Everyone wants to get the best deal on their telecoms – but buying just on price, is unlikely to give you a great return. Not all telecoms solutions are the same; so, it’s important you ask the right questions to ensure you get the best deal.
We asked, telecoms specialist, Dave Millett to reveal the key questions to ask when getting broadband, lines, mobiles and VOIP solutions for your business.
There is no coincidence that suppliers offering the very cheap broadband prices e.g. Talk Talk and Plusnet often top Ofcom’s most complained about providers.
It costs a certain amount to run a decent Internet network. People making a decision purely on the monthly cost should ask the following questions:
- What is the contention ratio of the line – i.e. how many are sharing it?
- How many network outages have you had in past 12 months?
- What router is supplied? There have been regular incidents of cheaper routers being hacked or compromised. If someone is charging £10 a month for broadband and giving you a free router it won’t be worth much
- What is average wait time when calling for support?
- What is average fix time for faults?
- What network is it on? This is important if you want to change providers at a later date. We see a number of suppliers moving services from BT to Talk Talk without telling the customer. It can be quite hard to move back. There is more choice of suppliers if you are on BT.
The main question, however, is to ask yourself what a day without internet would cost you, and does this provider increase the risk?
We saw a pub that went for cheaper broadband which then went down on a Friday and was not fixed until the Monday. The pub lost £6,000 in takings over the weekend as their card machines were linked to the Internet.
There are several telecoms companies that advertise themselves as ‘never beaten on price’ – they can’t all be right unless they are operating as a cartel.
Frequently the claim links only to line rentals or calls to a specific destination. We have seen lines being sold at below the wholesale price, so, short of wanting to go out of business quickly the supplier will be clawing it back elsewhere. So be wary and check the points above, plus check the following:
- The price is fixed for duration of the contract
- No set up fees or minimum charges on calls – in the last few weeks we have seen a hotel in Norfolk and a care home in Lancashire being charged 26p set up fee on each and every call
- Calls rounded up to the nearest minute – this can add 25% to the overall cost of calls
- Prices to destinations you call regularly – are they competitive?
- Special promotions – a London charity was being offered free intra-site calls but then being charge five-times the market price for all other UK landline calls.
With mobiles the obvious thing to check is coverage for your location. There is no point signing a cheap deal if there is no signal at your office/business location. You should not rely on the networks checking either.
We saw a company where the head office had coverage but their two regional offices didn’t – but the network still happily signed them up. It is not just office locations – check key staff home addresses as well if you are changing networks.
Some deals appear cheaper because they offer unlimited calls and lots of data but many companies don’t need them. Around a third of all mobile users no longer make any voice calls. The average business person uses well under 2GB of data each month.
One customer we reviewed found that 10% of their 1,000 phones had not been used at all in a year. So, check what you actually need before asking for prices – not just who can do the best deal on unlimited data.
Watch also for inflated hardware funds if you are not going SIM only. We’ve seen companies signed up to deals where the funds looked impressive only to find the cost of the actual handsets provided was inflated to 25-35% above normal prices.
If you are going for a hardware fund ask for a hardware price list at the same time.
As this is the newest of the technologies it is the one least understood by businesses. Therefore, there is more risk of misunderstanding offers or even been more easily misled. It is the one that is closest to the car analogy as each businesses’ telecoms requirements are different.
Some providers bundle handsets and calls into their prices – others include features that others charge for separately. So, things to consider before asking for a price:
- What features do I need today and may I want in the next few years?
- What is the ability of the company to develop new features? There are lots of self-built VoIP solutions out there where the development and support is dependent on only a few individuals. The advantage is that specific features can be added more quickly than the big platforms, but then there is the risk associated with what happens if they leave
- What handsets are you being offered? Are they a brand used by other VoIP companies should you wish to change supplier, and are they locked into your supplier? If included in the price, will you own them at the end of the contract?
- What are the out of call bundle charges (if bundles are offered)? Do your call volumes justify bundles? If the business is predominantly inbound then packages without calls may be better overall.
- What business continuity is in place if the host system falls over? Asking for uptime statistics over the past 12 months is a good idea
- If you are a small business with fewer than 10 employees, is your supplier signed up to the ombudsman? If not – why not?
- Ask about contract length and support statistics (as per advice above).
Finally watch out for the frequent scam of a ‘phone system for nothing’. These are invariably long dodgy lease hire deals and should be avoided at all costs.
In summary, don’t make price your deciding or only factor when choosing a supplier. Buying telecoms purely on price is likely to be more costly in the long run. Telecoms shouldn’t be treated as a commodity – they are an essential business service.
Check what you are being quoted for, that this is actually what your business needs, that you’re not paying for services you don’t need. It’s also vital you don’t get trapped in a long contract that may appear cheaper to start with but over the long term is painfully expensive.
Finally, ask yourself how much it would cost you if your telecoms went down. The speed of repair and the quality of service can have a significant impact on your business – and may well far outweigh apparent savings.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Dave Millett who has over 35 years’ experience in the Telecoms Industry. He now runs Equinox, a leading independent brokerage and consultancy firm. He works with many companies, charities and other organisations and has helped them achieve savings of up to 80% on telecoms costs.
Dave Millett is a regular contributor to ByteStart, and other telecoms guides he’s written to help small business owners, include;
- How to choose the right cloud phone system for your business
- Telecoms mistakes to avoid when starting a business
- Working from anywhere: live anywhere in the world, do business in the UK
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