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Step onto the global stage: Pro tips for getting started with international phone numbers

International Phone Numbers
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The world has changed a lot in the past few years — more than any of us could have ever predicted. At this point, 2019 doesn't just feel like a different decade, but a different century. 

Despite the pandemic forcing many businesses to support remote operations, one thing hasn't changed, even in the face of the pandemic. Businesses still need to communicate with their customers. And if your business is looking to expand globally, you definitely need an international phone number — possibly several.  

Why you need international numbers

Let's say you're a U.S.-based business trying to establish a presence in Europe. How do you think prospective customers in this market will feel when they view your website, and the only way to contact your business is by dialing a long distance U.S. number? Likely, they'll simply assume your business doesn't have a presence in Europe, leaving you ultimately unable to compete in the market. 

On the other hand, if your business has numbers specifically tailored to the regions in which it operates, it’ll not only be easier for customers to reach you, but also make you appear more professional. But hold on — this isn't something you can just deploy thoughtlessly. There are a few challenges and best practices you need to be aware of to make the most of international phone numbers. Let’s dive in!  

Challenge one: Nailing regulatory compliance 

If you want to expand to another country, you're almost guaranteed to step into murky regulatory waters. Everything you think you know about customer data, robocall mitigation, carriers, service providers, and even general business operations may no longer apply. And if you think this is something you can ignore, think again!  

Governments and regulators are applying stricter enforcement and more comprehensive regulatory requirements than ever. At best, failure to comply could result in your services being discontinued. At worst, you could be facing fines or even legal action. 

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which focuses on protecting consumer privacy and giving people ownership of their data, is perhaps the best example of this in practice. It applies broadly to any organization doing business with an EU citizen, regardless of where the business is located. Even small violations can result in fines and even revenue loss — like, serious ones. 

Best practice: Partner with an expert 

If you only operate in one or two markets, you can probably keep up with the regulatory climate of each. But as your business continues to expand, it becomes more and more challenging to keep pace.  

But you don't have to figure it all out yourself! Instead, partner with a communications expert who understands the markets in which you operate and the regulations you must adhere to. They’ll take care of the heavy lifting on the legal side so you can focus on your business. A worthy provider will always take a compliance-first approach in each market.  

Challenge two: Navigating an unfamiliar market 

When evaluating whether or not to expand to a new market, you need to answer these questions:  

  • Can my business sustain the upfront and ongoing costs of operation?  
  • Is there a niche which my business's products or services can fill?  
  • How difficult will it be to establish a customer base?  
  • To what extent will I need to tweak or shape my business's branding for this new market?  
  • What industry trends define this market? How do they differ from those in my domestic market?  
  • Culturally, how does my target audience in this new market differ from my domestic customers?  

Do your due diligence and make sure you really understand this new market and figure out what you need to do to make it work for your business. 

But the thing is, these aren't insights you can glean from market research alone.   

Best practice: Choose a trusted provider with global expertise 

As with industry regulations, your best bet for navigating the complexities of a new market is to find a communications partner who understands its nuances. This may be a global organization with local connections. It may also simply be a market-leading operator within the region.  

The important thing is to be sure they have solid expertise and are easy to work with — everything else will follow from there.  

Challenge three: Establishing reliable infrastructure 

Poor call quality. Dropped or unstable connections. Unplanned downtime.  

In a world defined by convenience and connectivity, these are death knells for your expansion efforts. If your business is unreachable, you're all but guaranteed to lose out on business. And if trying to contact you is in any way frustrating, you'll literally be pushing customers and prospects into the arms of competitors.  

So, how do you ensure your communications solutions and the infrastructure they’re hosted on are of the utmost quality?  

Best practice: Do your homework on regionally connected providers  

Believe it or not, a high-quality network or communications infrastructure doesn't need to break the bank. At the same time, the cheapest option may not always be the best choice if top-notch service is what you’re after.   

Just be selective about who you work with and remember: A good provider will generally have a strong reputation in your industry, whereas a business offering poor service quality will inevitably leave a trail of bad reviews in its wake.  

A preferred provider will invest in a strong, regional interconnection and routing capabilities to deliver the best cost-effective solution with the highest level of connectivity, redundancy, and low latency, so there’s no need to sacrifice high quality. 

Challenge four: Dealing with international carriers 

Arguably, the only thing more complicated than dealing with regulators is navigating the carrier landscape of a new market. Even when establishing your business within a single market, you might have to negotiate simultaneously with multiple carriers. Eventually, it means you're left with a complex, confusing web of contracts, licenses, and billing cycles. 

And if you’re looking to expand to multiple markets within a region, you'd better prepare yourself some aspirin. Because if the number of agreements and contracts you need to sign for one market is complex, what you'll need to do for an entire region is a complete administrative nightmare. Plus, multiple carriers also means higher chances of choosing wrong and losing your numbers if these carriers don’t all have a compliance-first strategy. 

Best practice: Work with a single provider 

There's a better way. Instead of juggling a mismatched collection of carriers on your own, work with a partner with a strong network of connections. A partner like Sinch!  

As the largest domestic network in the United States, we're currently in the process of expanding the same fast, secure, seamless, and reliable network across all of Europe. We've already established full coverage in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 

We're now working on availability for both Western Europe and Asia Pacific; we also offer full coverage in Mexico.   

But reliability isn't the only thing that makes us stand out. Our infrastructure is fully compliant with regulations like the GDPR, and between 24x7 support and a rich, API-driven portal, we're here to support whatever needs or challenges you have.  

Plus, almost every number we provide is enabled for emergency calling over our network.  

With decades of experience, we know exactly what your business needs to succeed and we’ll give you just that: the perfect foundation for your communications infrastructure, whether you want to grow your presence internationally or simply expand your business domestically.  

Why wait? Contact one of our experts — we’re here to help!