2018’s Seven Deadly Telecoms Sins

wrath is a deadly sinpride is a deadly sin

What has Changed in 5 Years?

Way back in 2013 we published a series of blogs about the seven deadly sins of telecoms. A lot has changed in that time, so we thought it was about time for a refresh.

Sloth – Take Time to Check the Contract

Before you sign any telecoms contract check the length of that contract and what happens at the end. Many less than scrupulous firms have conditions that say contracts are deemed to be 60 months. Small print that automatically renews unless you’ve given them considerable notice often accompanies these contracts too. Remember, if your business is less than 10 employees, OFCOM has ruled that rolling contracts are illegal. Don’t fall into the trap or let your supplier tell you otherwise!

Telecom costs, particularly for calls, tend to reduce over time. Locking yourself in long term is highly likely to cost you more in the long term. Also check the cost of cancellation, some companies will charge you the full balance of rentals and expected call volumes, whereas others will just charge a percentage of the rentals. One recent client was threatened with three and half years of charges if they tried to cancel their existing contract, this prohibited them from saving money. Finally problems sometimes occur so make sure you understand what the target response and fix times are.

Greed – Cheap Headline Tariffs Do not Always save you money

Many call tariffs look very attractive when advertised. However, behind the cheap tariff, there often lurks hidden dangers:

  • Are your call charges based on per second or per minute charges?
  • If per minute, are calls rounded up or down?
  • Is there a set-up charge for each call?
  • What types of numbers are included within any bundles?
  • What are the charges for premium numbers. such as 0844, 0845 and 0870?
  • How are international calls billed, and at what rate?

We see lots of contracts with hidden tariffs, so be careful.

Gluttony – Capped calls and Bundled Call Minutes

Capped call prices and free minutes appear to be a great deal. For residential customers where average call durations are longer this may be true, but the average business call in the UK is about 2 minutes. At this level, because many such deals have a high minimum charge, it is likely to cost you more than conventional call charges. Bundles do sound like a good deal, mostly because of that “just in case” scenario that pops into your head. The question is then: how often do you actually use anywhere close to what is in the bundle and what are the charges for excess calls? Contracts with set costs per second, whilst meaning your bill will vary each month, can often be cheaper. In the past year we have only found one customer that it was of benefit. Want us to check your bills?

Wrath – Can your Customers Reach You

All businesses want their customers to be able to contact them easily, but how many achieve it?

  • Do you know how many customers abandon their calls because of long answer times? According to Voice Response, Inc., about 34% of callers who hang up won’t call back, ever. Can you afford to lose these clients or prospects?
  • Do they call you regularly from their mobiles? If so, using 0800, 0844 and 0845 numbers can deter them from making that call. they can be expensive to make from a mobile phone. Don’t forget that you have to clearly display the costs of using these numbers in EVERY location you advertise the number. There is a heavy fine from Ofcom for those who don’t
  • Do you use press 1, press 2 to route calls, some customers will abandon the call when they hear that. Auto-routing can save you money on answering calls, but is there a cost attached?
  • Do you know what marketing is generating enquiries for you? Did you know you can put different numbers of each type of marketing, so you can accurately track what is generating your enquiry calls?
  • How can your customers get in touch if you cannot reach your office or shop due to bad weather or transport problems? In business continuity situations, how are your calls being routed to ensure they are being answered?

Using the right numbers and solution can solve all these problems, because if you don’t your customers will be calling your competitors. Are you confident your customers can reach you easily?

Pride – Review Regularly and Be Willing to Admit I could have got a better deal

Most business owners like to think they are good negotiators and think that they are on a good deal because it was a bit cheaper than the last one. However, the cost of telecoms have dropped dramatically in recent years and, like mortgages, there are always special deals available. Keeping track of the deals available is difficult. You want the best deals, so you are best off going to an expert. Let’s look at a few examples of how things have changed in the last 5 years and what they could mean to your telecoms costs:

  • As workforces are becoming more mobile, office based staff are becoming less as a result. Have you checked to see if you can reduce the number of connections to your premises as there are fewer calls being made? A recent survey showed 1 in 7 companies had more many lines than they needed.
  • Would you be better off just using mobiles? The cost of calls to and from mobiles has plummeted in the last five years, so it’s worth checking.

