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Posted by on in Silver Lining Telecom
Doing the Budget Boogie?

Recently, I was talking to a friend and colleague who was stressed out because he was working on budgets for next year.He’s an IT/Telecom executive at a large corporation, and he was under pressure to reduce expenses but didn’t know where he could realistically make cuts without compromising vital services or projects.As we talked, it became clear that he felt he had no choice but to simply show projected reductions in hardware, software and ongoing telecom expenses that may or may not happen and then simply hope for the best outcome next year.

We joked about him doing the “Budget Boogie” as I told him that his approach reminded me of the lyric to a song by a band we both like named Little Feat.The song’s title is “Old Folks Boogie,” and the lyric goes like this, “And you know that you're over the hill when your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill.” 

Normally, I would have offered to help since my company specializes in reducing Telecom spending, but we had recently completed a project for his firm and knew there wasn't much room for further reductions. I did give him some “pointers” that would help to further manage the company's wireless expenses, but I knew these would result in relatively small additional savings.

Now, with this being that time of year for finalizing annual budgets, I'm wondering how many other managers and executives are out there dealing with the same type of concerns and pressures and doing their own version of the “Budget Boogie?”  I’d like to know if you or others you know have found yourselves in this situation.  Of course, my firm would be “Willin” to help in any way possible.

 

 

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Posted by on in Silver Lining Telecom
A Horror Story

THE PERFECT STORM

We recently worked on a Telecom Expense Management and cost reduction project for a client that was having significant problems with one of the major carriers.  The problems centered on billing and implementation issues that, frustratingly for the client, had been going on for over 2 years.  They were at their wits end and asked if we could help.  As we dug into the background of this situation here’s what we found:

  • The original contract was poorly written and even more poorly negotiated by someone inexperienced in the details and nuances of telecom carrier agreements.  As an example, it included a Minimum Annual Revenue Commitment that was almost 100% of the then current spending.  Also, the rates were significantly above market for that point in time.  While it looked like they would be saving money because the new rates were lower than their previous rates, they left a lot of money “on the table”.
  • Implementation of the contract required a migration of services from other carriers.  No ramp up provisions were included and there were no meaningful (i.e. with remedies) implementation SLA’s. 
  • The carrier Account Team was inexperienced and either inept, indifferent or both.  As a result, the client got little or no helpful support or problem resolution.
  • This “The Perfect Storm” of bad circumstances for the customer led to the following results:
  • Because the spending commitment was too high and the implementation took too long they were in underutilization default within the first 6 months of the agreement.  Rather than the carrier admitting that they had knowingly over-committed this customer, the carrier’s solution was to reduce the underutilization penalty and add a year to the contract term! This is almost never the right solution in this type of situation as it merely extends and compounds the problems.
  • The migration nightmare not only meant interruptions in service but also resulted in almost all of the services being put on the wrong contract rates or wrong billing platform i.e. rates were  higher than those that were agreed to in the new contract.  The client expended a great deal of time and resources to try and straighten out the billing mess but was having very little success.
  • After 12 months of problems, the only thing that changed on the account team was that a new (even less experienced) account rep was brought on board and she had to try and understand all that had happened previously.

We dug into the billing and the contract in great detail while also establishing communications with the account team.  We advised the client of the “good news/bad news” scenario. 

The bad news was that they had hit the “trifecta” (bad contract, bad implementation and bad account team) of carrier service elements resulting in their own “Perfect Storm” of troubles.  In our experience, if any one of these items is a problem they can usually be overcome by the other two.  For example, a bad contract can be overcome by a strong account team that works to ensure a smooth implementation.  But when all three aspects go bad, the customer is in for a rough ride!

The good news is that we knew how to address and fix their problems.  Here’s what we did:

  • We set up weekly calls with the account team to track issues, progress and resolution.In addition, because of our carrier contacts, we were able to escalate the issues to a Senior Executive at the carrier to cut through red tape and get things done quickly.

  • We migrated all of the accounts (over 1100 voice accounts alone!) to a new account on the proper billing platform.

  • Our detailed audit found over $126,000 in both one-time and monthly recurring billing errors that are being credited and corrected.

  • We’ve positioned the customer to conduct a sourcing RFP for these services in the near future.With our sourcing and negotiation help, they’ll be assured of getting market leading edge rates terms and conditions.

The moral of the story is that customers can avoid the danger, disaster and drama of their own “Perfect Storm” by making sure they do the following:

Be well prepared for contract negotiations by fully understanding your detailed demand set and having an in-depth understanding of the current market.It is almost impossible to have this knowledge in-house.Third-party consulting firms like Silver Lining Telecom will perform a current market benchmarking analysis for you at no cost and with no obligation. Why not take advantage of them?

