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Moving to a New Communications Service Provider? Ask Questions

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As communications technology consultants, we are often asked our opinion about the “best” communications service provider, and we jokingly say, “They’re all equally bad.” This is funny but unfair. It would be more accurate to say communication service providers are all facing the same growing challenges in delivering their services, so your experience with one will likely be replicated with another.
If you’re thinking of making a change, here are some considerations you should have resolved before calling your account executive and talking about moving your business.
Is your organization making the change to lower ongoing costs? If so—have you done a thorough and objective analysis of the anticipated savings? What is the current cost of services you will be replacing? And are you sure you cannot get the same pricing with your incumbent provider, perhaps by their providing the same or newer type services as the alternative provider?
If you are upgrading to new services, it will likely be a smoother process if you are doing so with the same service provider. An outgoing provider has little incentive to help the process. Unless someone within your organization has experience with the type of transition you are making, you may need to engage outside expertise which is a cost to be factored in.
If cost is not the issue—the issue is that your organization wants better service. Days of having a dedicated account team who stays with you year after year are over. Your account executive and support people will likely change with frequency. Many service providers have outsourced different aspects of service delivery, often with people who are new and, while well-intentioned, not well-versed in the services. Professional relationships with specific people can be rewarding, but those people may not always be there for you.
How will any physical changes be made to affect your service? The installation of new communications services is never simple and often delayed. There are usually logistical challenges. In some cases, the new provider may need right-of-way permission to bring service to your locations. Will you be paying both for newly installed services and the old services that cannot be disconnected yet? If so, this is another potential cost to be included in your cost analysis. If you are changing providers, you may be surprised to learn that your new provider is using your outgoing provider to deliver part of their service, usually called “the last mile” or “access.” Communications service providers regularly use other providers to deliver their services. Find out if this is the case, so you understand how all services will be delivered and supported.
Find out if there are one-time charges for installation and related services. Some providers will waive these non-recurring charges, instead bundling them into the monthly costs over an agreed-upon period.
Also, find out what your liability will be for “Early Termination Fees” should it turn out that you do not need all of the services you are buying and have to disconnect some of them before the end of your agreement. Most communications service providers ask for agreement of at least three years, but a lot can change in your organizations during that length of time.
Changing communications service providers typically includes a process called “porting,” meaning transferring your organization’s telephone numbers from one communications service provider to another. Before porting can take place, someone needs to be sure that every number to be ported appears in your current service providers records which is not always the case. The longer you have had service with your current provider, the greater the likelihood that their records will be missing some numbers. This is best remedied before the porting process starts.
For more information and suggestions from a group of experienced consultants, refer to "Perils of Porting (on our sister-site No Jitter)." A new service provider or new services with your existing provider will mean new bills that will be different than the bills you are used to. Changing services without careful attention to how the billing will work often results in billing confusion that can take much time, effort and knowledge to untangle. It is also not uncommon to find that while new services are billed, the billing for the replaced services continues. Find out who will be responsible for the timely removal of billing for replaced services. You will often find it is your responsibility alone, particularly if you are changing providers. Ask to see copies of what your new bills will look like and make sure that they will be delivered in a way that is clear and consistent with your internal procedures for payment and cost allocat ion.
Whether changing communications service providers or changing services with your existing provider, you may wish to enlist the help of an experienced consultant to help with the process and avoid the pitfalls we have described. Members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC) are excellent resources.

Enjoy incredible speakers, insightful educational sessions, and plenty of networking opportunities for consultants at the SCTC annual conference, Oct. 23-26 in Dallas, TX. The conference is open to everyone.