Many business people head into a telecom negotiation or RFP without any formal training or a telecom consultant’s aid. They rely on the guidance they receive from carrier direct reps, i.e., the phone companies’ sales reps. That might not be the smartest thing to do because carrier reps will only tell you what they want you to hear.
Telecom agents are independent service providers who try to assist a client in all their telecom related needs. They don’t work for anyone phone company, therefore, their loyalty resides more with the clients. They have incentives to work in the best interest of the clients and fetch them best services for the best price in the industry.
There can be many ways in which a telecom consultant or an agent can help the business. These are categorized as follows:
The most crucial benefit of using a telecom consultant is his knowledge & expertise in the industry. You don’t have to get carried away by what the direct rep tells you when you don’t possess technical knowledge. Leave it in the hands of the experts and gain the following benefits:
If you outsource your IT, you should outsource your technology procurement as well. Many companies are utilizing IT consultants instead of placing the IT responsibilities on a less qualified employee or having a full time IT person on staff.
In the 90s and early 2000s, if you were selling telecom services, you dealt with a company’s IT person. Now, often you could be dealing with an office manager or administrator who really doesn’t know the technology. Why have someone whose area of expertise is not technology making telecom decisions? Call a telecom agent instead.
The agent can evaluate your company’s requirements and find you the most appropriate service at the best price.
Telecom contracts typically run 36 months. Even if your office manager is involved for the whole three years and has gained some expertise, everything has changed since then.
Expert telecom agents deal with technology on a daily basis and keep abreast of all the latest products and services.
When I started in telecom, the phone company was the only game in town, and it could afford to train its employees. I received eleven weeks of training at the phone company in Phoenix, AZ, and ten weeks at the phone company in San Diego. Today, that type of training is unheard of.
Salespeople learn on the job and have to lean on their sales engineers and manager. The trouble is, the inexperienced salespeople on a phone company sales team typically outnumber the experienced sales engineer and manager, so those people aren’t always available to guide the inexperienced reps.
However, Telecom agents have years of experience and will guide the customers better than the company reps.
You can acquire the best pricing for the most appropriate services, but if the installation of those services goes awry, you’re not going to be happy.
Many businesses are down on Voice over IP, for example. They complain about the call quality and dropped calls. However, it’s probably the wrong setup and not necessarily the wrong technology.
Telecom consulting firms employ project managers to oversee installations and make sure they go smoothly. They have back-office people that do nothing but implement and monitor telecom service installations. They’re former telephone company employees, so they have contacts inside the phone company to call to if something goes awry during the order process.
They don’t get paid until the services they sell are in and working and stop being paid the minute they’re removed. Some services require months on the books before they become profitable. It’s in the business’ best interest to get your services in smoothly and quickly. Therefore, approaching a telecom consultant ensures proper installation.
I’ve been a phone and cable company employee. I also worked for a few of their competitors. Those companies always had one product or service that was a disaster waiting to happen. It would be something outside of the company’s core competency, some service they were offering for the first time, or a market they wanted to break into.
The early purchasers would be “test” customers. The providers would offer heavy incentives to their sales force to get them to sell the services. Some salespeople would take the bait, and what would usually follow would be a disaster that included downed services and worse.
Telecom consultants work for their clients, not the providers. They determine the best solutions and steer their clients away from problematic products and services. They won’t sell a service they’re unsure of because they don’t want problems. Problems lead to cancellations, and cancellations mean lost revenue.
Have you ever spent an entire morning on the phone with the phone or cable company? Is there anything more frustrating or a bigger waste of your time? Imagine if you could make one short call to your telecom consultant and be done with it. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had someone on your side that follows through and remedy your situation? That’s one of the most important services an agent provides.
As it is a well-known fact, the direct reps work for the phone companies while the agents work for their clients, agents have the incentive to advocate client’s interest over the phone company’s. This works in the client’s favor in the following ways:
Carrier Direct Reps (Salespeople) don’t always act in your best interests. They are compensated by the amount you spend and continue to spend on your business telephone service, internet service, and networking services, like MPLS & SIP.
A carrier rep will not point out that only a certain amount of local calling is included with their integrated T1 or PRI service, for instance.
On the other hand, Agents act as customer’s advocate. Agents are more likely to look for ways to save you money because they need to show their value. Telecom consultants or agents work for their customers, not for carriers or phone companies. Their task is to find their clients the best solutions and pricing.
An agent only profits when a client retains a recommended solution. They’re paid a monthly residual commission, not a lump sum amount. If the client cancels the service, the agent’s commission payments will end as well.
The litmus test of the telecom industry is the Auto Renew Test. It’s one definitive test to determine which person, an agent or a carrier direct rep, is on your side. If you’ve been responsible for managing your company’s business internet services, ask yourself if a carrier rep ever made you aware of an auto-renew clause.
Let’s say you sign a three-year contract with an internet service provider. You’re unaware of the existence of an auto-renew that requires a cancellation notice to be submitted more than 60 days before renewal. Your contract is coming up, and you ask your carrier account rep for new pricing but fail to address the auto-renew. You start the process 90 days out, an amount of time that seems adequate. All your carrier rep has to do is drag out the process until the 60-day mark has passed and you’ve lost all your flexibility and leverage.
Telecom agents and consultants routinely alert their customers about the existence of auto-renews. Some include an auto-renew cancellation request in the contract packet at signing.
If you ask someone what options his or her company would have for business phone and internet service, that person will most likely answer with the local phone and cable companies’ names and maybe a wireless provider. But there are many others.
Maybe there’s a carrier, like TW Telecom, XO, or Integra, that’s offering attractive pricing for a T1 or PRI, but you’re unsure about their service. Most likely, an agent might have firsthand experience with the provider. Why pass on a good carrier and pricing because you just don’t know?
