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The Changing Face of the Conference Call: How Toll Free is Costing You

When we talk about the evolution of audio, web and video conferencing today, there are a lot of innovations we tend to focus on: sleek mobile apps, HD video streaming, cloud storage, etc. However, there is a very basic, fundamental change taking place in conferencing today as a result of several of these innovations that is often overlooked. With automatic dial-out becoming an increasingly common feature in conferencing services and with mobile and Voice over IP (VoIP) providers charging a flat fee for unlimited calling, the once-stalwart, table stakes toll free number is no longer a necessity for businesses. In fact, it may even be costing your company money.

It’s no secret that conferencing services are big business, even in the face of recent economic struggles. Wainhouse Research forecasts that web and audio conferencing will reach a combined global market size of $7.5 billion by 20161. As the availability and sophistication of smartphones, mobile apps, wireless plans and VoIP services improve, the means by which employees are joining these conferences are changing dramatically.

Dial-Out is the Future

Conferencing services with a “dial-out” feature like iMeet® and GlobalMeet® are the norm today, much more so than just five years ago; a single click from within iMeet and GlobalMeet will call any phone for you, eliminating the need for access numbers and passcodes. Wainhouse estimates that dial out is the fastest growing way to enter a conference call today.

That’s good news for businesses — while historically more expensive than using a toll free number, dial out is now often up to a 30% less expensive connection option thanks to falling rates and price compression.

GlobalMeet’s “Connect Me” interface, offering dial out and VoIP connections.

VoIP and Wireless Empower Mobile Conferencing

The prevalence of smartphones and tablets in the workforce is having a dramatic effect on the value of toll free numbers as well. By 2015, there will be 1.3 billion mobile workers worldwide. As mobile conferencing apps increase in availability and sophistication, the effortless “tap to launch” usability of mobile apps is disrupting the traditional conference call — in 2012, Wainhouse estimates that 34% of all conference call access was through a mobile or VoIP device. With monthly flat fees for unlimited mobile and VoIP calling, toll numbers have become the smarter choice for companies, with toll free rates ranging from 20%-50% more expensive per caller — an additional expense that’s providing increasingly diminished value over time. From a global perspective, this is particularly important; VoIP connections are preferable in emerging countries with limited fixed line facilities or for employees travelling overseas utilizing company-provided VoIP softphones.

When “Free” Really Isn’t

Through years of exposure to advertising, we have been conditioned to an almost Pavlovian degree to equate the word “free” with benefit, value, ROI, more bang for the buck. But in the case of “toll free,” technology has evolved long past the days of 1-800 number savings. With today’s technology, the wants of the user have aligned with the needs of your business; the simplest, most user-friendly methods for joining a conference call are also the most cost effective for your company. If your business is negotiating a new or renewed conferencing services deal, be sure and take a hard look at your actual employee usage. If your company relies heavily on dial out services, mobile access or VoIP, the added expense of a toll free access number is money you can put back into your company’s pocket.

Do you or your employees regularly attend conference calls? Learn more about the benefits and pitfalls of telecommuting by downloading PGi’s latest free eBook, The Yin + Yang of Telecommuting.

1. Wainhouse Research LLC, 2012 Worldwide Web Conferencing Services Market Sizing & 5-Year Forecast, June 2012;  Wainhouse Research LLC, 2012 Worldwide Audio Conferencing Services Market Sizing & 5-Year Forecast, June 2012

About Joshua Erwin

Josh is a content creator and strategist with a passion for all things tech, such as the latest gadgets, apps, games and more. Josh loves listening to and playing music and is a big college football fan, especially for his alma mater Georgia Bulldogs. When not writing for PGi, you’ll find him gaming or drumming on Sundays for the Atlanta Falcons.

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