How I Got Office Telephone Service at 30% Discount

by Neal Frankle, CFP ®

You can easily shave down your office telephone service expense. Several months ago I cut the cord at home and got rid of our land line. I can tell you that we honestly don’t miss it at all. It’s a nice little savings and it makes me feel good.

(By the way, I was really interested when I read the other day that AT&T is suing the government for the right to abandon the home land line business. I knew I was going to have an impact, but I never believed so much. Power to the people!)

Anyway, it occurred to me that I could take what I learned about home phone alternatives and apply it to my business. I’ve learned how to make a business successful and that’s to watch every expense.

The phone company gets away with murder when it comes to small business. Even if you operate your business out of your home, the bill for your business lines is much higher than for your residential service.

Why?

Because they can get away with it…that’s why. Well now it’s “Hammer Time,” so let’s see if we can “stick it” to the phone man. I did a little digging and found out how to stop spending money foolishly on business phone expense. Here’s the process I went through:

1. Thought about my small business phone needs.

I have a business that is based on communication and I need a reliable way to connect with people on the phone. I have a good number of incoming and outgoing calls – but I don’t need the same company to provide both services. If you’re in business for yourself, think hard about what you really need.

Our existing phone system is internet-based. When you call our main line and punch in the extension of who you want to speak with, your call is put through. Once we get your call, AT&T takes over and starts the overcharging party. That’s the problem I’m going to fix. Forget “Power to the People” – how about “Cash for the Small Business Owner!”

2. Considered the alternatives

I spend a good deal of time in my office. I need the lines supplied by the phone company. The cost for incoming calls is low, but the outgoing rates are killing me. While I could use my cell phone to make outgoing calls for free, I don’t like the quality.

Another alternative is Skype. This is the company that helped me say “Sayonara” to the land line at home. Unlike AT&T, they don’t care if I am a business or a residence as long as I pay my low monthly bill. To give you an example, I pay$3 a month for unlimited long distance with Skype while AT&T charges about $50. It’s very easy for me to make outgoing calls from Skype. Since I’m already paying for the service, why not start using it to make my outgoing calls and ditch AT&T’s expensive long distance rates?

Why didn’t I think of this before!!!!

The only hitch is that Skype charges me to call cell phones using their system. Only calls to land lines are free. But since most of the calls I make are to land lines, this isn’t much of a problem. I found other solutions for international calls that were even cheaper than Skype.

3. Call the phone company with bill in hand.

Armed with a clear understanding of what services I absolutely need – I also know what I don’t need. So I’m ready to go through my bill with the service agent and try to squeeze out some savings.

On to the five-minute conversation that saved me 30% on my bill.

The first thing I said to the service agent is that I need to reduce my phone bill and would appreciate her help. She put me on hold for a minute as she reviewed my bill.

She told me that I could eliminate the service contract I had on my lines. (I didn’t even know I had this service and I promise, you couldn’t find that charge anywhere on my bill – even if you were an ophthalmologist.) It turns out that when I first moved to my office, the service contract was only a few bucks a month so I probably did it without thinking about it. But after the first year, the price tag went up to about $30 a month. The rep explained that most people don’t need the service contract because it only covers the jacks and most people have their own tech anyway. Out came the scissors.

The next thing the agent explained to me was the charge for outgoing calls. There really was no great plan she could offer, but I already had an idea of my own. As I said above, I’ll make an effort to use Skype for all outgoing calls and that should save me another cool $50 a month. All together, the savings is about $1,000 a year.

4. The takeaway.

The first takeaway is that when it comes to the phone company, assume the rep is on your side. They are well trained, and in my experience, they really work for you. Use that to your advantage by:

a. Telling them what you are trying to do and
b. Keeping them on your side.

Next, you should always assume that the telephone company has a new, better plan. Call them every other month and ask the rep to help you find a better plan.

Be really clear about what you need and don’t assume you need one company to provide all your services.

Can you use Skype to make your long-distance calls? Consider buying an unlimited plan – it’s a lot cheaper than the phone company. On the incoming calls, do you really need all the bells and whistles? You may have signed up for a service when it was really inexpensive and now find the price tag is astronomical. Dump it quick. Consider getting that service elsewhere for cheaper.

How can this help you if you don’t have your own company?

