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Budget Cuts? Telecom May Be a Place to Trim
 

Does everyone in your office really need a BlackBerry? Is it time to consider VoIP? With economic storm clouds brewing, this might be the time to take a good look at your telecom plans and equipment and see where cuts can be made.
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We're in the midst of a bad economy, and more spending cuts need to be made around the office. Could your telecom budget stand some pruning?

With the mortgage crisis, the collapse of major U.S. financial houses, stocks tumbling around the globe, and continued high energy costs, chances are, your business is feeling the resulting one-two punch of fewer sales and less available credit to make ends meet.

Might telecom services be a place to cut some of your business costs? Definitely, say experts, even though AT&T, Verizon Business, and others have jacked up the prices of their voice and data services this year. Here are some cost-cutting suggestions from the experts:

Review your wireless plans. Take a careful look, and eliminate or suspend any “zero users” in your office, advises Tim Wise, co-president of Advocate Networks, a telecommunications consultancy near Atlanta. Don’t activate any new mobile devices, either, says Wise. But don’t just throw out all the BlackBerry devices -- this could actually hurt productivity, warns John Thompson, principal with Lisle, Ill.-based Thompson, Ross and Associates. “Once offices start using PDAs, it’s hard to go back,” he says. If your office has PDAs, be sure to shop around for the best deals with carriers -- shared-rate plans continue to drop, says Thompson.

Review the rest. “You may be paying for things you’re not using,” warns Lisa Pierce, vice president at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research. Look over everything: the number of lines you’re using, price per minute of calling plans, the whole works. Consider running a traffic study to see whether both of those T1 lines are still needed, adds Advocate Network’s Wise. Look and see what can be cut. And, if you cut something, make sure the accounting department knows, warns Pierce. “Carriers are notorious for billing inaccuracies,” she says. “Accounting may still be paying for something that you’ve cancelled.”

Try to renegotiate your contracts. “Carriers are in a challenging economic environment just like the rest of us,” Wise says. “You might be able to get a better deal, or get some credits you don’t have now.” But do this with care. When negotiating new usage plans with your carrier, taking the right steps can save you big in the long run. For example, Forrester’s Pierce recommends negotiating everything from liability in natural disasters to disconnection costs to taxes and fees you can be charged. Also, she says, try to avoid plans lasting two-to-three years in favor of plans based on a dollar value of service.

Consider VoIP. For businesses with multiple locations or a presence overseas, voice-over Internet protocol (VoIP) is a cheap and practical option that can link offices with remote workers. “For some companies, VOIP can offer big savings -- thousands of dollars,” says Thompson. It can also position your business to save even more money if you decide to have more workers work from home as a way to cut additional costs.  VOIP is not for everyone, however: for companies with few locations, VOIP as a big money-saver is “a nice myth,” says Pierce.

Consider doing business with an aggregator. If you’ve got a lot of different business lines and DSL and find yourself paying multiple bills, consider doing business with a telecom aggregator like BullsEye Telecom or Ernest Communications, advises Wise. “These companies buy up service in bulk and can bring companies real savings and put it on one billing platform,” he says.

To be sure, things are rough out there. But by trying a few of these tips, your business may be better able to weather the storm.

Last updated: Nov 1, 2008




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