attention when defining a call routing flow for German audience: Be to the point! Leave the pleasantries behind. Forget “Please select …”, but go for “Select …” if the menu cannot be skipped altogether. What does become more important is the tone of voice. If the message is to the point, make sure the tone of voice is welcoming to achieve that perfect caller experience.
An additional point of attention is the language. For businesses, English is reasonably accepted but especially when dealing with the consumer market, using the German language will greatly improve the customer experience and result.