I recently literally saved an amount equal to that of a nice middle-class car for one of my customers. That makes me really happy! But is my happiness appropriate? In this blog you can read how erroneous telecom invoices often are. But especially how to deal with erroneous invoices.
I have been working in the telecom industry for many years, and one of the most fascinating elements on the market is Telecom Expense Management. Over the years you clearly see a growing awareness within the DMU of most companies and organisations for the necessity and significance of ‘owning’ a TEM solution. TEM is the abbreviation we use for Telecom Expense Management.
TEM Software is not the solution! It is the engine that drives the solution.
Merely owning Telecom Expense Management software does not get you where you want to be! What I mean is that the software, which we also provide, does not solve the problem by itself. Software such as this provides adequate support, but it does not solve your problem! It generates the necessary reports containing data that can be read and analysed, but the real challenge is translating those data into a solution.
Merely owning a Telecom Expense management software solution does not provide more insight and control. If you do not know which buttons to press, or if you cannot recognise the possibilities hidden within the analyses of reports, then having the software does not make very much sense.
Is the relationship with your telecom provider really that sincere?
In the past - by which I mean not so long ago - you could see that managers responsible for telecommunications cooperated with their telecom provider without reservations. They blindly relied on their telecom providers and the relationships they had with them. I would often sit down with customers and would hear them say: "We maintain very good relationships with our provider, so I am sure that things are well taken care of. This attitude, though understandable, is too easy and certainly very naive. During the conversations I have with my customers, I can - even now - create opportunities that lead to a cost reduction. Even in respect of the current contracts between the customer and the telecom provider.
Bill shock, more rule than exception.
Additionally, the occurrence of so-called ‘bill shock’ has created an increased focus among managers on telecom expenses. The use of mobile telephones in particular can lead to an enormous increase in expenditure. You may wonder what bill shock is. Bill shock occurs when you receive an unexpectedly high telecom invoice. One example of bill shock is when an invoice unexpectedly specifies a large amount due to large data usage abroad.
Allow me to give a practical example:
In internationally operating companies with operations all over the world, it of course happens that certain employees, quite naturally, use their smartphones while abroad. A telephone provided by his/her employer. Quickly retrieve a file in order to continue working. Sounds familiar?
It then appears upon arrival back home that the employee in question has picked up a bill large enough to purchase a good middle-class car. It then becomes evident that his colleague, who was at the same location and used a similar device with the same facilities and the same usage, was charged much less. Naturally, the first reaction had been: “What is this?” Reluctantly, the company settled the invoice. The manager confronted the employee in question, who had no idea of what had happened, seeing that he was simply doing his work.
How can this be? An invoice verification soon revealed that these two persons, although working for the same company and possessing similar telephones, were each charged for different subscriptions. They used different subscription forms under the same telecom contract that was concluded with the same telecom provider.
having established this fact, I approached the telecom provider in question on behalf of the customer, following which the excess invoice amount was soon eliminated and the balance credited.
It is really beyond understanding that customers and providers tolerate such invoicing behaviour. In cases like this you would think that providers think along with the customer. Not!
Clashes like the one described above must not be avoided, seeing that the underlying conduct is unlawful.
Reports provide figures but do not clarify!
This example would have never emerged from reports. In other words, reporting alone does not do the trick. It only works if the analyses of the reports are combined with the right knowledge of the market. Only then can you correctly implement Telecom Expense Management.
This once again emphasises the importance of structural invoice verification, and not merely checking whether the invoiced amounts tally with the rates specified in the contract. What also has to be verified is whether all contractual agreements are correctly implemented and that they comply with developments in the portfolio of the provider in question.
I simply do not trust the contents of telecom invoices!
Many years of experience have taught me not to blindly assume the invoices sent by the provider to be without errors. I am not claiming that telecom providers make mistakes on purpose, far from it, but they are of course responsible for the contents of the invoices they send to customers. It has become increasingly difficult for providers not to process invoices without their systems making mistakes. This is partly due to the increasingly complex constructions and bundles from which all data and voice usage is derived.
However, the fact remains that the same constructions and bundles that allow mistakes to occur are introduced by the very same providers. If it then emerges that one employee of a specific company is charged an outrageous amount compared to another employee of the same company, nobody can ever claim that the customer is treated fairly.
Developments I see in telecommunication.
Communication between employees is increasing. Contacts are becoming more international and intense. Customers require more and more attention and service, and communication devices are increasingly being used to serve them. Naturally, availability on all kinds of (social) media is part of the package, especially for those whose work is becoming more flexible.
The nine-to-five mentality has not exactly disappeared, but economic developments increasingly force us to be available 24/7. This requires a lot from the employees, as well as from the facilities provided. The revenue often precedes the costs. The customer is king, 24/7 and every day of the year.
It is commonplace for those responsible for telecommunications in a company to have concluded contracts with providers in the past. This usually involved contracts with a term of several years. These contracts were negotiated and im plemented on the basis of requirements that were valid at the time. Quick developments and even quicker times soon ensured that these contracts were outdated.
Better and more optimal contracts through experience.
Optimising and managing a contract can be achieved by incorporating various clauses in the contract, but of course it has to be done! The contract must be adjusted according to the changed situation. I therefore always see to it during the negotiations conducted on behalf of the customer, that effective clauses are included in the contract. That way, my customer will always be able to optimise the contract, even on an interim basis.
A Telecom Expense Management software solution should not function as an ‘insurance’ against errors or shortcomings in your contract or invoices. It merely provides information to those who want it.
My passion for Telecom Expense Management
Information alone does not do the trick. In order to achieve optimisation you have to fully understand the market and speak the language of telecom providers. you have to know what they offer, and if you have already concluded a contract you have to know exactly what it is that is invoiced. As previously stated: bill shock can still occur with faultless invoices!
It is therefore important that you engage people with a sound understanding of the matter and who understand everything that is printed. Turning out the required reports is one thing, understanding those reports another. That requires experience and knowhow, but can you expect all that from an employee whose task is to negotiate new contracts with the provider every 2 years? Surely not! Telecom Expense Management and the use of TEM software is a skill. What do the reports actually say? What do they not say? What about internal policies? Do I have a mandate to voice my opinion?
By misinterpreting invoices and contracts, many managers lose out on considerable sums of money. I always point out certain invoice details to the customer I am dealing with, who then allows me to approach the provider on his behalf. I then see to it that the correct amounts are established and invoiced.
And do you know what? If I then am able to save my customer an amount equal to the price of that middle-class car, I drive back to the office with a great sense of satisfaction.
TEM is a skill, and the good thing is that it is also my passion!
- Ron Rijkenberg CEO / FOUNDER of A&B Groep
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