Why your Telecommunications and Wireless Provider is “just not really that into you”

Or should I say they’re “just not as into you” as they have been in the past. One of the major issues all of us hear from mid-market businesses is that carrier account teams are much less receptive today when compared to a year ago, and the majority less than simply just in the past.

So what are the signs your telecom or wireless carrier may not be that into you?

1 – Disappears for days, weeks or months at a time and suddenly reappears when the contract is close to being renewed

2 – Doesn’t make an effort to spend time with you – you’re always the one contacting them

3 – They take a long time to return calls or they don’t call you back at all, unless you have an order

4 – They’re afraid of commitment – won’t make promises or can’t keep a promise

5 – Tells you to contact other people within the carrier – doesn’t want an exclusive relationship

If you’re in Telecom, IT or Finance and on the front lines of dealing with carriers there’s no doubt you’ve experienced some of these challenges. You can empathize with the carrier, and their challenges, but the fact remains you’re accountable to your company for effectively managing carrier services and expenses. Their lack of service may be hindering you or your team’s productivity.

Is there a solution? Here are a few suggestions.

Find a new carrier, or a new way to work with your current carrier.

I know what you may be thinking, my workload is already at or above capacity, the pain involved with ripping and replacing a 200 node MPLS network, moving hundreds of wireless devices or changing local or LD PRI’s would be more than the pain associated with the lack of service. However there are options, such as moving to a reseller or aggregator at the end of your contract. Many times you can complete a TOS (transfer of service) which keeps the network in the ground and only changes the billing and customer service.

Work with a Telecom Agent or entity other than the carrier directly

All of the carriers have sales agents. Agents are not direct employees thus they can sell the entire suite of services from just about any carrier. The benefit of using an agent is two-fold. First, they’re typically compensated a small amount for as long as you remain a client of the carrier, which tends to make them more responsive to day to day service needs. Secondly, since they’re not employees they can offer services from many carriers, whereas a direct carrier employee can only offer services from their employer.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease – Document issues

If you’re not getting what you need the easiest thing to do is to ask for another account manager, but keeping a record of issues (intervals for service requests, resolution time for trouble tickets, when the SLA was breached) and providing the information to your account team can also help. This serves two purposes.

First it allows the carrier to understand what the issues are, many times they aren’t aware of their challenges, by informing them it may result in more resources being added to manage your account. The second reason is you can provide the documentation to your account team during contract negotiations. The documentation will give you leverage and you will get better rates and contract terms.

Choose a carrier where your business is important

No one may get fired for using AT&T, but I don’t think many people are getting promoted for using them either. Why? AT&T has 119 billion in revenues and Verizon has 94 billion. Clearly there’s stability, but does your service have a meaningful impact? Not unless you’re spending a million dollars or more a month. Why not look to the many niche carriers where your business would make an impact? If you choose a carrier that has $10 million or $100 million in revenues your business would have an impact and you should be treated accordingly.

The only caveat is making sure to select the “Best of Breed” niche providers. Many decision makers have been burned by some of the small carriers in years past so they are hesitant to use them. That’s understandable. You don’t want the CEO calling and asking why their Internet or phone service is down, and then explaining you moved to “almost broke telco” and they’re experiencing an outage or went out of business. The point is there are many well run, financially stable, small carriers that outperform AT&T and Verizon for some services.

The bottom line is we’re in an era with a tough economy and everyone is scrambling to do more with less, but that doesn’t mean you need to be in a relationship with a carrier that isn’t meeting your needs. There are lots of carriers that would love an opportunity to earn your business and would be “totally into you” if you were to give them some business.