Lust – Signing Long term leases to get new technology and smart features

Many companies want to get all the latest features and think that the only way to avoid a high upfront cost by signing a long lease so they can afford it. However, telecoms technology changes about every 15 months, so signing a lease for five or more years could mean committing to regular expensive upgrades or consigning your organisation to working with obsolete technology. Also how many companies can accurately predict what size they will be in two years time let alone seven. They could be stuck paying for something that is far bigger than they need. Hosted solutions can give more flexibility without the long term commitment.

Envy – Buying features that you don’t need

It is often tempting when you hear a friend telling you about the deal they got or the new feature that enables them to work from home. It is tempting to think I must have that. However, many businesses do not stop to think “is there an even better way of using telecoms to improve my business that could enable me to leapfrog their competitor or find one more applicable to their business?”. Make sure all the options are evaluated before making a decision. Remember it is unlikely that one supplier has all the options.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our whistle-stop update.  If you have any questions, just shout. Our number is constantly attended Mon-Fri, 9 to 5.30, so you can be confident you can talk to us!

Seven Deadly Sins of Telecoms – Envy

Envy – buying features that you don’t need

envy

If a friend or neighbour gets a new gadget – be it the largest TV, smartest hi-fi or even a sports car – there’s part of us that wants it as well.  It’s only human nature.

Similarly when a friend or business contact tells you about the deal they got or the new telecoms feature that enables them to work from home or do video conferences on their laptop, it is tempting to think ‘my business must have that’.

However, businesses vary. The telecoms needs of an estate agent are very different to those of a school or a pharmaceutical company. So a solution that is beneficial to one is just a waste of money for others.

Suppliers are always willing to push new, whizzy features – at a cost, of course – but often with so-called benefits that cannot be substantiated.  Similarly, many business owners do not stop to think whether there’s better way of using telecoms to improve their business and help them leapfrog the competition.

So rather than just getting something because someone else has it, make sure you evaluate all the options before making a decision. And remember it is unlikely that one supplier will have all the answers.

We offer free independent advice, so if you are not sure which is the right approach for your business call us on 020 8912 0845.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Telecoms – Lust

lust

Phone manufacturers are always tempting customers with new features as a means of upgrading their systems, or encouraging them to buy more than they need.  Such as the latest video phones, collaboration systems or presence.  Whilst these can all be useful they do not benefit everyone. 

But lots of people like shiny new toys –  just think how many get an upgrade everytime Apple brings out a new iPhone.  But phone systems cost a lot more than one handset does. Therefore when companies want to get all the latest features they often think that the only way to afford this and to avoid a high upfront cost is to sign a long lease.

Leasing can create a number of problems and so should be used with care.  Some keys points to consider are:

1. Is the lease for hire or purchase?  We met a number of organisations who thought that they would own the equipment at the end of the lease. Only to find that they had paid for a system several times over but did not own it and yet still had to keep on paying.

2. What is the length of the lease?  Telecoms technology changes about every 15 months. Signing a lease for five or more years could mean committing to regular expensive upgrades or consigning your organisation to working with obsolete technology.

3. What is included in the lease? We have seen announcement recordings, training etc included in a lease yet these have no ongoing value to the lease company should the payments be stopped.

4. Check the actual purchase price of the equipment and compare it with the total cost of the lease.  The interest rate should also be shown in the terms.  There have been cases of suppliers inflating the purchase price 6 or 7 times.   Three directors of a company called Business Telecoms were sent to jail in 2011 for conning  small businesses, charities and schools out of hundreds of thousands of pounds http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-13214888

5. We have also seen some companies try to pass off old equipment in the form of a lease.  Read more in our blog on how charities are being scammed. https://www.equinoxcomms.co.ukcharities-being-ripped-off/

This is not to say that leases cannot be good value. For instance they can be worthwhile sometimes, particularly if there is a genuine 0% or very low interest rate.  But they are only a good deal if the businesses genuinely needs those features and if they will help the company.

If you need some advice then please contact us on 020 8912 0845.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Telecoms – Pride

pride

 

Most business owners like to think they are good negotiators. They think they are onto a good deal because it was a bit cheaper than the last one.  Many business owners are a bit too proud to admit that someone else could negotiate a better deal than they can.

Unfortunately many suppliers use misleading comparison making claims such as ‘on average 59% cheaper than BT’.   More often than not they are comparing their offer with the official BT price list, which bears little relation to what actual offers BT are making.

