In this edition of Countries in the spotlight: The USA with USA Phone Numbers.
The USA economy is the biggest in the world in terms of GDP. It has a powerful consumer market. The household consumption expenditure is almost 3 times as high as the runner up (China). The USA has the largest market with a single currency, central government and integrated legal system. And it has a relatively simple regulatory environment focusing on protecting businesses and removing unnecessary hurdles to doing business. All excellent reasons to enter the USA market.
Being so business focused does have its impact on how to do business with people and organisations from the USA. Results matter and everything is a competition. The United States is an individualistic culture, not a group culture. Therefore, heroes are often revered in American culture. Consider the cult status of Steve Jobs at Apple or Elon Musk at Tesla. Compare this to a more collective culture like Japan. How many of you can name a famous Japanese CEO? Results matter in the States. Therefore, if you are doing business, remember to sell yourself and your achievements. Modesty won’t get you a new business contact.
On the whole Americans are more direct than the British, however, more indirect than the Dutch. This partly has to do with the adage “Time is Money”. Ultimately, it’s a result-oriented country. Take all of this into account in your communications. Do not omit expressing your achievements but be brief and relevant.
One last thing to take into account is the language and tone of voice. All USA residents expect the English language, but also polite use of the language. Phrases like “How are you?” and “Great talking to you” are almost obligatory. They are an alternative greeting – an important form of expressing your respect. You are not expected to give an actual answer but are expected to return the favour.
The USA is a huge nation, has the biggest economy and residents expect to be able to source everything from within the USA. This makes having USA phone numbers critical when targeting the USA market. Herewith an overview of what USA Number Types are available for you to use:
USA Local Number
USA local numbers are – as in any other country – tied to a specific area and are reachable against standard caller cost within country boundaries. The USA have arranged their area codes per state and sub-area. A map can be found here on the NANPA website.
It is noteworthy that the process to request a USA Local Phone Number is clear and straightforward. As you would expect from a country that puts focus on easing business processes.
USA National Number
A USA National number is not tied to a specific area in the USA, has the area code 5XX and is reachable against standard calling cost.
While in most countries, national numbers are quite common for any type of businesses, it is less so in the USA. More about best practises later in this article.
USA Freephone Number
In the USA Freephone Numbers – or toll-free numbers – are regarded as important. Since the USA is such a big nation and taking the importance into account, many area codes have been reserved for freephone numbers, including 800, 888, 877, 866, 855 and 844. USA Freephone Numbers are free for the caller and generally only reachable from within the USA – although international calls in some cases do come through.
Freephone is a USA number type that is relatively easy to request. You do not have to take any special conditions into consideration.
Infographic – USA Phone Numbers. You are free to use this infographic in your own publications provided a link to this article is placed as well.
Universal Freephone Number
An International Freephone – officially a Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) – is a global number. It is not regulated in the USA 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 the USA and the exact same number can be activated in other countries as well.
USA Premium Rate
The range reserved for USA premium rate numbers is 900 – as it is in most countries. Be careful though, in the North American numbering plan, there are a lot of prefixes which could be mistaken for U.S. or Canada domestic area codes but are actually country prefixes with subranges that carried high tariffs (such as +1-876-HOT, where 876 is Jamaica).
Due to these issues in the past, new premium rate numbers are not issued anymore.
No number range is reserved specifically for mobile phones in the USA (apart from some small and local exceptions). Regular local USA phone numbers can be assigned to mobile phones. This does mean you can only get phone numbers for your mobile within the respective area.
This deviation from the standard did have some consequences. Calls to a mobile phone come at a higher cost. However, since there is no specific range, a caller is not aware whether they are calling a fixed or mobile phone and are therefore charged the same rate. Instead, North American cellular telephone subscribers are also generally charged for receiving calls. This had a significant impact initially in the adoption of mobile phones. The USA was lagging way behind the rest of the world. Thanks to the introduction of all-inclusive pricing plans, this has changed completely and now an impressive 97% of the population owns a mobile phone – but still with regular local- instead of mobile USA phone numbers.
USA Phone Numbers are regulated by NANPA (North American Numbering Plan Administrator) in the NANP (North American Numbering Plan).
NANPA holds overall responsibility for the neutral administration of NANP numbering resources, subject to directives from regulatory authorities in the countries that share the NANP. NANPA’s responsibilities include assignment of NANP resources, and, in the U.S. and its territories, coordination of area code relief planning and collection of utilization and forecast data.
NANPA is not a policy-making entity. In making assignment decisions, NANPA follows regulatory directives and industry-developed guidelines. NANPA’s responsibilities are defined in Federal Communication Commission (FCC) rules and in comprehensive technical requirements drafted by the telecommunications industry and approved by the FCC.
Regulatory authorities in various NANP countries have named national administrators to oversee the numbering resources assigned by NANPA for use within their country. NANPA is the national administrator for the U.S. and its territories. COMsolve Inc. serves as the Canadian Numbering Administrator. In other participating countries, regulatory authorities either serve as the national administrator or delegate the responsibility to the dominant carrier. NANPA, in its overall coordinating role, consults with and provides assistance to regulatory authorities and national administrators to ensure that numbering resources are used in the best interests of all participants in the North American Numbering Plan.
