Even in today’s digitally dominated environment, a consistently large segment of the population continues to use directory assistance as an alternative to local search. In the US alone, 411 is used six billion times per year, providing the telecom industry with $8 billion per year in high profit revenue.
411 providers get paid based on the number of calls they take and not the helpfulness or accuracy of the service they provide. As a result, if your business phone number isn’t in your phone company’s database when a prospect or client calls, there is little chance that they will receive much help from the operator.
That is why it’s critical that you confirm your listing in every city where you do business and with each phone company you use. Being properly listed has a huge impact on your bottom line.
Who’s Maintains Your 411 Listing?
The phone company who provides dial tone to your business and bills you each month automatically lists your company in their 411 directory. Unfortunately, there is no single, “master’ database containing all 411 information. Each carrier maintains their own data. In fact, there are thousands of 411 directory providers.
- Some are the major land line carriers like Verizon and AT&T
- Others may be cell phone companies or VoIP providers
- Yet others are independent firms with no carrier affiliation, but are in the business of providing directory information. 800-FREE411 (800-373-3411) is one such independent service
Except for the independent firms, each of them serve their own customers. If you were to call “411” in search of a business that is not a customer of your phone company, it’s possible they won’t have the listing you want.
There’s another issue to consider, as well. If your phone company is a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) that works with one of the telecom giants, the CLEC is responsible for getting you listed in the major carrier’s 411 directory. As you can imagine, technical failures do happen in scenarios like this, resulting in your number failing to list in the main directory. If you suspect this is the case with your business, the best place to start is your CLEC’s customer service.
What About Toll Free 411 Listings?
If your primary number is a vanity number or toll free, a “Responsible Organization” (known in the industry as a Resporg) works through an FCC-authorized organization (SMS800.com) to assign toll free numbers to a business. You’ll want to contact the Resporg that provided your toll free number to verify or update your toll free directory listing.
If you’re not aware who your Resporg is, visit 800ForAll.com and enter your toll free number into the free “Who Owns This Number?” query on their home page. It will tell you the name and phone of your Resporg.
What If You Use VoIP?
Your VoIP provider manages your 411 listing. When you confirm your listing with the VoIP company, you might want to ask about remote phone numbers. Many VoIP providers can set up local business phone number, say in Dallas, that rings at your office in Atlanta, Chicago or wherever you may be headquartered. Such numbers can also be set up in cities where you have major accounts, or where you are running a sales campaign—giving callers the convenience of dialing a local number. This can usually be done with no monthly fees, which is in contrast to the “remote call forwarding” and “foreign listings” the traditional telecom companies want you to pay for each month.
Call Yourself and Make Sure Your Listings Are Correct
You’ll be able to keep your businesses 411 directory listings up to date and accurate by first asking yourself:
- What cities are my customers calling from?
- What are the different names my customers would use when trying to find my business?
- Would my customers want to be provided with a local or toll free number for my business when calling 411?
Once you’ve determined these things, start calling 411 from the cities and regions your customers are located in and see if you’re listed correctly. Keep a spreadsheet of the information you’ve collected and correct the erroneous listings by doing the following:
- Manually working directly with the company that bills you each month and provides phone service to your business
- Manually engaging the large phone companies like AT&T, Verizon and the other old “Ma Bell” companies in the regions you operate in
As there were a trillion local web searches last year (as opposed to 6 billion 411 calls), it’s critical that you make sure your business phone number is being presented correctly on the different online directories that influence local SEO. For more information on how to make sure your information is showing up correctly on Google, click here.