Free call / 1800 numbers

$15k to $75k
estimated cost of external help
  • Communicate effectively
  • Share
9 weeks or more
estimated run time
3-5 weeks
estimated lead time
Strong communicator
recommended experience
Free-call/1800 numbers provide a means for stakeholders to respond to, or have a conversation about, a topic if they have access to a telephone. Typically used in combination with an informational mail-out, this phone service can either be staffed, so that stakeholders can ask and answer questions, or be based on a message service that relies on the caller’s keypad or recordings for responses.

In 5 steps...

  1. Find a service provider (there are agencies that specialise in these services) or arrange a number through your ICT department or phone company.
  2. Determine whether you’re running an informational campaign or want to capture some feedback from those calling. Create scripts to ask for or provide responses to key questions. If you’re staffing your phone lines, you will need to recruit staff and/or provide training.
  3. Pre-record material and test the service so that you know how it will work for users. Ideally, also test it with someone who is similar to your target audience, so that you can check that they understand how to work it, and any questions you ask.
  4. Advertise or otherwise promote your topic and phone number. This might include anything from targeted mail-outs to social media.
  5. Open your phone lines and begin receiving calls. Have a process for recording and tracking any statistics you need to measure in the process.

When to use it

When you have an audience that is geographically dispersed, with mixed or low technical proficiency or internet access, a free-call informational number can be a good way of enabling an interactive experience for participants.


  • Quick way of delivering information or getting feedback.
  • Interactive experience for participants.
  • Participants feel they are being heard.
Long term
  • Potentially, better alignment of participants with the policy/service outcome.


  • Callers may become frustrated if staff lack key information.
  • Callers may use the service to vent about another related service.
  • Tech-savvy participants may be less inclined to call, preferring to seek information online.
  • Staff motivation can be hard to maintain if most callers are angry or otherwise unhappy.



  • Consider your options carefully when deciding whether to run this yourself or use a provider. Providers will generally have a call centre where the staff will be taking other calls too. This can mean lower costs, as you aren’t paying for the time that they don’t spend speaking to the participants. However, these staff will rely much more heavily on scripts and will not be as well versed in the subject matter. You may find you need a mix, where your staff take on the tougher callers and the call centre handles the overflow so callers aren’t left waiting too long.

During the process

  • Make sure you have a plan for escalating callers to a senior staff member who is equipped to handle conflict and has a deep understanding of the subject matter.
  • Ensure staff remain courteous and professional at all times. Some level of relating to a caller’s situation may be beneficial, but getting too involved or emotional can be problematic.
  • Have daily meetings to bolster the motivation of staff and capture any feedback about questions that are being asked for which they had to go off-script. This will help you to quickly update or provide new information to the team so that callers and staff are not frustrated.


  • If you have a lot of qualitative notes, try to break these up into key sentences and assign a theme to each. This can help you see patterns in seemingly unordered material, so that you can derive the information you need for your engagement project.

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