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Your phone company is a critical part of most business operations, especially as your business grows. They typically provide your phone lines, internet connection and access, or both.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at this from the perspective of phone services, which may be in the form of analog, digital, or VoIP phone systems.
The world of voice and data are rapidly becoming one and the same, so this can itself be a little confusing. Also known as a dial tone provider, carrier, LEC, or ISP, the service that phone companies provide is how most of us:
- Communicate through desk phones or cell phones
- Banking online or through mobile apps
- Order materials for our business
- Provide customer service to our customers
- Perform many other vital daily tasks
We depend on phone companies to provide stable and reliable office phone systems at a reasonable cost, right? Thankfully, often this works just the way we want. But, unfortunately, sometimes we as consumers must find ways to get to that happy place.
Why Consider Changing My Phone Company?
Generally, if a phone company is unreliable or has poor quality, there is a problem that needs to be solved, which is the primary concern. Value, trust, and customer service are essential, of course, but this stuff has got to work!
So, when this question comes from our customers, the answer is as simple as “Absolutely, maybe, maybe not.” Here are some things to consider:
- Are you happy with the quality or reliability of the service you have with your current phone company or provider?
- Do you think that you have the right phone services for your needs? Too much? Not enough?
- Do you think you are paying too much for the services that you have?
- Do you know if you are under contract with your current provider?
Depending on your situation, just one of these questions may lead to your answer and final decision.
If your phones work well, which they should – you should pay a fair price for the services that you need. Services (such as VoIP services) should be configured to your business requirements. But at the same time, you don’t want to be stuck paying for extra services you don’t need.
Extra services could equal more commissions for your sales agent but not more capability for you. And the one that is often forgotten: are you under contract? Be aware of your obligations under contracts that may be in effect.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these considerations.
Be Happy With Your Phone Company
Are you happy (or unhappy) with the quality or reliability of the phone services that you have with your existing phone provider? Often, I go to this question because it helps me gain insight into the confidence and satisfaction the client has with the service provider.
Honestly, I usually expect a customer to tell me how bad the service is and that they want something better. It is the primary reason for a customer to start looking for something new.
Keep in mind that learning bad news is sometimes a good thing for all service businesses. If you deliver great service (without overcharging), customers typically will not look elsewhere. An unhappy customer needs no further motivation to change.
Having The Right Stuff Is Important
We have seen over the years that the larger an account is and the longer a customer has used the same provider, the higher the odds are that they may be paying for things they don’t need.
In some cases, this is due to changes at the customer’s business, and often phone services are an “Out-of-sight, Out-of-mind” kind of thing. Unfortunately, when you quit using a particular line or resource, your service provider may know nothing about it.
Some companies go years paying monthly charges on a service that is never used! In other cases, we have seen services being billed that appear to have been unnecessarily over-configured, possibly to help pad a salesperson quota or commission at your expense.
Periodic audits of your services and capacities are a must for any business that wants to control expenses.
Paying a Fair Price For Office Phone Systems
If the customer says the service has been good, but wonder if they are getting a good deal or not, I tell them that the quality of the service is the highest priority. However, I also state that paying a fair price for these services is very important as well.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to choose between these priorities. In most cases, there is a strong sense of competition, especially so as the potential size of an account is more substantial.
If you have been with the same phone company for years, there is a good chance you could save money with another service provider. If you are satisfied with the service you are receiving, you can use this knowledge to leverage a better deal. Doing so allows you to possibly get the best of both worlds – the same great service and a better price.
If you can negotiate this successfully, you can skip the inconvenience and unknowns of changing over to a new provider.
Contract, What Contract?
So, this is the scary one, and most don’t even know to be afraid.
For the most part, everyone expects to sign a contract for new phone or data services. This is typically going to be a one, two, or three-year agreement – sometimes longer.
Most providers offer specific pricing incentives as the length of your contract increases—sounds fair enough, right?
In special circumstances where the provider is making a large investment to deliver new services because the required infrastructure is not in place requires a mandatory length of contract or a large, one-time fee. So, they may recover what could be thousands of dollars building out the facilities.
While unpleasant, this is not unusual. These scenarios are all common and you know upfront what you are committing to. The danger lurking behind the scenes is that many contracts have auto-renew.
We have found many examples of contracts that have run the full term; the customer finds something new and better only to discover that the existing provider has “auto-renewed” a multi-year contract.
In some cases, a notification was through email which stated to the customer, “If you do not reply to this notice, it is considered an agreement to renew.”
Really, can this be legal? You may be left having to make a choice between just living with it, paying a large cancellation fee, or hiring an attorney to fight them to be let out of the contract.
Contracts with your service providers must be monitored and proactively policed when nearing the end of your term. However, this is not to say that all sales or account reps from the service providers are out to rip you off. There are many reputable professionals out there who want to help their clients and maintain good relationships.
You Have Choices When It Comes To a Phone Company
Life is full of choices, and the world of business communications is no different. The best thing is to get educated on these choices by having a plan based on your business needs.
Do you want to do this yourself? Maybe. While phone service is not the most complicated thing in business, it is evolving. If you aren’t sure about investing the time and energy to get up to speed, it may be wise to have a little experienced help.
I have known many customers who have become very well versed in the terms and technology of business and unified communications. This makes them excellent managers of their services and well-versed in billing. These people are a great value to any business. But due to a variety of reasons, they just don’t exist in every organization.
If you are not experienced in phone company matters, the other choice is working with a trained professional. Often your business phone system or IT vendor has experts that can assist you.
Additionally, if necessary, there are independent telecom and IT consultants that can be hired. Most importantly, it is wise to have either an internal or known resource to manage your phone company services, reviews, and changes.
The Final Say on Phone Companies: Awareness and Knowledge Are Key
The primary purpose of this article is to make business owners and managers aware of some key things to consider when changing phone companies. Awareness allows you the ability to either gain the knowledge needed or call on a trusted resource to share that knowledge with you.
Having the right services, paying a fair price, and keeping your systems up and running is the goal. You should never want to leave these business-critical services to chance. Being able to properly evaluate, engineer, negotiate and manage your business communications pays off for years to come.
Should you change your phone company? Consider the factors discussed that support making an informed decision. Or, reach out to us for more information on office technology solutions.