Alternatively, they may just compare some prices and not look at the whole package. Another favourite is to make the headline comparison look good, but not admit to the fact there are hidden charges such as call set up fees or minimum prices.

The cost of telecoms has dropped dramatically in recent years and, as with mortgages, there are always special deals available. As brokers we know the real cost of everything and all the dirty tricks that can be played.  Hence we can ensure that our clients get a genuinely good deal with no hidden surprises

If you would like us to review your costs for free and benchmark them against the major suppliers call us on 020 8912 0845.

Seven Deadly Sins Of Telecoms – Wrath

wrath

Wrath – Are You Annoying Your Customers?

Customer satisfaction is the key to the long-term success of all business. One of the easiest ways to annoy and frustrate your customers is to make it difficult for them to contact you. Despite the growth of the web, text chat and email many people still prefer to speak to someone if they have a question or, even more so, if they want to make a complaint.

Some companies don’t even provide a contact number on their web sites. This is usually done to save having to staff a help desk or contact centre. It’s all about saving money; that says a lot about their commitment to their customers.

Assuming you do provide a number, is it the right one for them? Do they call you regularly from their mobiles? If so using 0800 or 0845 numbers can deter them from making the call as these numbers are expensive. Even worse, do you profiteer by using 0844 or 0871 numbers? Companies supplying residential customers can no longer use these for post sales support

Once your customer has made the call, how easy do you make for them to talk to someone? Do you use options such as ‘press 1’, ‘press 2’ etc. to route calls to various departments? If so, did you know that this will cause some customers to abandon the call? At best they’ll get irritated at having to listen to a number of options only to end up being told to go to the web site. It is interesting to note that First Direct, which always scores highly on customer service surveys, does not use this method. Instead it routes every call to a real person.

Do you even know how many customers abandon their calls because of long answer times? As a general rule, people start to get irritated after only 10 seconds or 4 rings. That could result in losing a customer forever. As could the fact that you have chosen to invest in messages stressing how important their call is to you, rather than putting the money into systems that will route calls directly to a real person.

Finally do you have a plan to enable your customers get in touch if you cannot get to your office or shop due to bad weather or transport problems. Lack of such planning can also lead to frustrated customers and lost orders.

In summary, it should be easy for customers to reach you at zero or little cost to them. You should measure your answering speed.  Using the right numbers and solutions can solve all these problems.  If you don’t sort them out your customers will be calling your competitors. An easy way to check the experience is to call your own company posing as a customer – that can tell you a lot.

If you are struggling in any of these areas and would like some free advice contact Equinox on 0208 912 0845

The Seven Deadly Sins of Telecom – Gluttony

Gluttony – Capped calls and Bundled Call Minutes can be a false economy

“All you can eat” restaurants and “all inclusive” holidays often appear attractive. However have you ever stopped to think that if it is that good a deal, then how is the supplier making money? The basic principle is that they are relying on 90% of customers not consuming the full amount or not taking advantage of all that’s on offer.

It is no surprise that many businesses also believe that capped call prices and inclusive bundles appear to be a great deal.  For residential customers, where average call durations are longer, this may be true. However, the average business call in the UK is only about 2 minutes.

Capped call deals usually have a high minimum charge, so unless your average call duration is four times the national average it is likely to cost you more than conventional call charges. Most people have a perception that they speak for longer than they actually do.  Also remember, that out of every two calls you make, one is likely to go to voicemail. We recently moved an Estate agent from capped calls to paying for actual usage and their annual bill fell by £15,000 or 50%.

Similarly, bundled call deals such as 500 minutes for £8 a month sounds like a bargain. But only if you make close to 500 minutes of calls every month of the year.   With summer and Christmas breaks, these are effectively half months.   Not using all the minutes can dramatically raise the actual cost of each call. Also, if you are over the call limit then the cost per minute rises dramatically.

It is therefore essential to undertake a detailed analysis of your invoices to see on which calls these special deals will actually be of benefit. Many companies push these offers without checking that they are right for the customer. One client of ours saved over £3,000 per annum by moving back to paying for actual calls.

The same is true of unlimited calls and texts for mobiles. Most users vastly overestimate their actual usage. Many clients we review are better off on lower tariffs with usage caps which they so not exceed.

