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Direct Inward Dialing (DID): What Is It, How Does It Work, and How Can You Use It?

This article was updated on April 9, 2024

When a customer or client calls your business, they want to be directed to the right person straight away. Direct inward dialing (DID) helps ensure just that, allowing them to bypass your front desk receptionist and immediately connect with the person they need. 


However, the benefits of direct inward dialing go beyond immediate connectivity. We’re going to explore all the ways that DID can improve call management and communication efficiency.

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First, let's look at what DID stands for, what exactly is direct inward dialing, and how can it be applied in a business environment.

What Is DID?

Direct inward dialing (DID) is a service that enables incoming calls to be routed directly to individuals or departments within your company. 

This allows callers to bypass front desk operators, reception lines, and IVR systems, effectively eliminating long wait times and transfers.

What Is a DID Number?

A direct dial number is a virtual extension that isn’t tied to the company’s main line. So, instead of being connected to the front desk, DID phone numbers are linked to individual employees or company departments as a means of direct communication. 

A DID phone number can route to VoIP desk phones, mobiles, or traditional landlines.

How Does Direct Inward Dialing Work?

DID telephony can be achieved via two main methods: via cloud-hosted VoIP-based systems or those that rely on the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN).

Cloud-Hosted VoIP

A hosted phone system uses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to allow you to make voice — and sometimes video — calls over an internet connection. 

VoIP DID uses virtual phone numbers or extensions to facilitate direct inward dial calls. Once these extensions have been established, your telephone provider can route the incoming call to the requested DID number in seconds.

Cloud-hosted phone systems have become the go-to for many businesses thanks to their flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. So, it’s unsurprising that the VoIP method is the most popular way of facilitating DID calling. However, it can also be achieved via PSTN.

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)

To set up direct inward dialing on a traditional phone system, you must use primary rate interface (PRI) circuits. This involves leasing trunk lines that route local incoming calls to the extension via your provider and PBX system. 

As well as being expensive to maintain, the PSTN method restricts the volume of direct inward dial calls. If you only have, for example, five trunk lines, you can only have five active calls to DID numbers at any one time. So, it’s not hard to see why so many companies use VoIP instead.

What Is Direct Inward Dialing Used For?

Direct inward dialing has various use cases that can be applied regardless of your company’s size or industry. Here are some of the key ways that companies apply DID to their internal and external communications:

Contact Center Optimization

One of the primary use cases for DID is improving the efficiency of contact centers. Instead of going through a switchboard operator, front desk, or IVR system, customers can call the direct inward dialing number assigned to the individual or department they want to speak to. 

As well as streamlining the customer service experience for customers — and improving satisfaction rates in the process — DID can help boost agent productivity, as they’ll more often receive calls they’ll immediately know how to resolve. 

Call Forwarding

DID phone lines are commonly used in conjunction with call forwarding to automatically forward incoming calls based on your pre-defined rules.

For example, say you’re away from your desk and need to take calls from your personal cell. The DID line can forward these from your desk phone to your mobile without changing the number that customers need to dial.

As well as redirecting calls to your own devices, you can forward calls to different departments, colleagues, or offices. This prevents incoming calls from going unanswered.

Internal Communications 

For large companies or those with geographically dispersed employees, direct inward dialing can also be vital to internal communication efficiency. Every employee and department can be assigned a unique DID number, providing direct lines of communication to colleagues and managers regardless of location. 

Plus, external stakeholders can benefit from having direct communication channels, too.

Toll-Free Numbers

Companies can also use toll-free numbers for direct inward dialing, enabling customers to call departments or agents at no expense to them. These calls can be made from anywhere in the world with no long-distance fees to worry about.

Video and Conference Calling

Fast, reliable video and conference calling is increasingly important to many businesses. DID numbers can prove useful here, too. 

Many video conferencing platforms generate shareable direct dial numbers for video conferences. These enable colleagues and stakeholders to jump on video calls just by dialing that number. 

Employees can thus host and attend video meetings and conferences from the comfort of their home office or while they’re on the go — from any of their devices.

Global Marketing

Finally, DID phone numbers are often also used to improve the effectiveness of marketing and outreach campaigns. 

For example, businesses can assign direct-dial numbers for customers based on the location from which they’re viewing the advertisement, improving familiarity, trust, and the chance of conversion.

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The Potential Business Benefits of Direct Inward Dialing

Businesses with high incoming call volumes and dispersed employees are likely to see the most significant benefits from direct inward dialing. But even for smaller businesses, it can be worth the prospective advantages.

