Incorrect or misleading cell phone billing is an expensive problem for US cell phone users. A May 2002 Gartner study estimates the average business overpays its telecom bill (which includes wireless) by as much as 10 percent.
The Center for Public Integrity discovered wireless carriers were charging customers for a service that would not be available to them for as long as two years, according to its October 2003 study. That prompted the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, a group made up of 44 government officials and consumers in 42 states and the District of Columbia, to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March 2004 demanding the FCC regulate misleading line items on cell phone bills.
Until the FCC intervention happens, leveraging outsourcing expertise is one way for corporations to insure they only pay for what they use. Controlling cell phone costs are a necessity since they are more expensive than landline conversations. In addition, "they are much harder to deal with than traditional telecommunications because of the wide spectrum of rate plans," says Brick Thompson, Vice President of Strategic Development for MSS* Group, a telephony invoice management supplier that recently purchased Digital Reliance, a wireless expense planning outsourcer.
Most wireless rate plans allot users a certain number of minutes; if you don't use them, you lose them. For example, if an employer pays for 1000 minutes of usage per phone per month and most employees talk less than that, the company still pays for the entire 1000 minutes, wasting money. On the other hand, if employees chat over the allotted minutes, the expense goes up. "Traditionally, managing that expense has been a big challenge for corporations. Being on the right rate plan really saves money," Thompson continues. Yet most telecom managers don't have the time to scour cell phone bills for hundreds or even dozens of employees to determine usage patterns.
Telephony expense management outsourcers use technology to manage this complex process. MSS* Group's computer program monitors individual use each month and then determines the best rate plan for that employee's talking habits. The outsourcer changes rate plans every three months for any employee who warrants it to insure optimal savings. "You really need the technology to manage this process for you," Thompson posits.
Because the process is so complex, an outsourcer's expertise can produce significant savings. Charles Price, IT Operations Manager for McData, a Colorado company that manufactures network switches, says the outsourcer's rate plan analysis provided enough savings to pay for the outsourcing service itself. Now that's a phone call worth making!
McData enjoyed another benefit of outsourcing: more time for more important work assignments. Price reports every help desk employee spent up to eight hours a week turning on new cell phones or arguing with a sometimes surly carrier about a bill. "My staff spent almost 20 percent of their time handling cell phone problems," he continues.
MSS* Group also has its own help desk for technical issues. When McData employees have a problem with their cell phones, they call the outsourcer, not the wireless carrier. "We saw a huge increase in the same day or the next day resolution of problems in the first month we outsourced," reports Price. The outsourcer's help desk "gave valuable working hours back to our help desk," he continues. "My people are ecstatic."
Outsourcing mobile TEM saved buyers like Price time and money, two of the scarcest commodities at most businesses.