Ten Questions You Should Ask your Telco in a Recession


When companies across all sectors are tightening their belts it’s time to ask your telco provider a few pertinent questions to make sure they are doing their best for you, says David Hamilton of Protel

Voice services have historically been viewed as a low priority, and now they are seen as less critical than data. However in the recession we are seeing companies taking a second look at their voice charges, and realising that it is actually quite easy to change one supplier for another.

Taking an overview of your voice services and working out ways of maximising effectiveness and minimising expense is an easy way to cut costs without having too much impact on the business.

Recession is always a good time for negotiation, and this year will see the end of attempting to shoehorn their products and services into companies with little regard for their specific requirements. It is time that telcos asked customers what they needed, rather than telling them what they can have. 

As Protel is not tied to a specific carrier, software provider or hardware manufacturer it is regularly asked to review the contracts that companies are tied into by their telco – here are the questions we suggest you ask:

  1. If I get a specialist company in to look for billing discrepancies, what are they likely to find? Check your bills. Many service providers overcharge because they bill incorrectly. Ask your independent service provider to analyse historical bills, identify overcharging and negotiate a refund from your service provider. The consultant will take a percentage of whatever you are paying, or get a flat fee. Protel does this free of charge and runs the implementation themselves.
  2. Can you prove that I am getting the best possible deals on my line rental, call charges and internet connectivity? Regularly review and benchmark charges by using an independent service provider to review all your existing services to ensure you are getting the best possible deal available. Be prepared to give them a sensible amount of information. Some companies will say ask for the best rates but will not talk about traffic volumes and destinations, which is key to finding the best price.
  3. Can you help me eliminate my excess costs? A bit of housekeeping never goes amiss, and ask your telco to identify which lines are unnecessary or unused, and cancel them.
  4. Are you exploiting smart technology on my behalf? Taking advantage of technological developments can make significant cost reductions. For example, fixed to cellular terminals can be used to cut fixed to mobile call costs in half.
  5. Can you explain your bill to me? Frequently when you receive your bill it is difficult to fathom what you are spending and where. Some CIOs claim to spend a day or two a month checking their telecoms bills. Often the way the bill is formatted makes it very difficult for customers to check like with like. Most customers think “Oh well, that seems roughly right” and sign it off. Ask for one clear, simple bill document to help with budget setting.
  6. Where am I wasting money? Take control of your telecom costs by identifying and eliminating excessive personal usage, bar calls to premium rate numbers, and set up an early warning system to avoid fraudulent use of the phones.
  7. Do you proactively monitor call quality on our network? Reliability of phone systems are vital, particularly in a sales or financial environment. Calls failing can cost you money. Find a supplier that ensures quality thresholds are met. Ideally problems should be fixed before you or your customers know about them.
  8. How can you help us cope if the infrastructure collapses? A business continuity plan, like LiveNumber, which allows individual DDIs to be diverted direct to mobiles or homes, ensures your lines keep ringing in event of PBX failure, staff not being able to get into the office, power or telephone line cuts. The business cost of the chaos caused by London’s snow in February was estimated at £3bn; every company needs a business continuity plan.
  9. What is your service level agreement on fixing call destination issues? Protel offers a 15 minute call fix guarantee. Ideally the call-fix should be built into your service level agreement and should be subject to a penalty fee if it is not met.
  10. Can you provide me with an on-demand analysis on trends? To budget correctly you need to know what you are spending and where. In-depth, immediate analysis allows you to capitalise on your quieter days of the month, your busiest call times and locations.
David Hamilton is chief executive of Protel, an independent telecoms company, created in 2001 and based in London.

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