Everybody makes mistakes – including phone companies. While addressing a simple error may take a quick customer service phone call to resolve, however, battling bigger and less honest billing problems can be challenging. Start building your strategy by getting informed about provider terms and market rates, and building a backup plan in case the situation breaks down.
1. Read the Contract.
Reading your cable or VoIP provider’s contract is a must when dealing with billing issues. The more concrete knowledge you have about your business’s agreement with the provider, the more you can accurately and persuasively argue for a fair resolution. When filing a billing complaint, know the contract terms and prepare yourself with concrete numbers and a specific ask – i.e., what you paid, what you should have paid and how you’d like them to resolve the issue. Keep your contract in front of you and take notes when calling your provider to dispute a charge.
Additionally, when shopping for a new phone provider, ask prospective vendors for copies of their contracts to compare their terms and ensure they offer everything your company needs. Then, note whether the contract allows you to make changes to your service – while some companies do allow changes, many only allow increases in service, locking companies in to a minimum price.
2. Ask for Pricing in Writing.
Just got an awesome quote from a prospective provider? Great! Get it in writing.
Some phone service sales teams have a reputation for drawing companies in with a great offer and failing to deliver once the company has signed. Cover your bases by asking for any quoted prices in writing, and saving them for your records. Additionally, note the salesperson’s name and the date and time of the offer. More information will make it easier for a customer service representative to find record of the quote later.
Tip: Landline payments may sometimes be higher than their original quote because of cable’s line-packaging pricing model and the need for a maintenance contract to manage frequent problems with dated and run-down technology. VoIP solutions, on the other hand, tend to charge per seat, and generally offer more advanced features as well as more affordable rates. VoIP maintenance costs are generally covered by the provider.
If your business chooses to stick with a legacy phone system, make a list of all phone features it will need to ensure that quotes account for the cost of additional features when comparing providers. Note that some features common in businesses today, like complex call routing and automated attendants, only function with SIP VoIP and VoIP PBXs, and are not available with traditional landline solutions.
3. Check Monthly Bills for Irregularities
Unfortunately, some telecom and VoIP providers go to unusual lengths to imperceptibly squeeze extra money from their clients. Regulatory charges, for example, cover regulation costs that providers owe, and are the provider’s – not the client’s – responsibility to pay. In more serious cases, some phone companies illegally fabricate charges under inconspicuous names like “monthly charge” or “service fee,” hoping clients won’t notice.
Additionally, providers should inform clients of new or increased charges; however, not all providers do, and manage to raise rates without companies realizing.
Avoid falling victim to these practices by monitoring monthly phone payments. Compare bills month to month to isolate new or increased charges. Keep your business paying what’s fair by routinely checking phone bills for red flags and following up with providers about them. Take care to review all taxes and fees to make sure providers aren’t inflating them or slipping in charges for additional profit – often these fees are simply added for profit.
Tip: Ask if the prices being quoted are “promotional.” Promotional offers can mean that the pricing you’ve been quoted will expire and new, unspecified pricing could start at any time.
4. Note Renewal Policies.
Check your contract for automatic renewal policies and contract length. If your business is on an auto-renew plan, note the contract renewal date and required cancellation notice. Some providers charge exorbitant fees for cancelling contracts or giving insufficient cancellation notice.
Keep track of renewal dates in order to avoid cancellation fees. Consider setting up a calendar reminder about a month before your renewal deadline to give yourself time to decide whether to renew or shop around for alternative solutions, if it comes to that.
5. Formulate a Backup Plan.
If you feel your business is being unfairly charged, research other companies’ prices. If you find one that beats your current payments, record it and reference it in a call to your provider. Customer retention is much cheaper than customer acquisition, and phone companies are often willing to work with clients to prevent attrition.
If price match requests don’t work, consider switching providers. VoIP solutions generally cost much less than landlines and include more expansive features in their standard price. Premium add-ons like VoIP toll-free numbers and burstable lines for busy businesses or VoIP call centers are usually very low monthly charges.
Tip: If you cancel service, call your provider and ask for a cancellation confirmation after you have ported out all phone numbers. Some companies continue to charge for service even after the transfer is complete.
Advocate for Your Business with Knowledge and Preparedness.
Businesses should research phone providers to enter into contracts with full knowledge of their terms and confidence that their offerings fit the business’s needs. When these needs change or your business is not being fairly billed, argue for resolutions by leveraging hard data and alternate offers. Finally, don’t be afraid to switch providers; allow your business the freedom to switch by being aware of cancellation terms and dates.
Considering switching providers? Contact 4Voice to discuss how your business could capitalize on advanced VoIP features at an affordable – and honest – price.