Well…if you work for a small company and come to the owner with this idea, do you think the owner might appreciate your going through this exercise for her? You better believe she will.

Even if you don’t have your own business or work for anyone else, use this technique to find low-cost alternatives to phone and other services you consume.

Don’t assume that the old technologies are still the lowest-cost way to get what you need. Look at every bill you get and determine for yourself what you should do to reduce the cost.

Have you reconfigured the way you communicate with people in your business or personal life to save money? Is there something else I should do to cut my expenses even further?

 

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave January 8, 2010 at 8:27 AM

Check out Ooma. I just installed it and it is working great. I paid $150 up front, plus $40 to port my land line to the Ooma box, and all domestic calling is free. Plus I can plug a normal phone into it (no need to use a headset like Skype) and there’s no need to have my computer on (like Magicjack).

Reply

admin January 8, 2010 at 3:55 PM

will this work for multiple lines Dave?

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Johnathan Stein January 7, 2010 at 7:10 PM

Neal, you can do better: Try http://www.ViaTalk.com, it’s $200 for two lines for two years, as long as you have fast internet (DSL or cable), and they can usually port your number, if you need/want to keep it. All the trimmings come with it, which YOU control via the web — caller id, voicemail to email, etc.

Or, if you only need one line, you could go REALLY cheap, and try MagicJack…$40 for the first year, then $70 for five (5) years service. Need to plug it into the USB of a running Windows computer, though. Sound quality not quite as good, but it’s OK. I have one anyway for travel; my laptop becomes my phone with a BlueTooth earpiece.

We switched to ViaTalk over a year ago. Previously had used a combo of Vonage and the local phone company for over 2 years — the holdup was the number port, as the phone company kept telling us it “couldn’t be done.” and Vonage said they couldn’t do the number port. Finally found ViaTalk and a phone company rep that said it COULD be done.

The only caveat to all VOIP phone lines is that fax machines either flat-out don’t work or aren’t reliable. The solution was http://www.FaxAway.com, which for $1/month will give you a fax number for receive (it goes to your email address). Sending is about $0.10/minutes, done from email; you’ll have to scan any paper for sending.

No regrets!

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Neal@Wealth Pilgrim January 7, 2010 at 10:53 PM

This is a fantastic idea. I knew I could even do better and was hoping someone could show me how. I’ll check it out. Thanks

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Jason Unger January 5, 2010 at 2:15 PM

I use Vonage for my business phone — at $32 a month after taxes for unlimited usage, it’s worth it.

No worries about going over minutes, the battery dying, no service, etc. It works.

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Neal January 6, 2010 at 9:35 PM

On Vonage, I had that a home a few years back and dumped it because the quality and reliability were terrible.

Even if they have that fixed….do you have multiple lines? Do you know if that works?

Reply

Daniel January 5, 2010 at 1:29 PM

What do you think about using Google Voice to get free calls on your cell phone? With AT&T A-List, you get 10 free out-of-network numbers to call anytime. If you make one of those numbers your Google Voice number, all calls that you make or recieve using Google Voice are free.

The “hassle” is that you have to call your number when dialing out or intiate the call online. It seems like a small price to pay for free unlimited service.

Also, I just called AT&T yesterday and they were so helpful. I just explained the issue and they were happy to help. I’ve tried both ways and while you can get stuff done by threatening to quit, it’s a much more pleasant experience when someone wants to help you instead of having to scream to get what you want (and better for your health as well).

I’m not an AT&T Rep, I swear.

Reply

Neal January 6, 2010 at 9:34 PM

This google voice sounds interesting. I have to learn more about it.

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Evan January 4, 2010 at 7:20 AM

I always thought the easiest way to save money is simply haggle with some of those customer service reps!

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Neal@WealthPilgrim January 4, 2010 at 1:59 PM

Evan,

I used to think the same thing but I’ve got miles further when I assume the rep is on my side. You set the expectation my man….the rep is only too glad to help a friendly nice customer. At least that’s been my experience most of the time. You get a lot more with sugar than a 2 x 4!

Reply

Evan January 4, 2010 at 7:19 AM

I always thought the easiest way to save money is simply haggle with some of those customer service reps!

Reply

Neal@Wealth Pilgrim January 4, 2010 at 6:47 AM

Ken,

You won’t regret it. What occurred to me is if ATT is dying to get out of the business you know something’s up.

Reply

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