In the past year we have only found one customer who benefited from this type of package. Before you choose, contact us for clear advice on 020 8912 0845.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Telecom – Greed

Cheap headline tariffs do not always save you money

greed

With many of the things you buy, the advertised price is not what you end up paying. We are all familiar with ‘from/to” pricing and know that the model we usually need is bound to be in the most expensive bracket, the ‘to’ bit. The same thing applies when selecting the provider for fixed or mobile telecom services; the advertised price is only the beginning.

With landlines in particular, call tariffs often look very attractive when advertised. However behind the cheap tariffs lurk hidden dangers. So always ask the following questions: –

1. Are call charges billed per second or per minute? The latter can add up to 20% to your bill.

2. To how many decimal places are calls billed or are they rounded up? Again the latter could increase the bill by 10%.

3. Get a full list of all call prices. Cheap calls to UK landlines and mobiles may be offset by higher prices to 0844, 0845 and 0870 numbers and to international destinations, if you make that type of call.

Also watch out for longer term deals whereby line rentals are cheaper or free. This means you are fixing your call prices for that period. Call costs generally fall, so saving a bit of money on line rentals may cost you more in the long term. The cost of calling mobiles from landlines has fallen almost 50% in the past 5 years, a long term deal would have prevented customers from benefiting from these.

With mobiles there are many low price deals, but check the cost of calls outside the inclusive destinations. Also ask what are the costs if you exceed the allowances and, even more so, roaming prices.

As always it is important to check anything before you sign it. We ensure the deals we negotiate for our clients are without any hidden nasty extras.

To read more of the 7 deadly sins of telecoms download the free guide https://www.equinoxcomms.co.uk7-deadly-sins/

 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Telecoms – Sloth

slothSloth – Don’t be slothful – take time to check the contract

How many people take the time to read the small print before they sign a Telecoms contract? Everyone is busy these days and, after all, what can go wrong? In our experience a lot. Obviously much of the wording is legal jargon and has to be there, but one way round is to ask these specific questions and get a response in writing confirming that they apply to your contract.

1. How long is the contract for? A favourite trick is to leave the minimum term option box blank, with small print saying ‘if blank the contract is deemed to be 60 months’. Watch out for this and never lock yourself in long term. Some companies including BT have been known to have different durations for the lines themselves and the calls

2. What is the notice period? If you employ less than 10 people then automatic rollover contracts are illegal. But some companies try to get round it with opt out clauses. Some companies have 3-year notice periods, so effectively you have to give notice the day the contract starts.

3. How are penalties calculated if you do cancel? Watch out for any that want to charge remaining rentals in full and calls you would have made. This breaches Ofcom guidance. The best will charge 20% of remaining line rentals. Obviously if you have received a benefit eg free installation for a long term commitment and you cancel early it is reasonable this should be repaid

4. Have you got a full list of the call tariffs and terms and conditions? You should have but some companies just refer you to their website. Ask for a copy to be sent to you and state any changes must be sent to in full with the right to opt out.

5. Do you have a right to cancel if they raise their prices?

A little effort can save a lot of pain later. As brokers we ensure our clients only enter fair and reasonable contracts. We have also helped some clients get out of difficult contracts.

“Dave helped us when we had just about accepted that we were going to be stuck with an extortionate 5 year telecom contract (to the cost £10,000+) which we had unknowingly signed up for. We had realised we were being fleeced when the bills increased massively overnight. We spent the next 8 months trying to negotiate with our provider, who insisted that the contract was binding despite our argument that it was totally mis-sold. We had legal advice but no one was willing to help. Just when we were about to admit defeat we tweeted “can anyone help us with a telecom contract problem please”?

Dave replied straight away and has since sorted it all out for us. He spoke to our provider directly, had meetings with the customer service bosses, generally “kicked butt!” with the result that we are now on a 1year contract with massively reduced charges and have received a £700 refund. When the end of our one-year term approaches we will definitely contact Dave.

I would highly recommend anyone who is considering changing provider, or signing a new contract, to contact Dave first. He really does know what he’s talking about and will probably save you a lot of stress and money! We are eternally grateful for his help. He was never judgmental, always pleasant, kept us informed at every step and helped us out of what we had thought was an impossible situation.

Thanks so much.”

Eli Taylor

Callow Top

 

To read more of ‘The 7 Deadly Sins of Telecoms’ download the free guide https://www.equinoxcomms.co.uk7-deadly-sins/