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Leigh Merz presently serves as a Project Manager for Source One Management Services, LLC. In this position, she is involved directly in all aspects of strategic sourcing initiatives for clients, from project kickoff & data collection through implementation & continued management. Leigh is recognized consistently for her ability to deliver value...

Leigh Merz presently serves as a Project Manager for Source One Management Services, LLC. In this position, she is involved directly in all aspects of strategic sourcing initiatives for clients, from project kickoff & data collection through implementation & continued management. Leigh is recognized consistently for her ability to deliver value to clients regardless of their industry.

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The Legacy Telecom Disadvantage

How often can you find 80% savings in your telecom bills? When it comes to legacy services, more often than you’d think!

In all industries there are mergers and acquisitions: Telecommunications and Technology being one where M&As occur more frequently than most. These changes can have significant impacts on the products and services customers are purchasing in terms of the actual technology being offered and the prices they are paying for it.

 

I recently completed an audit for a customer in the healthcare industry where I was asked to review their telecommunications invoices and look for more cost effective solutions than their current voice services. The first thing I noticed was how high their bills were for basic voice services - almost 480% higher than normal industry standards! The customer had not really looked at their bills for years and simply continued to pay the same monthly charges thinking all was right as rain. Understandably, patients are the priority for them - not the cost of their phone service. For this specific customer, the technology they had in place was a legacy service where the underlying carrier had recently been bought by a global industry leader, who had subsequently developed more cost effective products offering the same functionality at a much lower price. Unfortunately, carriers do not always offer up the insight into technology changes and lower cost options when it is in their best interest to keep the higher price bills in effect.

Presented below are some quick tips for reviewing your telecom bills to determine if a change in service is viable, beneficial, or more cost effective:   

  • Recurring Charges: How long have you been paying the same price? Pricing changes are common with technology-driven services. If you have had the same price for 3-5 years and under multiple contract terms, it is time to take a look at the market with fresh eyes. There are always compelling reasons or special circumstances for contracting a fixed price for longer terms such as newly implemented networks and systems; but for basic voice services…I don’t think so.
  • Time Passed Since Last Going-to-Market: As mentioned, most telecom companies are continuing to develop new innovative ideas and upgrades to their technology; most likely within 3 years of their current technology. If you have the same service in place for more than 5 years, it is probably time to take a look. I know “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; but why not just get a feel for what is available and for a potentially lower cost? After all, it may be up to procurement to determine when something is ‘broke.’ 
  • Contract terms: When was the last time you looked at your contract? Do you (really) know what your current terms are? If you cannot answer these questions, chances are the answer is probably too long and you are month-to-month or under some ridiculous auto renewal clause. It is important to read the small print in your contract as you could be committing to an unrealistic term length with no out...unless of course you are planning to spend more money with the same supplier for an even longer term.

When we presented the opportunity assessment to our healthcare client, they were understandably shocked. We moved forward by leveraging the market-competitive offers to contract a new technology at almost one fifth of the current cost. The soft dollar costs of implementing the new service were eclipsed by the overall savings, making this a huge financial and technological success.

As I encourage you to review your bills more closely, let me add that the idea of tracking down wasted spend and going to market for legacy products and services is not limited to the telecom industry. It can be applied to any business commodity and begins with simply questioning the products and services you’re paying for. 

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Telecom Contracts: Know What You’re Paying For

Over the past few years, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been cracking down on unethical billing practices at major telecom carriers like Verizon and AT&T. This past October, Verizon paid as much as $64.2M in cash and phone credits to settle a class-action lawsuit for over-charging subscribers of their Family Plan[i].

The case against Verizon accused the telecommunications giant of charging Family Plan subscribers for “in-network” minutes that were supposed to be free, or charging customers with additional phones on the plan $0.45 per minute going over the allotted minute allowance (instead of the $0.25 that was charged to the primary phone on the plan).

The FTC also filed suit against AT&T for throttling data for unlimited data plan subscribers when they used over a specific amount of data during a billing cycle. They explained that AT&T failed to adequately inform customers who had signed up for the unlimited data plan that their speeds would be slowed if they used more than a certain amount of data. Even worse, “When customers canceled their contracts after being throttled, AT&T charged those customers early termination fees, which typically amount to hundreds of dollars,” the FTC said in a statement.[ii]

Telecom contracts aren’t designed to be easy to read and understand. As a result, customers frequently end up paying more than they should for their carrier’s services. While the cases of Verizon and AT&T are the result of dishonest billing practices, customers often fall victim to subpar contract terms and conditions, including overpaying or even paying for services they don’t actually need.

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