Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spelling Trouble with 800 Toll Free Vanity Numbers

With the advent of toll free numbers, many companies have found a phone service luxury that provided their business with positive benefits and comfort. But for AT&T, it was a different story. The advantages that they have expected from this number have backfired against the telecommunication giant. This vanity number spat between AT&T and MCI in the early 1990s has remained the most famous communication fiasco of all time.

For the purpose of making collect calls, MCI has introduced their 1-800-COLLECT toll free vanity number to the American public. This newly introduced and easy to remember phone number was a huge success since it offers the much lower collect call rates as compared to that of AT&T. With MCI doing huge advertising and marketing campaigns for their services, AT&T felt that it is time to make their own marketing move in order to stay on track with the competition.

To directly compete with MCI’s new number, AT&T introduced their own vanity 800 number: 1-800-OPERATOR. AT&T sensed that introducing a new collect call number would not be enough. So, they made their own advertising campaigns by offering discounted collect call rates to match that of MCI’s.

Now that both companies are already equipped with phone words and competitive call rates, the war of collect-call service has begun. AT&T did not expect that most of their customers would mistakenly spell out their number as 1-800-OPERATER when dialing. It won’t turn out bad if this error would still redirect the call to AT&T. But, unfortunately, it was directed to its competitor since 1-800-OPERATER was owned by MCI. It was a big loss to AT&T.  MCI, on the other hand, reportedly earned $500,000 for their rival’s mishap.

After AT&T recognized this debacle, the old number was ceased and the new 800 vanity number was announced: 1-800-CALL-ATT.

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