Remember when we used to dial 411 for information? When it slapped our phone bills for a couple bucks, and all you got was a lousy phone number? I’m glad those days are over.
You’re still doing that?!
Don’t worry – you’re not alone. Billions of calls to 411 are logged each year. At an average cost of over a dollar per call, we are talking a multi-billion-dollar industry just for consumers to get phone numbers of local businesses when they don’t have the Internet handy (or even a phone book – remember those?). And frankly, there’s just no reason for it.
Toll Free Number Directory Assistance
Within the past few years, private companies have come along to break up the 411 racket by providing toll free number directory assistance. The main benefit of calling a toll free number for directory assistance is that it’s, well, free – no long distance, no per-call fees. The trade-off is usually listening to a brief advertisement before getting your info / getting connected. Here’s a list of the toll free number directory assistance services I’ve used, along with some of their pros and cons:
1-800-FREE-411 from Jingle Networks was the first free 411 service I’d heard of, a pioneer in toll free number directory assistance. And it looks like they’re doing well, too – announcing last year that they’d reached per-call profitability. That says a lot about the sustainability of free 411 service and the benefits it brings consumers.
The best feature of FREE-411 used to be that they utilized a combination of voice recognition and human assistance, just like standard 411 service. Unfortunately, they’ve since discontinued that and gone fully-automated. I haven’t had any problems with the new system, though, and FREE-411 is still my toll free number directory assistance of choice for being quick and easy.
It should be no surprise that Google has one of the more prominent toll free number directory assistance lines, 1-800-GOOG-411. Google has become the empire we know and love today by using paid advertising to give away things other people are charging for.
GOOG-411 also lets you get a text with information about a business, or driving directions if your phone has Internet access. The best thing I’ve found with GOOG-411 is that it automatically connects you when you find the business you want. TheÂ quality of theirÂ fully-automated voice recognition, though, is definitely their weakest link. I was annoyed by how frequently I had to go back and enunciate more clearly.
The new kid on the block is tied to another search engine, Microsoft’s new Bing, at 1-800-BING-411. BING-411 is turning into a whole different animal than other toll free number directory assistance, leveraging voice recognition technology they got in acquiring TellMe, to provide additional information over the phone such as turn-by-turn driving directions, traffic conditions, movie times, and weather reports.
Like the others, BING-411 is fully-automated, but they’ve got a strong voice recognition platform in TellMe to make up for it. The best feature of BING-411 is the additional info at your disposal. The only thing I didn’t like about using it at first was that it automatically opts you in to receiving a text message with info about your listing. If you don’t want to get those texts, you have to call another number (1-800-449-0057) and disable it.
So there you have it – three excuses to stop dialing 411 and getting charged an arm and a leg to connect with local businesses. Have you used one of these services, or any otherÂ toll free number directory assistance? Share your thoughts and experiences!