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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