What exactly are these upsides? Let’s take a look:

Better Customer Service Experiences

According to the Sixth Edition of Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report based on a survey carried out in 2023, 65% of consumers expect immediate responses when they contact a company.

Connecting callers with your front desk isn’t often the best way to deliver that immediate help — they want to speak to the specific individual or department they need the first time they call.

Direct inward dialing eliminates the frustration of being passed from pillar to post or navigating through complex automated menus. Customers can quickly reach their intended recipient, minimizing call transfers, queues, and missed calls.

If the person the customer wants to reach is unavailable, they can leave a voicemail on the DID phone. So, there’s no need to ask reception to pass on a message. 

Thanks to DID, companies can optimize call routing to provide incoming callers with faster, more streamlined experiences. This boosts satisfaction and loyalty, which are significant drivers of bottom-line revenue growth. 

Improved Internal Communications

Before direct inward dialing, you’d have to go through your company’s main line if you wanted to contact a colleague based in a different location. Either that, or you’d trawl through your company’s directory to find the extension you required. Needless to say, both methods were time-consuming and inefficient. 

With direct inward calling, however, you can contact colleagues in different locations with just a couple of clicks via their assigned extension. 

Most telephony providers offer DID calling in their basic packages, along with other communication features like video chat and SMS.

Cost Savings

As part of your VoIP phone system, DID services can drive significant cost savings. Firstly, they negate the need for traditional PBX systems and reduce the volume of trunks you need to connect remote devices. This cuts down the costs of purchasing, installing, and maintaining equipment. 

That’s not all. When individuals and departments have their own direct-dial numbers, there’s no need to employ lots of operators to manage manual systems. So, you could reduce labor expenses and reallocate these funds elsewhere. 

A Local Presence

Customers tend to be wary of calling and answering phone numbers that have different area codes than their local region. Maybe they’re afraid you might be a scammer, or perhaps they prefer to support local businesses. Whatever the case, companies that don’t have local numbers can lose customers. 

Using a virtual phone number can fix this. A virtual or direct-dial number isn’t tied to a specific area and can be assigned based on the location of different customers. This is regardless of the physical siting of your company. 

You can purchase virtual numbers for a variety of regions, states, and countries, and place these on your local marketing ads and website pages. Customers won’t know it’s a virtual number, allowing you to establish a local presence without actually being local.

Implement Better Call Management with DID

If you handle lots of internal and external communications, managing calls and optimizing call routing can be a struggle, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Direct inward dialing helps reduce inefficiencies like multiple transfers, missed calls, slow resolutions, and poor remote collaboration by bestowing employees with a dedicated direct dial number. 

Customers can contact the desired employee or department without having to jump through hoops, and colleagues can communicate remotely in just a few clicks. 

Always on the go? DID call forwarding can also seamlessly forward incoming calls to your mobile devices so you can take them from anywhere. 

Unified solutions like Vonage Business Communications (VBC) don’t just stop at direct inward dialing, though. From essential mobility features to advanced call recording to powerful integrations, VBC has plenty to offer small and medium-sized businesses alike. 

Are you curious to see what else VoIP and unified communications can do beyond DID? Reach out to a Vonage expert today to learn more.

Still Have Questions About Direct Inward Dialing?

Direct inward dialing is a service that connects virtual phone numbers to users of your phone system. In doing so, it facilitates a direct line of communication between an inbound caller and an employee or department within the company phone system. 

Call forwarding is a telephony feature that redirects incoming calls to a different number. So, you might forward calls sent to your desk over to your cell phone if you’re out of the office or forward a call to a colleague outside of your working hours.

While DID and call forwarding are different features, they often work in conjunction with one another.


DID is typically easier to set up and use with a VoIP-based system because the entire process, from setup to maintenance, is handled by your telephone provider. Plus, you can purchase additional lines as and when you need them for maximum scalability. 

Traditional landlines, on the other hand, require you to purchase, install, and maintain PRI circuits and physical phone lines, which is time-consuming, expensive, and inflexible.

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Want to know more about Direct Inward Dialing? We’re here to help! Call us at 1-844-365-9460, or fill out this form! A dedicated specialist will show you how:

  • DID can improve the efficiency of a contact center, allowing customers to directly reach the number of the person or department they want instead of going through a switchboard operator, front desk, or IVR system
  • For companies with geographically dispersed employees, direct inward dialing can be vital to internal communication efficiency, as every employee and department can be assigned a unique DID number that provides direct lines of communication to colleagues and managers regardless of location
  • As part of a VoIP phone system, DID services can drive significant cost savings, eliminating the need for traditional PBX systems and reducing the volume of trunks needed to connect remote devices

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