  • Perform periodic billing audits to ensure accuracy and contract compliance.Carrier billing systems are extremely complex and even if billing starts out correctly new orders, software updates and human error can all contribute to incorrect invoices.
  • Demand accountability from you carrier account teams.Also, establish and maintain communications not just with your Account Manager but also with Senior Execs several levels above the account team. There’s typically a lot of management involvement when the carrier is trying to win your business but it frequently disappears once the contract is signed.Don’t let this happen.

If you take these steps before there are problems, you will avoid a lot of headaches and have a better chance to ensure “smooth sailing”

Tagged in: telecome expense
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Lead Generation - Partners or Pests?

Like many executives and business owners, several lead generation businesses approach me on a weekly basis. It seems they run the gamut from those simply selling data lists to those who provide a complete marketing automation approach.  Recently, as part of our expanded marketing efforts, I’ve responded to some of these overtures.  I always start the dialogue by asking the following questions:

1.     How confident are you that your efforts will provide us with results, i.e. at least some demographically qualified leads? (They always respond that they are very confident in their services)

Then the acid test…..

2.     Are you willing to share in the risks as well as the rewards?

I should explain that in our business, telecom cost reduction, we are paid on a contingency fee basis for results.  If we don’t deliver, we don’t get paid.  Based on our track record of success, we are highly confident that once given the opportunity to address a client’s telecom spending, we can produce significant savings for them.  At no cost to the prospective client, we will travel to meet with them, gather data from their service providers’ bills and contracts and then perform a detailed current market benchmarking analysis, which we share with the prospective customer.  Nearly 70% of the time, if we are given the initial opportunity to speak with a prospect and analyze their situation, the effort results in an engagement.  In other words, we take the up-front risk to invest the time, money and resources because we are highly confident in the rewards to our customers and us.

Silver Lining Telecom is looking for a quality lead generation company that is just as confident in their abilities and is willing to truly partner with us to share the in those risks and rewards.  Time and again when I bring up this concept, the response is that they have internal expenses such as the costs to buy/develop contact information as well as personnel costs.  Guess what?  So do we!  Call it “putting you money where your mouth is.”  That’s our business model, and we do it every day!

I’ve even tried to get creative and offer a significantly higher fee than originally proposed, with no success.  In fact, in one recent call with a lead generation company that had impressed me, I offered to literally double their fixed fee and to give them a share of our contingency fee as well, but they would not accept.  Makes me wonder just how good or sure of their service they really are?

So, unless or until we find a lead generation firm that is as confident in what they do as we are and willing to truly be a partner, I guess they’ll continue to be pests.

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Posted by on in Silver Lining Telecom

 

The enterprise wireless population has between 5 - 15% zero users!According to a new report authored by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, the space agency's mismanagement of its 16,900 agency-issued tablets, smartphones, cell phones and AirCards came with a hefty price tag for taxpayers in 2013. About 2,300, or 14 percent of all agency-issued devices, went unused for seven months while costing taxpayers $679,000!

Now it’s not unusual to have some valid zero-users in your wireless population – we routinely see a few devices assigned to someone on maternity leave or used as standby/emergency devices. In fact, we have never seen an enterprise organization with absolutely no zero users; however, 14% is unacceptable but unfortunately not that unusual!  

We frequently see enterprise wireless populations with anywhere from 5% to 15% zero-users!  Poor visibility into wireless billing, lack of interface with HR systems and decentralized ordering/decision-making all contribute to this needless waste of money. Many companies just don’t have the skills or resources to effectively control (and keep under control) this aspect of their wireless spending.

Stop paying for nothing! We can show you how to effectively eliminate the costs of zero users and to eliminate them from happening again. In addition, we can help reduce your rates and overall spending as well. Best of all, if we don’t save you money, it doesn’t cost you a thing.

Call us today, and we’ll share our experience and knowledge with you.

After all, it’s NOT rocket science!

 

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Posted by on in Silver Lining Telecom

 

SilverLiningWEBdreamstime_xs_30962257.jpgSo, you thought that market competition would hold down your wireless bills? – Wrong!

Maybe you thought that Corporate Agreement your company negotiated would drive savings – Think Again!

According to New Street Research data cited by the Wall Street Journal, the average monthly revenue per postpaid customer across the industry increased in the fourth quarter of 2013, and is up more than $5 per user from the first quarter of 2010. 

Why?there are several reasons including industry consolidation, the elimination of phone equipment subsidies and the high cost (and increased use) of costly data plans.

What Can We Do?  - The only way to truly reduce wireless costs is to break free of “off the shelf” pricing and negotiate customized rate plans with discounts and credits into your carrier agreement.  Carriers won’t tell you this, but they will create and customize rate plans and discounts that are tailored to the unique needs and usage profile of your user base.  Don’t keep looking (or hoping) for savings that aren’t there – negotiate or renegotiate your agreement now to change the process, change the “rules” and change the outcome!

Need help or guidance with collecting your savings? Contact Silver Lining Telecom today.

 

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