I helped two customers resolve their issues with the local cable company’s hosted VoIP service. The company I recommended is not well known; it doesn’t advertise; the only people who would know about the provider are telecom consultants and agents.
Comparison-shopping can be time-consuming. Contacting various providers and working through the quoting process can be exhausting. Typically, the business people saddled with the task have more immediate job responsibilities.
Those people will often limit their company’s choices simply because they don’t have the time to meet with representatives from all the possible phone and internet service providers. Telecom consultants can complete all the work for you; make one contact and get back to your day-to-day responsibilities.
You won’t have to conduct multiple meetings with multiple telecom companies and then deal with all the follow-up. You can continue to work with that same person in the future, saving you even more time.
Some carriers, CenturyLink, for instance, allow agents to channel integrate with direct reps. This puts your agent in all the meetings related to your account, offering a level of visibility you wouldn’t receive if you dealt directly with the carrier’s account team.
Apart from knowledge and expertise and customer service, the most crucial aspect of hiring a telecom consultant is the reduced costs. One of the critical elements to reduce costs is that agents deal with multiple providers and access more competitive pricing.
That’s why most entrenched carriers restrict agent involvement. A primary wireless provider won’t let its agents sell 4G. A major CLEC labels many large businesses as “named accounts” and restricts agent access to them. A large cable company refuses to adopt an agent program. As competition grows, these restrictions tend to disappear.
Even with such restrictions, there are many ways in which agents can help you save money:
The common misconception is that telecom consultants add to the cost of the services they sell. Wherein, the opposite is true. Carriers have many different price points – some are readily available, and some aren’t. The carrier’s pricing managers require documentation before they’ll release their most aggressive pricing. Who do you think has more access to carrier pricing, an agent – who can represent multiple companies or a direct rep – who works for one company?
If you’re working with a direct rep, that person is dependent on you for pricing examples to take back to his pricing department. As soon as you comply, you’ve shown your cards. All the carrier has to do is beat the other pricing by a small amount or use sales tactics to overcome pricing differences. On the other hand, telecom consultants have access to everyone’s pricing; the carriers understand that and act accordingly.
Once you determine which services you need, it’s essential to explore ways to bring down the cost of those services. The telecom industry is extremely competitive, and prices have dropped consistently, year after year.
If you’re paying over ten cents a minute for long-distance, $800 a month for a PRI, $500 a month for a T1, $80 a month for a POTS line, your pricing is obsolete. How did that happen? If you’re like most business professionals, you’re doing more work than ever.
Unless you’ve been assigned the task of reviewing your company’s pricing, you’re going to focus on the matters at hand. Meanwhile, your carrier account team will let sleeping dogs lie. Why would they make you aware of your outdated pricing? If you inquire, they’ll be responsive, but otherwise, they have no incentive to reduce your rates.
Even if you ask for a rate review, your account manager will only tell you what they want you to hear. Telecom agents or consultants work for you and have access to all the carriers’ available pricing. It’s like you have a mole planted inside your carrier’s facility.
It’s vital to re-price your existing business phone and internet services, but what current services could you do away with? Fax & modem lines, wire maintenance, phone features, ISP services, there are many possibilities. Some businesses have services that they aren’t using and don’t even know exist. It’s important to inventory and analyze your existing services and then formulate a plan of attack.
Telecom consultants speak phone company code. Universal Service Order Codes (USOC) were acronyms created by AT&T and still used today. Telecom consultants are typically former phone company employees and have received USOC training. They know the difference between legitimate phone company charges and 3rd party billing charges, which are almost always invalid. A telecom consultant can eliminate and help your business receive credits for these charges.
Many times, the amount you’re being charged for your business phone and internet services is more than the amount you contracted for. This is because certain promo codes are left off orders, or prices were negotiated on an Individual Case Basis but not appropriately ordered.
With taxes and surcharges, you expect to pay more than what you contracted, so businesses might not be diligent when analyzing their bills. Telecom consultants can analyze your bills and contracts to make sure the amounts jive. If you want to know more about taxes & surcharges, have a look at our dedicated post on 6 Surcharges You Might See on Your Business Phone Bill.
Telecom consultants can help you consolidate your billing, reduce the administrative costs of processing multiple bills, improve your existing services’ performance, so your employees can work faster and be more productive; and choke the performance of non-business related internet usage to discourage their use. Those are just a few examples of how a telecom consultant could help you reduce soft costs.
Voice over IP services are typically less expensive and a better fit for the business. Integrated or converged voice and data services are cheaper than separate circuits. MPLS can be cheaper than private lines, especially when a business requires any communication.
Hosted services are usually less expensive than the cost of purchasing equipment that could become obsolete. A telecom consultant can help you understand what’s possible and help you implement new technologies with minimal transitional difficulty.
With all of the abovementioned benefits of using a telecom agent, best services are ensured for your business, but you don’t pay more. With an agent, you receive expertise, customer service, product support, and project management; but you don’t pay extra for those.
Most times, the agents are hired on a commission basis by the carrier or the phone companies. The carriers get the benefit of entering into unexplored markets through the agent channels. Further, they are aware that the agent deals with multiple providers, so they offer the best pricing through the agents. With this kind of arrangement, most agents don’t charge the clients for their services.
The quality of service is better assured with agents because they earn commissions overtime and not upfront like direct reps. If a service is terminated, so is the agent’s commission. So they work in the best interest of the clients.
CarrierBid professionals have received weeks of training on telecom services and successful procurement practices. If you would like to experience the positive results and ease of working with a telecom consultant, contact CarrierBid Telecom Consulting services today.