Business Management – How to handle a phone number change

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This is another installment of my Business Management posts, geared towards those of us who are business owners and/or consultants.

Phone number changes can be one of the worst headaches for a business owner. You spend time, money and resources marketing your business, getting the name out there, getting known in the community. All your clients know your phone number, some even have it on speed dial. It’s advertised in the Yellow Pages, online, everywhere you could think of. And now, you have to or want to change it. So, how do we go about this ?

First of all, DO NOT CANCEL YOUR EXISITNG NUMBER. This is the number one rule. It is the only rule. If you don’t follow this rule, everything will go to hell, very quickly. OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, you need to figure out how you’re going to manage the transition between phone numbers. It really doesn’t matter why you’re changing the number, whether it’s a physical office move or if you’re transitioning from a cell phone to a landline. The processes can be applied to almost any situation.

Option 1 involves simply call forwarding your old number to your new number. This is easy, seamless, and you don’t need to change anything anywhere. Unfortunately, this also means that you’re going to be paying for the old number forever as well.

Option 2 involves having a voicemail box on the old number. You would then set this voicemail greeting to tell callers that the number for the business has changed, and can now be reached at [insert whatever the new number is]. Most telecoms providers can set the voicemail box up so that no messages can be left, so basically it becomes an ‘automated message’.

Option 3 involves transitioning your number slowly. You keep both numbers active and live, and answer both. You make every effort to make outbound calls only using your new number, so those with caller ID see that number instead of the old one. You change all your advertising to only display the new number. In some cases, this means waiting until the next annual print of things like Yellow Pages books. You let your existing clients know your new number, and you gently remind them every so often if they continue to use the old one.

Depending on your situation, one option may be more attractive than another. Personally, I’m in the middle of Option 3, as I’m transitioning to a new number due to a physical office move. The most important thing to remember, regardless of which method you choose to transition your phone number, DO NOT CANCEL your old number. There is nothing that will frustrate your existing clients more than not being able to get a hold of you, and if a potential new client tries calling you and gets a “this number is no longer in service”, then you’ve missed out on a sale.


Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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