Buying services from a communication service provider has never been simple. The advent of the hybrid workforce with employees being more spread out adds to the challenge. Good communication among all involved individuals at every level in your organization can do much to improve the process. This strategy will minimize the likelihood of buying overlapping services, not optimizing the expense, and overlooking billing errors. It will also improve cooperation with your communications service provider whose own workforces now stretch thinner than ever.
Here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing communications for your hybrid workforce.
Form a Buying Group
Communication services are complicated to buy with many pitfalls. Don’t expect a single person in your organization to be knowledgeable about every type of service. Data network, voice services, mobile services, cloud services of varying types—it’s not uncommon to have different individuals or departments purchase each service—independent of the others. But the purchasing and resulting services will be more efficient if everyone understands the big picture. This thinking applies whether your employees work from home, from the office, or a combination.
Include someone in facilities and human resources (HR) to complete the group, and don’t forget the people who support the communications hardware. You should also represent people who approve and pay the communications bills. Assure the group meets and communicates so each understands your entire communications infrastructure. And keep the company management informed so if their plans change, you don’t take the group by surprise. A move, a merger, closing a major location—all have big implications for the communications services you buy.
Identify Your Company Size
If your organization spends tens of millions of dollars on communications services annually, your communications service provider may give you a team that includes account management, customer service, and billing. If you aren’t in the top tier of clients regarding how much you spend, you may find yourself dealing with an automated telephone system or a website for purchasing, customer service, and repairs.
If your company is in the ten million dollar a year and down spend range, you may be better off buying from a reseller of services from a larger service provider. You may get better service and possibly lower costs. Another variation of a reseller is called an agent. Often the large communication service providers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Lumen will assign an agent to you if your organization isn’t large enough to warrant an account team directly from them. When you use an agent, your monthly bill will still come from the service provider the agent represents. A reseller who buys from the wholesale division of the communications service provider will usually bill you directly.
Make Everyone Aware of What You’re Purchasing
Most organizations don’t have terrific records on what they’re buying, the monthly cost, and the contract terms. Once you assemble your buying group, compile the following (perhaps assign one person of the group to help pull this information together.)
- Who are your communication service providers?
- Who are your representatives from each provider for account management, customer service, billing, and repairs? What is their contact information?
- What services or equipment are you buying from each provider?
- What is the business purpose of each service?
- What is the monthly/annual spend for each service and the total spend with each provider?
- Under what account number is each service?
- Under what contract is each of the services, and when does it expire or renew?
These are basic questions to which it’s not always easy to get the answers. Here’s where the buying group enters, as likely each person knows some parts of what’s needed. Once you have the details, agree on a method to keep it up to date. Larger organizations may use the service of a Technology Expense Management company that provide a database and support to keep it current. Excel spreadsheets will get you started. You may also wish to hire the services of an experienced consultant to help along the process.
Services Change: Remain Flexible
Communication technology and related services change regularly. A communications strategy that makes sense today may be out-of-date tomorrow. Avoid long contracts (more than two years is considered a long time) and keep checking prices to be sure yours are competitive. Many service providers will allow for early renewals for lower prices.
Avoid Switching Service Providers Too Soon
All communication service providers have shortcomings, and making changes to your infrastructure can be disruptive and time-consuming. Do your best to work with your incumbent providers. Complain if your account representatives change too regularly, which is common.
and click on "Find a Consultant" to contact members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants for extra assistance. Wishing you success with your communication technology buying!