Important Criteria for Procurement of Wireline Telecom Services

What are the most important factors in procuring telecom services for a small or medium size business?  Many companies just do a price comparison, but that neglects many other important attributes.  Wireline telecom services include:  private line, IP MPLS VPN, wavelength, Internet access, VoIP, and even circuit switched voice/data.   

In telecommunications, the most important aspects of service quality include  availability, reliability, security, flexibility or choice, simplicity and assurance. All of these are affected by innovations in technology, the development of a competitive
market structure, and interconnection of the competitors in a network of networks.

Here's a checklist of important attributes to consider when procuring a new telecom service for your organization:

-Competitive price for service requested, considering distance between endpoints or from premises to carrier POP

-Quick order processing and rapid provisioning after order is completed

-Service Quality/ Functionality/ Performance/ SLA compliance

-Availability and Reliability - not all services need 5 9's uptime (but mission critical applications certainly do)

-Customer service/ support/trouble shooting problems

-Fast restoration of service after an outage

-Security (very relevent for a shared network, e.g. MPLS VPN

-Rapid re-provisioning to accomodate moves and changes and to add/delete end points

-Reputation of telco/ brand name recognition
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Reference:

An interesting Oct 2011 Google study of attitudes of "wireline users" includes Wireline Purchase drivers.  The study found that customer service was a key driver for many purchases.  In particular, Google found that the customer's desire for personal interaction prevails.
• 60% research telecom solutions online but still prefer to interact directly with a salesperson
• Wireline service shoppers were willing to pay 11% more for great customer service from an Internet provider
• Over 25% of tele-sales originate as a customer service inquiry

www.thinkwithgoogle.com/insights/uploads/131352.pdf

For more information, please contact me:  michael.e.weiss@xo.com

Comments

3rd Party Telecom Consulting Firm

Really great information shared here.

An approach that may help, in terms of handling such accounts post contract signing, would be to involve a 3rd party telecom consulting firm like General Solutions Associates, who keep up with all the latest on compliance and regulation.  

This will help the end-user have the best experience with their service - keeping customer and provider in a great relationship.

Matt

Customer Experience Management without Customer Service Culture?

Retail Consumer & Business/Enterprise communications mkts differ

"Buyers of the products and services of telecom operators can be categorized as either individual consumers in the retail market or business customers in the enterprise market. The factors that determine the "Power of Buyers", which I call sub-components of the competitive force, vary depending on whether we are assessing the individual consumer as buyer or business customer as buyer. Some sub-components are applicable to both retail and enterprise buyers, and are assessed either separately or combined, while some sub-components apply to one or the other type of buyer, but not to both."

"On the individual consumer side, the convergence of communications (POTS, mobile, internet) with entertainment (internet, TV, satellite) leads to a higher proportion being spent at any one telecom operator, such as Frontier, but the total spending on combined services is unchanged or lower, so the consumer is not becoming more price sensitive due to this trend."

On the business market side, new technologies are being introduced that are not merely replacing old ones but are adding to the services being consumed and this is making business customers more sensitive to pricing."

http://seekingalpha.com/article/474921-frontier-communications-firm-grip-on-power-of-buyers

Bottom Line:  It's very important to distinguish between retail/consumer vs business/enterprise and government users of telecom services.  Each has different requirements for performance, reliability, availability and security.  Caveat emptor!

Alan J Weissberger

Content Manager-IEEE ComSoc Community Site 

North American Corrrespondent & FB Manager- IEEE Global Communications Newsletter

Manager of IEEE member email list (ComSocSCV)

 

SMB Networking Survey Issues (partial list)

    -Our current technology infrastructure is as good as or better than that of our
    competitors.

    -We would like to use more cloud or managed services to minimize capital
    investments.

    -We need more education concerning the advantages of cloud technology and
    services.

    -Using standards based technology is extremely important to us.

    -We prefer automatic updates of software so we don't have to worry about them.

    -Our current technology infrastructure enables us to deliver superior customer
    service.

    -We prefer building and managing our own IT and networking environment to using thirdparty services.

    -Maximizing working capital and/or cash flow is a major consideration in our technology decisions.

    -Our decision to use IT/network services or build inhouse systems is driven by which alternative delivers a lower total cost of operations.

    -We would like to improve our effectiveness at managing email, phone, text message, and social networking communications.