Infographic – NANP Phone Numbers. You are free to use this infographic in your own publications provided a link to this article is placed as well.
National Code – Country / Territory
242 – Bahamas
246 – Barbados
264 – Anguilla
268 – Antigua/Barbuda
284 – British Virgin Islands
340 – US Virgin Islands
345 – Cayman Islands
441 – Bermuda
473 – Grenada
649 – Turks & Caicos Islands
664 – Montserrat
670 – Northern Marianna Islnds (CMNI)
671 – Guam
684 – American Samoa
721 – Sint Maarten
758 – St. Lucia
767 – Dominica
784 – St. Vincent & Grenadines
787 – Puerto Rico
809 – Dominican Republic
829 – Dominican Republic
849 – Dominican Republic
868 – Trinidad & Tobago
869 – St. Kitts & Nevis
876 – Jamaica
939 – Puerto Rico
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 USA market in mind.
The USA is an economically and technologically progressive country, but – due to its sheer size and some other factors – does need some attention culture wise.
In part because the number of weeks allowed for annual vacations is low in the US relative to other countries, true insights, empathy and understanding of other national and business cultures is very weak. The negotiating power and confidence of non-Americans when striking a deal with a US partner is underpinned by the simple fact that many Americans will know less about your country and business culture than you already know about theirs through the pervasive distribution of American TV, movies and books.
The attitude towards non-American ways of doing business is generally intolerant: “that’s different, so that’s wrong”. Speaking languages for business other than English and possibly Spanish is extremely rare and most Americans in business who do venture to foreign climes seek out local and familiar destinations: US hotel and car rental chains and US food chains. It’s based on the belief that anything you could possibly want materially is already found in America so why look elsewhere? A tip for your next US meeting: bring a map of your region and show your colleagues where your offices are, explaining that the region is not like a United States of Europe or Asia but rather richer for its histories and cultures.
The takeaway here should be, when entering the USA market, do not simply copy your home (telephony) strategy and hope for the best. That is likely to fail. However, if you do invest in adapting to the USA culture, it can be an enormous and welcoming market.
Again, the USA is a bit different from most countries.
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. So, in most cases (and countries) a freephone is by far the best practice.
However, for the USA an additional factor needs to be taken into account: Its gigantic size. It is one of the biggest countries on the world and way bigger than most. Besides free for the caller (open arms), a freephone number is also a national number.
Local audiences might want to feel confident that you and your business are rooted in your shared community. Toll-free numbers achieve the opposite effect since they start with non-local area codes. That fact alone can cause a mental division between you and the customers in your backyard.
In conclusion, a freephone is the best USA phone number type to use for sales (and support) lines but do verify whether it is the best fit with your target audience.
Local businesses with local clientelle should take local phone numbers. In the USA, their value for “Source locally” is the drive behind this. So, the importance for local businesses to have an USA Local number is even more important than in most other countries.
In USA local business should choose local numbers – no question. The only thing to consider is – when you service multiple cities or states – whether multiple numbers are required to connect with your audience. All phone numbers 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 their respective areas.
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 the localisation as defined for your website. Do not underestimate the importance of localisation of phone numbers. We have dedicated an article on Smashing Magazine to address this topic.
An additional option for multinationals is an International freephone number (a.k.a. UIFN). 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.
The obvious choice for a nationally operating company is a national phone number. However, the USA does have national numbers such as freephone (toll-free) en premium rate numbers, but not a ‘regular’ national number type as known in most other countries. Most countries have a number range reserved for nationally operating organisations. Those are also known by the name “Corporate numbers” and are usually issues in bulk (to cover all the phones within an office). In the USA, there are National number (5XX-numbers), but they are reserved for applications which are non-geographic in nature, such as applications enabling machines, which would include but not be limited to wireless devices and appliances.
So a “Corporate number” is not an option in te USA. Still if you have an organisation which is targeting customers with multiple locations spread out over the USA, a location independent number is definitely the best choice. 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.
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 the USA is a huge country and you have to be close to your customers.
When providing consulting or other professional services via the phone, you expect to be rewarded. Americans respect that, however, there has been a lot of abuse of this number type.
The number type still exists, but regulations has made it virtually impossible to obtain new numbers.
Detailed regulation can be found on the website of the NANPA. And obviously, we are happy to help as well.
No Address the USA
As mentioned before, the USA is focussed on enabling businesses. Besides that, the USA is a digitalisation frontrunner, which makes virtualisation and virtual local phone numbers known and accepted.
Unlock the full potential of this innovative country with the worlds biggest market via USA 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 the USA. What should get additional attention when defining a call routing flow for an audience from the USA: Be polite and respectful and to the point, but do not forget to confirm they called the best number for their call! Always use a pleasant tone of voice and friendly use of language is appreciated.
Next point of attention is the language: English is a must. Preferably American English. There is a reasonable Spanish speaking population. So, in some specific cases it might be possible to offer spanish as a language, but other than that, stick to American English.