I am building a SaaS app, it's a pure search and download data type of app so I am not expecting much customer interaction other than site usage and I am wrestling with the question of weather I need a 1-800 number or can I just have my customers contact me through email? I will have an easy to use contacts page, FAQ page and a separate Help Guide Section and I was thinking this might be enough, not to mention I could eliminate another monthly expense by not having to pay for a 800 number.
I would appreciate your thoughts.
A lot depends on the type of customer (business or consumer) and cost of the service.
As a general rule the more ways you can engage your customers or prospective customers the better but the actual cost of the number is minimal compared to the cost of the time answering the calls that will come in.
If you can't afford to field the phone calls then it's almost always better to not publish a number... some customers may be put off by needing to use email instead of phone but not as many as will be put off by not having their phone call answered.
With our startup we've found it invaluable. We put it on the top right of every page. It's used way less then our email or chat support, but the people that use it love us for it. In our case it's a differentiator from our competition.
Another upside... when you get a customer on the phone you can take advantage of that opportunity by getting their feedback on any number of things that go beyond their support issue that you've hopefully solved quickly.
There are at least two conditions where you may be required to have a phone number:
(1) If you're doing a service where customers can upload content (which probably means any service), you will likely want to go through the steps to get the DMCA safe-harbor in case somebody uploads content that infringes somebody else's copyright. One of the requirements of the safe harbor is that you have to have a "DMCA Agent" to get DMCA complaints, and the agent's address and phone number have to be on the website. (See 17 USC 512(c)(2)).