    -How can a telco/network operator help us to this?

Telecom Audit Guide: 5 ?s to ask a Prospective Telecom Provider

The following is a list of questions that should serve as a guide to helping to narrow down your choice of prospective carriers.

1. What experience do you have as a provider in the telecom industry and what type of companies are current clients?

After the deregulation of AT&T, the number of telecommunications companies based in the U.S. soared.  Many have since gone out of business.  In many respects, the marketplace has returned to a psuedo “monopoly” state, with just a few carriers currently dominating the industry.

The company you eventually decide on does not have to be the biggest.  It should have a successful, steady, and multi-year track record for servicing similar companies in your industry.  A little research goes a long way in this area.

2. Do I have to sign a contract, and if so for how long?

Telecommunications carriers like contracts because they “lock” in customers for a set period of time.  Do not shy away from companies who require contracts, but do be diligent on the negotiation of the terms.

Generally, the longer the term of the contract, the better rates you should be able to negotiate.  Rates and lengths can vary widely, so plan on spending considerable time hammering out the details of the contract to your advantage.

3. What kind of billing increments and surcharges are involved or included in the pricing?

Telecom carriers have devised a variety of methods for billing customers for local and long distance calling.   Always ask your prospective carrier to lay out ALL billing options for both local and long distance calling.

For example, if your outgoing long distance calls tend to be very short, ask if the provider offers 6-second (or even 1 second) billing increment plans.  Depending on the monthly volume, these alternatives could add up to major cost-savings.

Hidden charges or surcharges should be uncovered before signing any contract.  “One time” charges (ex. installations) and monthly recurring charges should be identified as well.  Your telecom representative should be able to easily explain the billing method(s) used and any surcharges or penalties that will be incurred if contract requirements are not met in a given month.

4. Are you a reseller, or do you own your own facilities?

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 forced incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (LECs) to open up their networks to competitors.  As a result, hundreds of CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange Carriers) were created to take advantage of the newly deregulated environment.  These “resellers” are companies that did not actually own the network or switches, but rather “leased” them from the incumbent LECs.

Always ask your prospective telecom vendor if they do indeed own the equipment and switches used to transmit your telecom voice and data traffic.   Going with a reseller is not necessarily a bad decision, but companies that have control over the network have a distinct advantage over 3rd party resellers.

5. Who handles the account after we sign the contract?

When it comes to telecom services, what can go wrong probably will at some point in the future.  For this reason, it is imperative that your telecom provider be there when you need them.  Billing issues, service outages, moves, adds, changes, etc. will require the intervention of a real live person to assist when help is needed.

Be aware of the issues that can (and probably will) go wrong, then insist that your account be assigned a personal representative when they do.   Ideally, the account representative should alert you to more competitive plans and services when they become available during the term of your contract.

Summary

The importance of your understanding your business needs is vital to choosing the most cost-effective telecom service provider.   The main objective should be to seek out and engage a telecom provider who first seeks to understand your business, then provides efficient and cost-effective solutions to help your business prosper.   The time and effort it takes finding just the right one is well worth it in the long run.

Submitted by: Karen Thatcher, CEO, TelCon Associates, Inc.

http://www.telecomauditguide.com/telecom-consulting/5-questions-to-ask-your-prospective-telecom-provider/

Comment:  The evaluation criteria will differ from company to company, based on business needs for different services.  A clear trend is that IP MPLS and Carrier Ethernet (over both copper and fiber) are replacing the TDM network that was deeply entrenched for decades.  Other factors to consider is whether your prospective wireline telco has a cloud computing network strategy and a MVNO arrangement or 3G/4G wireless network to accomodate the mobile workforce.

 

 

Alan J Weissberger

Content Manager-IEEE ComSoc Community Site 

North American Corrrespondent & FB Manager- IEEE Global Communications Newsletter

Manager of IEEE member email list (ComSocSCV)

 

Importance of telco customer service

Great summary article!  I'd like to highlight customer service as a top criteria for telco service procurement.  It is often neglected or at least underated.

Telecom.com:   "The customer experience will  be a major area of focus for operators in 2012, following a dawning realisation that those companies that do not give their customers the time, investment and focus they require will see them defect to rivals in an increasingly competitive market."

http://www.telecoms.com/38181/customer-experience-predictions-for-2012/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=customer-experience-predictions-for-2012