Six Steps to Lower Your Telecom Bills
I don’t gamble very often. When I do, I tend to lose. These two facts established, you can probably guess that I spend very little time in casinos. When I do venture into one, however, I’m there for hours. Why, you ask? We’ve already recognized that card games are no friend of mine. No, I tend to linger because of how casino floor plans are designed. Casinos are built to keep people in, entertained and gambling – this comes as a surprise to no one. That telecom invoices mimic the most convoluted of casino floors is also not news to anyone who gets stuck managing their company’s telecom expenses.
The uninitiated may guess that telecom invoices are built like any other invoice – a handful of line items all with unit pricing, quantities that settle neatly into an extended price each, with everything in a neat row and reconciled against a total invoice cost.
Telecom invoices do not work this way.
Telecom invoices are made to be confusing. For example, a number of companies pay for long distance service on phone lines they cancelled years ago. This is because the costs for phone lines on the invoice are listed far away from the optional services and features associated with those lines. Likewise, the taxes, fees and tariffs for either are again collected on some other page of the invoice. I don’t fault clients for missing things like this.
In fact, the odds are good that you are paying too much on telecom right now. And you’ll continue to pay too much – unless you know where to look.
- Take stock. First, put together a map of every phone line charged on your invoices. The sum of all your phone lines may be distributed across multiple providers and even among multiple accounts per provider. The only way to make sense of your charges is to list them all in one place. Don’t just add line items for the phone lines; add line items for every added feature, tax, fee and minute of usage associated with each line. This list won’t be short – even small organizations have hundreds of line items to get a complete picture.
- Survey your phone lines. This is the simple step that many organizations skip. Take your list of phone numbers and call them. Yes, call every phone line you have. What was the result? Did someone pick up? Did the call go to voicemail? Did it simply ring, or perhaps eventually go dead? It is not uncommon for companies to have phone lines that aren’t in use or to cut their bills in half by getting rid of the extras. Make a list of any phone lines that don’t end with you reaching a human being. Don’t disconnect them yet – we’ll get to why in step four.
Survey your end users. For every call from step two that reaches a human, review all the features associated with that phone line. Ask the person how often they use each service. If the answer is rarely or never, consider cutting that additional cost.
Get in touch with your facilities, HR and operations teams. Phone lines that don’t reach a person are commonly one of two things. First, they may have been associated with an employee who either moved or left the company. Contact HR to see what changes to personnel need to be factored into your analysis. Second, end users aren’t the only ones with a vested interest in your phone lines. Phone lines that don’t ring through to a co-worker may still be critical – for example, some of those no-answer lines may be emergency elevator lines or in use by security systems. You don’t want to end service until you can validate what phone lines are needed for which purposes.
Begin cutting services – the right way. By this point, you should have a clear list of phone lines and services that you can cut. Reach out to your provider to begin this process. However, don’t simply leave it at that. As mentioned earlier, chances are high that you may find some services attached to phone lines you disconnected long ago. You may also be charged incorrect amounts, but never noticed. It isn’t enough to stop paying these charges – your provider may owe you credits for incorrect charges. Insist on them. These credits should take into account the services, fees and surcharges paid on them.
Start shopping around. At about this point, you’re probably pretty tired of staring at telecom invoices and talking to providers. Don’t stop yet! Even though you’ve righted the ship and optimized your inventory, you still don’t know if the price you are paying is market competitive. Take the documentation you made in step one (and trimmed down in steps two to five) and go to market. See what other carriers would recommend in terms of services and what they propose as a monthly charge.
These aren’t the only ways companies wind up paying more than they should, but they are a good start. The process of weeding out and correcting these issues may seem tedious, but failing to do so means leaving a lot of cash on the table.