AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile Business Cell Phone Service is not easy to manage. Here are a few tips on wireless expense management from an expert. This is a guest post by Moe Arnaiz one of the foremost authorities on business cell phone services of AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.
1) Every carrier claims to be the best in their space; AT&T pumps up their worldwide footprint boasting coverage in a fictitious combination of areas such as “works in philowarepraugacago,” Verizon has you covered with their “It’s the Network” campaign and Sprint can get you there faster with “Sprint Speed”. The bottom line is that the Big 3 (Sprint, Verizon, AT&T) all have comparable solutions. The biggest difference in the Big 3 is simply the way they’re marketed to the YOU, the end user. So throw out your brand loyalty and make a decision based on what fits the needs of your enterprise – after all, next month the carrier you hate may acquire the carrier you love.
- You want high-speed internet, you may think “Sprint Speed”, but Verizon has similar speeds on the same Rev-A technology as Sprint.
- How about getting your email on your Blackberry while on a business trip in Hong Kong, probably think you need AT&T, but the fact is Verizon and Sprint can deliver on that promise as well.
2) The infamous cellular plan; all of us have been burned by them, many of us know someone that has a better one, and they always cost more than we expect. The fact of the matter is by the time you select your perfect plan a new and better one is available. As cellular evolves the costs for the service declines, but wait a minute -- that doesn’t mean that your costs for the service decline.
In a perfect world your carrier would always make sure that you were on the best offering available, but in a cellular world your offer is only as good as what you signed up for. If you are committed to managing your company’s cellular account the "right way" it's necessary to review your account on a monthly basis and reference your plan with the existing carrier offerings to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck. Recently carriers have been encouraged by various lawsuits to refrain from renewing contract terms and charging early termination penalties when making plan changes. Now you have no excuse! You should always have everybody on the best plan.
3) End user plan compatibility; the only thing that can hurt your company’s pocket book more than a bad plan is a plan that doesn’t meet the needs of an end user. It's important that every plan is selected for the person that's using it. For example an unlimited text messaging plan is a complete waste of money for a person not using the feature, but for the person using text messaging it can save hundreds of dollars in unnecessary per message charges. The more users you have, the more complicated it can become to juggle this recurring task, but neglecting it wont make it go away; instead it will surely produce an astronomical invoice.
4) Feature Blocking; all the carriers have the ability to block unwanted features such as text messaging, web, voice calls, etc., but few advertise it to their customer base as it reduces revenue and hurts the carriers bottom line. It is always recommended to block the cellular features you don’t want an employee to access, don’t leave it up to them to make the call, rather go the most cost efficient and management friendly route and make it for them.
5) The equipment subsidy; many carriers lure business customers into 2-3yr contracts with enticing equipment subsidies. Is this a bad thing? Not always, the bottom line is signing a contract allows the carriers to lock in future revenue and give upfront plan and equipment subsidies that can reduce the cost to implement a solution for your company. The best advice to follow while negotiating this aspect of a cellular deal is to only extend the term when you receive more subsidies.
6) Billing; “nobody is perfect”… The carriers take this phrase straight to the bank. Cellular billing errors can occur on a monthly basis. They can stem from many different places. For example you called that rep at AT&T and told them to add data to your bosses new Blackberry, but little did you know it wasn’t added correctly. Your next bill arrives and he's been charged $600 in data charges (i.e. many unhappy iPHONE customers). Or maybe the rep didn’t set it to take effect until the beginning of your next billing cycle, but your boss started using it right away and the charges started piling up. Billing errors like this are common at cellular companies as are their empty promises of making sure that they won’t happen again.
7) Carrier reps; have you ever been promised the world by a carrier rep and then received a solution that didn’t quite work out as promised? Remember, they represent the carrier. They may promise to have the best of the best and may get it to you at an amazingly low price and though they may even deliver on that promise the stats of unhappy customers show that in many cases the promises aren’t being kept.
Look to source from multiple channels (agents, business mvno's, direct sales) or seek a company that specializes in cellular from a carrier agnostic perspective. Ask lots of questions such as…why this carrier, why this solution, how are you compensated, why should I work with you over the next guy, how is my post rollout support, if you leave who helps me, etc. Remember the easy part is making the decision on what to buy – the hard part is getting support after the rep that closed your deal has been paid a big commission! Make sure you make a relationship with somebody that benefits from you paying your bill every month and isn’t just motivated by the first order.
8) Customer care; lol!!! This is almost an oxymoron in cellular unless you are an enterprise like GM or FORD. Odds are you’ve had your account team change every 3-6 months, that is if you’re lucky enough to have an account team, and if they aren’t available or you don’t have one and need to resolve an issue you call an 800 number, you then pray that the person is competent…oh wait they’re not... call again. After a few hours on the phone and countless transfers your issue is finally resolved only to get your next bill and find out that the charge that rep said was reversed – wasn’t. TRY AGAIN… and so the game goes.
While it is easy to place the blame on the carrier here, how many resources can the carrier really assign to an account? The answer is not many. So while they may tell you that poor customer service “is a known issue and it is being worked on”, don’t hold your breath – until you are billing enough to justify a 5 person account team you will continue to be transferred to the same person that is trained to help little Timmy trouble shoot the 50 Cent song he downloaded on his RAZR 2.
How do you avoid this headache? Luckily there are companies out there that bridge the gap of the customer’s needs and the carrier inability to meet them through cellular managed services programs. In the long run it makes sense to pay a marginal fee and ensure that your problems are fixed by an expert. With a wireless expense management company you will see an instant ROI on time, money and your cellular solutions performance.
9) The carrier transition; this process has become easier over the past couple of years with WLNP (Wireless Local Number Portability) allowing users to keep their existing phone number when swapping carriers. But, depending on the size of your account transitioning cellular companies can be a logistical nightmare. Make sure that you are working with someone that has a proven track record of executing this process seamlessly. Ask for referrals of past customers comparable to your size that have transitioned through them and call them for feedback.
Make sure that you find out about all known transitioning issues before you start the process. That will enable you to prepare and plan for them prior to the implementation. Most importantly have adequate time to control potential challenges. The best time to make a transition is on a Sunday morning, generally the least important time for a business to need cellular connectivity. If an issue occurs it gives you 24 hours to work on resolution before the work week starts and the heat gets turned up a few notches.
The last thing you want is for your CEO to be without email while he is off at that big meeting trying to close the deal of the year for your company.
10) Procurement; naturally your implementation of mobile solutions has made your business more productive. Now you need to order new devices and grow your account. Make sure that you order from a consistent source, spreading orders across multiple vehicles such as stores, online and B-to-B reps can result in a cellular account that is in disarray. Make sure that you are ordering from people that actually look at what you need and make recommendations accordingly rather than based off of commission payouts. The best way to ensure that this is happening is to do a monthly bill audit, look for how many minutes you are paying for vs. how many you actually used. Look for features end users aren’t using. Look for new plans that can lower your overall costs. This can be a painstaking process, but it is an essential piece to any well managed cellular account.
Now with this quick crash course in business cell phone service you now have some common knowledge about the industry, how it works and what to expect. So you can take a deep breath, rub your eyes and figure out how you are going to cleverly put this responsibility on someone else’s plate. Good luck!