Total Cost of Telecom

Telecom is often viewed as time consuming and frustrating. This perception is spot-on if you don’t have the knowledge to combat potential Telecom Time Wasters. Companies often merge traditional ‘IT’ and ‘telecom’, which forces IT support professionals to absorb “telecom” duties into their already busy schedules. At first glance, “IT” and “telecom” look similar by design. However, they are quite different. So, how do IT support teams learn to maneuver within the telecom industry without losing valuable time? Simple. Keep reading the 5 Telecom Time Wasters and learn how to save time and productivity in your Telecom Environment.

Telecom Time Wasters – #1 Repair and Maintenance

There is no greater pressure for IT than an outage. An internal outage is painful, but even worse is the outage that occurs at the vendor or carrier level. You can expect long hold times, lack of proactive updates, and reduced maintenance staff to address the problems in a timely manner. Small telecom outages may take 4+ hours of your undivided attention. Large outage can take 8-10+ hours with trouble-shooting, tech appointments, equipment testing, etc.

Best way to avoid lost time? Online ticketing and live chat. Both methods give live updates from the vendor or carrier while allowing IT staff to multitask.

Telecom Time Wasters -#2 Billing

FUSF, E911, State taxes, Federal taxes, City taxes, PICC fees, contractual rates and charges… Which are applicable on your bill? How do you know if your bill is accurate? Around 60% of all telecom bills have some kind of error on them, MONTHLY. On average, errors of around 3-15% are found on a standard audit. If errors are found, better block out a good chunk of time to get them resolved. Plan on 1) an initial call and information intake 2) another call as the issue is passed on to the correct team for processing 3) yet another call to follow up on the first two calls 4) one more call after that to confirm resolution. Add into the equation standard call center hold times for each interaction and you are looking at quite a time commitment.

Best way to avoid lost time? Once again, online ticketing is the best way to go if you handle these issues in-house. If you want to remove this complicated activity from your plate altogether, there are many resources that can handle this issue for you.

Telecom Time Wasters – #3 Contract Negotiation

Contracts are a pain to negotiate even when you understand the telecom billing terminology and language. Telecom contracts contain passages that make no sense to anyone but the carrier and the highly experienced expert. Understanding how each section protects, or could potentially hurt your business is not a simple task. Once it is negotiated, there is a whole new adventure validating that everything from the negotiation is actually IN contract.

Best way to avoid lost time? Have an independent resource review your contracts. They are often cheaper than hiring a lawyer specializing in corporate technology documents. They can also make additional recommendations regarding the best way to leverage your contracts.

Telecom Time Wasters – #4 Order Negotiation

Once the contracts are approved, you have to deal with the order process surrounding the changes resulting from the new contract. This may be anything from a simple upgrade to a full network migration. In essence, this means lots and lots of time spent making things happen. Order outlines, planning, specifics, communication, process, timelines, meetings, implementation, testing and review are just a few of the action items that have to happen with any telecom order. Experience and exposure to the process, or lack thereof, can make or break any project plan.

Best way to avoid lost time? Get a commitment to resources from your provider. They are the experts. Let them do what they do – support telecom. Have a detailed, well mapped out communication and implementation plan done – in writing. Set task reminders for milestone commitments and hold them to those timelines. If the scope of the project is larger than what you would like to take on yourself, there are resources that specialize in handling these types of changes for you.

Telecom Time Wasters – #5 Lack of Accessible, Knowledgeable Resources

Let’s face it – in this day and age of limited resources, accessible and knowledgeable support is hard to come by. The telecom industry is understaffed with people who can translate the ‘telecom language’. It’s nearly impossible to get in contact with someone regarding your issue on the first attempt.

Best way to avoid lost time? Cross your fingers. If you do not have a dedicated carrier representative assigned to your business you are just going to have to deal with it. Remember, live chat can be a bit better with faster response times.

At the end of the day, the need for communication and technology is no longer optional, it is essential.  When companies merge ‘telecom’ into traditional ‘IT’, valuable time is taken away from strategic IT initiatives and pushed into merged job duties. What can we learn from these 5 Telecom Time Wasters? That an outside, knowledgeable, customer-focused resource is essential to be the most productive in the ever-complicated world of telecom.

It would be natural to assume that contingency-based fee models offer the most cost effective and the fairest way to charge customers for services.  After all, who wants to pay for something they’re not 100% sure they are going to receive?  If someone is offering you a solution that you only need to pay for if it’s successful, who would say no?  Contingency fee structures are intended to be win-win:  if you don’t get what you want, you don’t pay.  In many circumstances, this model is successful, but when dealing with Telecom expense management companies, be weary if something sounds a little too good to be true.

Telecom expense management (TEM) firms provide a very necessary and valuable service, but most of them only address the expense management aspect of the telecom ecosystem. Getting a handle on expenses and how to manage them can unequivocally produce cost savings throughout the organization.  TEM, however, only cleans up the messy bits that bubble to the surface, leaving the emanating source of the problem untouched.  Because, however, contingency-based TEM does produce perceived cost savings, its existence is financially justified and encouraged to continue.  It does not dig into the root cause of the problem; it doesn’t lead to viable optimization strategy through complete telecom management.  TEM companies that offer only expense management provide a valuable service on the front end, but fail to optimize the source creating out of control telecom expense management.  TEM companies find that their entire purpose revolves around relying on these problems that continue to produce disarray on the backend that justify their existence.  This unfortunate merry-go-round of telecom management can become a nightmare when the perceived solution exists only because a conflict of interest drives behaviors that are not in the customer’s best interest.

Let’s break this down with a generic example.

A large Retail Chain hires Vendor A for agency and implementation of broadband network connections into various store locations, but not to perform TEM work.  Vendor B, also brought into the same organization, is hired to ensure optimized plans and to perform basic TEM.  Vendor B charges client via contingency, as they are incented to find and correct errors made by Vendor A, thereby making more and more money.  Vendor A’s less than accurate work resulted in approximately 30% of the orders having the wrong billing rates.  Although Vendor B caught the errors and fixed them, they of course then billed the client a 40% fee, resulting in large payments for correcting errors that should not have existed in the first place.  The two vendors are disjointed and in their own silos, creating a persistent problem for the Retail Chain.

In the above example, both Vendor A and B could likely enjoy a very lengthy relationship with the client, based solely on the reality that Vendor A is going to continue making errors on the order entry side.  While it may very well be unintentional, this type of situation, while all too common, cannot expose the fundamental problems preventing ecosystem optimization.  The only real solution is to inject control and accountability into each step of the value chain, eliminate any conflict of interest, and focus on a holistic goal, such as lowering an organization’s total cost of telecom (TCT™). Additionally, modeling each fee structure with fixed fees is the only way to ensure conflicts of interest are completely expunged from the process, and that each vendor is held accountable for results. Expense management, even while producing attractive cost savings, absolutely cannot bring an organization any closer to overall optimized  telecom management.

When a TEM provider promises a ‘risk-free’ solution by only charging a percentage of the actual savings, break down exactly how they intend to achieve this.  The impression of ‘all gain, no risk’ is an illusion that bases its purpose in the collapse of other areas within a telecom environment.   However, in a large percentage of cases, savings are created or captured in ways that do not look out for the best interest of your organization. Eliminate the need for multiple solution providers that, in the end, lead you back to where you started: a sub-optimized telecom environment. By taking a more holistic approach to telecom management, you can achieve overall cost control and process integration, leading to a lower TCT™ per employee.  If your organization would like to better understand TCT™ in relation to TEM, contact  Renodis for a Telecom Assessment.